MARYSVILLE — The air at Willow Place on Wednesday afternoons is thick with the sounds of African drums.
If only for a short while, they drown out all limitations for those who come to the three-hour activity program for people with developmental disabilities.
For some, the few ho
urs they spend here once or twice a week are the only time they venture outside the house. Activities are different every day, but the schedule is always the same. The first hour is exercise and wellness, the second hour is arts and crafts, then music or games. The cost is $10 for people who come with caregivers and $15 for those who come alone.
Willow Place is run by Quilceda Community Services, which was founded in 1976 to provide housing for adults with developmental disabilities. The program has grown from four clients to more than 50, and its home of three years became too small, said Karen Harper, who volunteers her time as board president.
She is a retired special education teacher — a profession she was inspired to choose largely because of her sister, Leslie Venables.
At 63, Venables is the oldest client at Willow Place. She likes to sew, and some of her whimsical artwork decorates the walls.
“I’ve always wanted her to have the same opportunities as I did,” Harper said.
All ages and abilities are welcome at Willow Place. Older teens transitioning out of special education are eligible as well.
The three-room building is tucked at the end of a parking lot off State Avenue. It’s cozy inside. Storage closets are bursting with exercise balls, art supplies and other equipment.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, activities manager Jacinda Guenthner explained how to turn wooden ice cream sticks into snowmen rulers, to measure how much snow fell outside.
“Everything they do here is fun, but it also helps develop different skills,” she said.
Struggling to give clients more personal time, Jacinda Guenthner started a volunteer program about two months ago. Her mother, Debbie Guenthner of Arlington, is one of the people who comes in once or twice a week to spend time with the clients.
She likes to help with arts and crafts, dancing and, as a self-described organizing fanatic, with inventorying supplies.
“These people are very caring. You get a lot of rewards from just being around them,” she said.
The organization is trying to scrape together enough money to buy a new, bigger building — a vacant church and private school near Fred Meyer. Harper met with Snohomish County officials hoping to get a $100,000 grant. “We are literally begging for money,” she said. If all goes well, Willow Place may move this summer.
Several programs serving the county’s adults with developmental disabilities have suffered cutbacks or closed altogether.
“We saw the real need and thought: We can do this,” Harper said.
Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452; firstname.lastname@example.org.
To volunteer, make a donation or bring a friend to Willow Place, call 360-653-2324. Willow Place is at 1402 State Ave., Marysville.
The sessions are 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.