By The Herald Editorial Board
For much of the pandemic, Everett’s Imagine Children’s Museum was light on children and relied on imagination to see it through.
The downtown Everett museum was closed during most of 2020 and into this year to protect public health, with the exception of some virtual programming, until it reopened this June. But at the same time, the popular museum of child-focused activity, exploration and playful learning continued exercising its imagination and effort on a fundraising campaign and construction of a four-story 47,000 square-foot addition.
Construction — tough to miss now during a drive through downtown — is advancing quickly toward its expected opening in the fall of 2022; the building’s shell is complete and at least one major exhibit — a 20-foot mock-up of a tugboat for the museum’s “Export, Import, Our Port” exhibit was hoisted up to the expansion’s second floor in October.
Along with that exhibit, two of the addition’s floors will be devoted to new galleries and hands-on activities focused at a Woodlands Adventure and Canopy Gallery, an Ecosystem Gallery, a Distribution Center Gallery, and an Engineer It! Zone.
The museum is now open Wednesdays through Sundays, with admission by timed tickets, but children and their adults are welcome to stay as long as they like. Masks are required and sanitizing stations are located throughout the museum. And the museum is looking forward to welcoming more visitors with the expanded availability of covid-19 vaccines for children, 5 years and older. Encouraging vaccinations, Imagine Children’s Museum has held two vaccination clinics.
That the addition is needed in a growing county requires only a quick look at the numbers. When first opened in 2004, the museum hoped to serve some 60,000 visitors a year. As of 2019 — before the pandemic — the museum was welcoming 257,000 visitors a year.
Completing the museum’s addition — as well as keeping kids occupied, engaged and learning during museum visits now — requires the community’s continued financial support. That support has been there, said Sherri Dotson, the museum’s director of philanthropy. The construction campaign has raised more than $18 million of the campaign’s $25 million goal, which it expects to reach by the time the addition opens next year.
“But we still need funds for general operation, especially after having been closed for more than a year,” Dotson said.
In addition to an online auction that begins this week, the museum also is soliciting donations during today’s GivingTuesday, the annual worldwide celebration of generosity that encourages financial contributions to charities and nonprofits. As well, there are opportunities to purchase memberships and gift certificates. More donation information is available at www.imaginecm.org/expansion/fundraising/waystogive/.
As difficult as the pandemic has been for Imagine Children’s Museum, other nonprofits and charities also rely on the support of financial donations. And people — and foundations — have been generous during 2020.
Charitable giving in the United States reached a record $471 billion in 2020, an increase of 3.8 percent over 2019, according to Giving USA’s annual report. Even as donations by corporations fell 6 percent, giving by individuals and foundations increased enough to set records. Donations by individuals increased by 10 percent during 2020.
Donations should, of course, go toward the efforts and organizations that mean the most to you, and those who want to keep their dollars in the community and support the work of other nonprofits can consider three websites that support local efforts. Those looking to support local charities and foundations can consult the United Way of Snohomish County (uwsc.org); Community Foundation of Snohomish County (cf-sc.org) or the Snohomish County GIVE website (scgive.org/) and its list of specific groups and requests.
Charity does require some care be taken, especially when some look to take advantage of our generosity. People should be especially wary of phone calls and emails requesting donations, as those often are used in scams. A donation to a charity that you contact is often safer, as it allows you more control and an opportunity to review where your money is going.
The Washington Secretary of State’s website offers links on a number of charity watchdogs, that rate and review charities.
Among the most useful are:
The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, www.give.org, which accredits charities and offers reports to donors on hundreds of charities, rating them on governance, effectiveness, finances and fundraising practices; and
Charity Navigator, www.charitynavigator.org, which also offers ratings and information on charities, scoring most on the percentage of donations that go toward programs rather than overhead and on the charity’s accountability and transparency. It also offers tips on smart giving.
As the struggle continues against covid-19, it’s important to find ways to support our community and foster a future that builds on the best parts of our pre-pandemic lives. Our charitable giving is a down payment on that future.
In the case of Imagine Children’s Museum, that investment is paid back in children’s smiles.