by Dan Aznoff
Crews that cleared away what remains of a small commercial development that had occupied a portion of the property owned by Trinity Lutheran Church was the first step in what the congregation hopes will become a symbol of positive change for south Snohomish County.
Site preparation is part of what church leadership hopes will be an ongoing partnership with Volunteers of America to bring positive change to the neighborhood adjacent to Hwy 99.
“The project is consistent with the mission of the church in our outreach to the community,” church administrator Don Boelter told the Lynnwood Times. “We are excited to be part of the bigger picture that maximizes the property for the benefit of the neighborhood. And it might just bring more people to our campus.
“We want to reach beyond the walls of our building to the people that live within our community.”
South Snohomish County, he said, is “a desert for social services.”
An office building that housed a chiropractor’s office, an abandoned house and an old 7/11 as well as some trees will be removed from the site that sits directly southwest of the church on 196th St. SW. The trees will be replaced as part of the construction when the site is landscaped, according to the administrator.
“It’s never good to have empty buildings on your property. It invites trouble,” Boelter explained. “Construction is being planned in phases. We made the decision to go ahead (with the project) now before the project becomes too expensive.”
The expedited construction schedule was also made in response to the extension of Light Rail, which Boelter believes will increase the number of residents in need of services provided through the center.
Plans call for the site to be leased to the Snohomish County offices of Volunteers of America for $1 per year for the next 50 years as part of the social service hub envisioned on the property. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed in December, with the building ready for occupancy in 2021.
A new space will be anchored with a new Boys and Girls Club. The new club will share the two-acre site with the Korean Community Service Center, Kids in Transition, a Latino Training Center and an Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) classroom designed to serve 40 to 60 students.
More than 70 percent of the children who will be served at the club are on free breakfast or reduced lunch programs at two elementary schools in the community, according to David Jordan, project manager for Volunteers of America in Western Washington.
He emphasized the new Boys and Girls Club facility will not replace the existing club in Lynnwood or any other similar facility in the county.
ECEAP in Snohomish County is a pre-kindergarten program for income-eligible children ages 4 to 5-years-old and their families. It was designed to provide educational, family support, health screenings, and nutrition services. The center is also expected to serve as the local base for mobile medical and dental clinics.
The center is also expected to house providers of behavior health, a Lutheran Family Support Center and 24/7 senior center that will offer a “meaningful” day drop-in program for the disabled, according to Jordan. The center is also expected to house office and storage space for the domestic arm of an international relief organization.
The idea behind an integrated service center, said Jordan, was to help reduce overhead for multiple agencies, which in turn, will leave them with more funds to invest in addressing the needs of people in need of assistance.
In addition to serving the needs of the community, Jordan hopes the meeting rooms can be rented out to civic organizations and be utilized for weddings and community celebrations.
The projected $20 million cost of the 40,000 square foot facility received a jump start from a $3 million gift from television personality and local philanthropist Rick Steves.
Jordan said lawmakers in the 32nd Legislative District were able to secure $2.2 million in funding from the current capital budget for the social service center. He said about half of the additional funding has already been secured through private and corporate donations. The rest of the money that will be needed, he said, will be addressed through tax credits and other established means.
“There is no reason to believe we will not make our goal,” said the optimistic project manager. “We will encourage members of the community to help us address the needs as the space emerges from its conception to a meaningful place in the lives of all of our neighbors.
“We want to honor members of the community regardless of their social or economic status.”