For more information: http://www.
Community center rallies supporters Cascade-area nonprofit is slated to lose city funding
By DEBERA CARLTON HARRELL P-I REPORTER
In its 10-year existence, the Cascade People's Center has dreamed big, served thousands and come close to extinction several times. The family support center, which has brought together people from varied cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, is threatened once again. Tuesday, in response to news that the center would not receive city funding, urgent e-mails were dispatched, pleading for support among City Council members and community and business leaders. Without the hoped-for $75,000 in city funding for 2009, "we will be forced to close our doors for good on Dec. 31st," Myla Becker, the center's program manager, wrote in an e-mail urging attendance at a meeting Wednesday to discuss how to rescue the popular center. The budget is expected to be completed Thursday.
"Unless they can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, that's pretty much it," said a disappointed Lloyd Douglas, president of the Cascade Neighborhood Council. The center has continued to serve against all odds in a neighborhood committed to its survival. It is hard to calculate the potential losses, Douglas said, because of a snowball effect. "The flavor of the neighborhood will go away, the mix of people who might never cross paths in the real world, yet they do here -- all those interactions and connections across all boundaries of society -- at P-patches or AA meetings, teen band practices, Central American ballet programs -- will go away," Douglas said. "All the great things we were trying to get going, like a farmers market, using the center as a base, will go. "Supporters of the center, acknowledging higher-density, taller-building proposals for South Lake Union, said they do not think the push for gentrification is behind the center's funding fate. Becker, who is on the board of the South Lake Union Friends and Neighbors (SLUFAN), a group that forwarded proposals for the upzoning to the city, said local businesses are among the center's strongest supporters. Vulcan, a large property owner in South Lake Union, was the main sponsor of a center fundraiser/auction earlier this year, she said, and contributed $20,000 -- the center's largest single donation. The issue, supporters say, is one of city budget constraints.
The Cascade People's Center, on city-owned land, is one of six family-support centers in King and Snohomish counties run by the nonprofit Lutheran Community Services Northwest. By most accounts, it is a lean operation, and supporters say it saves the city money by providing a range of human services to homeless and low-income families with a small staff and volunteers. City Hall was closed Tuesday because of Veterans Day. Becker said the center provides free programs, such as after-school care and caregiver education, serving a total 6,000 local residents annually. Becker is part of a six-person staff, four part-time people plus two AmeriCorps/Vista volunteers. They work 30 hours a week. About 400 volunteers do 60 percent of the work. Since the loss of city human services funding in the last biennium, needs have increased, Becker said. The center has learned to make do with less for years amid rising needs. It abandoned eco-friendly redesign plans years ago when capital costs loomed out of reach. The center must renegotiate its lease with Seattle Parks and Recreation at the end of this month, said Janet St. Clair, area director for Lutheran Community Services. "We have worked diligently to decrease our support on the city. Our core funding has decreased from $300,000 to $75,000," St. Clair said. "We've raised matching funds, grant money and private donations. We can't continue without the core (city) money. We're just hoping we can get a commitment from the city that we're in the budget for next year.