May 25, 2024 4:27 am

The premier news source for Snohomish County

VOA and Rick Steves break ground on new Lynnwood Neighborhood Center

LYNNWOOD—Several community partners, including Volunteers of America Western Washington, travel writer Rick Steves, Snohomish County, the cities of Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, and Edmonds, and state and federal delegates, broke ground on the new Lynnwood Neighborhood Center at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood, Thursday, April 18 – commemorating a project ten years in the making.

Lynnwood Neighborhood Center
Groundbreaking of the Lynnwood Neighborhood Center on Thursday, April 18, 2024. SOURCE: Kienan Briscoe.

Volunteers of America’s new Lynnwood Neighborhood Center is set to begin construction this year which will serve over 20,000 community members annually, from the most vulnerable needing support to at-risk children and youth.

“The Lynnwood Neighborhood Center is a true partnership between the faith community, the local businesses, the local community members and the state and local government” said Representative Cindy Ryu (D-Shoreline).

The Neighborhood Center will be a 40,000 square-foot Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified facility on 2.13 acres of land in central Lynnwood. The design is intended to be flexible enough to change as community needs evolve for generations to come.

Located at 6330 195th Street Southwest in Lynnwood, the Center will also serve as a vibrant hub where neighbors can meet, learn, and serve, building, and sustaining, safe, stable, and healthy communities for generations to come. Phase I of the project, which encompassed site preparation, reached completion back in 2019. The $26.6 million project is nearly fully funded with only $3 million left to go.

Volunteers of AMERICA—which assists with food banks, rent and utility assistance, crisis counseling, mediation, and ECEAP preschool—plans to kick off a Community Fundraising Campaign at the beginning of construction this spring with the goal of raising $2.5 million to ensure the project will be debt free open opening. This would allow non-profit partners below maker lease rates, Kristi Meyers, Chief Operations Officer for VOA, told the Lynnwood Times.

“Congratulations to the Volunteers of America Western Washington for breaking ground on the Lynnwood Neighborhood Center!” said Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Everett) in a statement to the Lynnwood Times. “Thanks in part to federal earmark funding and the hard work of VOAWW and community partners, local residents will soon have a central location to access early learning and youth programs, health services, job training and other critical community services.”

In 2023, Representative Larsen secured $3 million in for the center with the passage of the omnibus spending package.

Lynnwood Neighborhood Center
Artist rendition of the Lynnwood Neighborhood Center. Source: Architecture Resource Collaborative (arc).

The VOA Lynnwood Neighborhood Center is a collaboration between Volunteers of America, Trinity Lutheran Church, renown author and travel writer Rick Steves, and the Greater South Snohomish County community at large.

Thursday’s event began with a few words by Trinity Lutheran Church Pastor Hector Garfias-Toledo who led the, approximately, 500 attendees through a prayer before inviting Bishop Shelley Bryan Wee to the stage.

“The hope and the vision that we have of the thousands upon thousands of people who will be impacted by what is happening in this room today,” said Pastor Bryan Wee. “There is nothing that brings me greater joy than to see collaboration, and that is what is happening here between the different cities, the churches, and civic organizations that came together and said what is it that we can do to make Lynnwood and this world better?”

Volunteers of America’s President and CEO, Brian Smith, shared that the Lynnwood Neighborhood Center will not only serve the people of Lynnwood but all of South Snohomish County at large.

Lynnwood Neighborhood Center
VOAWW CEO Brian Smith speaking before breaking ground of the Lynnwood Neighborhood Center on Thursday, April 18, 2024. SOURCE: Kienan Briscoe.

“I am thrilled to be a part of a project that addresses so many of the needs in south Snohomish County. We knew that the challenges our communities would face coming out of the pandemic would not look the same as they once did and our team has done an incredible job designing the Lynnwood Neighborhood Center as a response to that,” said Smith.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers was unable to attend Thursday’s ceremony but speaking on his behalf was Snohomish County Executive Director Ken Klein. Others that spoke were Paul Hollie, speaking on behalf of Primera, and Ruth Kagi, speaking on behalf of the Steering Committee, followed suit.

Lynnwood Neighborhood Center
Ruth Kagi speaking before breaking ground of the Lynnwood Neighborhood Center on Thursday, April 18, 2024. SOURCE: Kienan Briscoe.

After the speaking portion of Thursday evening’s event, travel writer Rick Steves led the group outside to tour the lot of the upcoming facility asking the crowd to imagine what will become of the space in the coming years.

“I’m all over this project because it is the very, very, best investment as a community we can do in so many ways,” said Rick Steves, “local business owner and enthusiastic donor, “It’s an opportunity for different dimensions of our society, of our community to come together.”

Lynnwood Neighborhood Center
Rick Steves speaking before breaking ground of the Lynnwood Neighborhood Center on Thursday, April 18, 2024. SOURCE: Kienan Briscoe.

When the center opens by June of 2025, it will house a VOA Community Resource Center, medical, dental and behavioral health clinics, an early childcare education and assistance program (ECEAP) preschool, a Boys & Girls club, technology lab, adult day programs, community events and gatherings, culturally specific programs, refugee and immigrant assistance, a commercial kitchen and café, and classes, trainings and workshops.

Although Volunteers of America was founded in 1896, it didn’t open its Northern Washington branch in Everett until 1915. For the last 108 years the nonprofit has assisted those living in north Snohomish County but for residents living in south county this left a desert for social service accessibility.

For example, out of 1,286 ranked schools in Washington, Cedar Valley Community School (which is located just 1.5 miles from the upcoming Lynnwood Neighborhood Center site) is ranked 180th for total students on lunch assistance. Additionally, the percentage of Cedar Valley Community School students on free and reduced lunch assistance (79.5%) is significantly higher than the state average of 47.3%, indicating the area has a higher level of poverty than state average, according to Kristi Meyers.

The Lynnwood Neighborhood Center will provide an accessible hub of services and programs to serve Lynnwood, Edmonds, Shoreline, and communities across the area.

The upcoming Lynnwood Neighborhood Center’s outcome-driven programs, services and partnerships will focus on five key priority areas to fill gaps in social determinants of health in the community: economic stability, access to quality education for children and youth, access to quality health care, neighborhood and built environment, and social and community context.

It will help people achieve economic stability by providing wrap-around preventative services that empower families towards self-efficacy and generational wealth development, Myers said. This includes support for food, childcare, accessing affordable housing, tenant-landlord dispute resolution, and job training.

The center will provide access to quality education for children and youth by providing free and affordable educational opportunities and supportive youth development for early learners through adolescents, with a focus on communities that have faced historically disproportionate barriers to educations. It will also provide access to quality health care by helping people access timely, high-quality health, dental and behavioral health care services at convenient onsite clinics.

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