How does an economically battered community make positive strategic moves towards revitalization? For Quilcene, Washington, a major influence comes from its Community Center. Offering support on a number of levels, Quilcene Community Center provides hope and heart to this hamlet as its residents and businesses search for ways to not only survive, but thrive.
Quilcene: Overcoming pending economic disaster
Quilcene, Washington, is one of many small communities in the Pacific Northwest struggling to survive. During the 1980s and 1990s, its major industries — logging and commercial fishing — took hard blows, and have never recovered. A vast number of businesses that were once thriving in the Quilcene area, if they now exist at all, are mere shadows of a former prosperous period. The town, with a population of about 500, has seen many businesses close and families moved out of the area in search of jobs that offer a livable wage. The 2008 economic downturn seemed to be the final blow to this community. That also was when the last gasoline station closed – a sure sign that Quilcene was nearly at rock bottom and perhaps on the way to becoming one of many small communities in the Pacific Coast region that over the last century have ended as ghost towns.
Quilcene is not yet a ghost town, and if its townspeople have any say, it will not only continue to survive, but find a way to thrive. There is a core of business people and residents who have begun to work together to plan for Quilcene’s future. (Read here about how the only commercial bank in the community has stayed the course, keeping its doors open and supporting the community when many banks in small hamlets like Quilcene have closed their doors and pulled up roots.) But what is the glue that will hold this conglomeration of residents and businesses together as they search for ways to reinvent their economic future? Enter the Quilcene Community Center: the heart and soul of the community.
Quilcene Community Center: Build it and they will come
Not just a concept from a movie, “build it and they will come,” means much more for this community than a baseball game in the middle of a cornfield. For Quilcene, changes began at the Community Center in 2007. Languishing very much like the community it served, the Center is owned by Jefferson County and operated by Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP). Quilcene Community Center is adjacent to a county park and campground with playgrounds and picnic areas, now limited to day use since there are no funds to manage the park as an overnight facility. Like the park, the community center needed updating, remodeling and funding. But there simply were no funds to even start the most basic remodel project. The center offered a computer center, hosted the food bank, and managed a number of other activities. Much like the town, the community center had a discouraging tired look and feel. The center reflected a facade of hopelessness. That was about to change.
Enter, stage right: Bob Rosen. Retired from the film industry, a dynamo named Bob Rosen and his wife Pen, moved to a lakeside home near Quilcene. Always looking for ways to contribute to the communities where they live, Rosen decided to take on the challenge at the Quilcene Community Center. In 2007, Rosen accepted the position as manager of the Center. His goals were to remodel the building, revitalize its usage and invest in the growth of the community at large.
No funds? No problem. Rosen reached out to local civic groups, volunteer organizations and individuals who had an interest in the Quilcene Community Center and also had an understanding of how that first step could help lead the community to economic recovery.
Funding was found, materials were given and skilled labor was donated. Remodeling for the outside of the building started August 2008 and was completed four months later. The interior remodel job began in January 2009 and was completed that September. The kitchen remodel began April 2010 and was complete in four months. Autumn of 2010, an outside horseshoe pit and rest area was added and the local garden club built a garden watering system around the outside of the center. The final large project is the outside gazebo for community gatherings, concerts and plays. A summer 2011 completion date is set for it. To view a slide show of the newly remodeled Quilcene Community Center, go here.
The center offers a haven for the community, and perhaps most importantly, by example it brings pride and community spirit to the residents. Where there was once a tired-looking community center, now stands an inspiration for everyone. The Center is presently used for the following activities: Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, Lions Club Meetings, AA Group, Narcotics Anonymous, Yoga, Aerobics, Bingo, TOPS, tax preparation, Quilcene/Brinnon Garden Club luncheons and meetings, Quilcene craft show, wedding receptions, community plays, Puget Sound Energy Forums, Wii Bowling League, Legal Forums, VFW meetings, Chamber of Commerce, computer lab with WiFi, annual Halloween party, private parties, Quilcene High School graduation party, annual Quilcene High School reunion and Home Owner Association meetings. And more meetings and activities are added to the list every month.
Centerpiece for economic development
Increasingly, people meet at the Quilcene Community Center for informal and formal discussions about the economic development of the community. It’s easier to visualize a plan for the future while sitting in the middle of a remodeled and revitalized Community Center. It reflects the possibilities that come from inspiration and hard work. The Quilcene Community Center serves as a constant reminder of what happens when an entire community is inspired to improve the economic and social environment of its surroundings.
More from this contributor:
Slide show: Quilcene Community Center: The Heart of a Rural Coastal Community
Quilcene, Washington: A Small Bank Office Impacts the Community in a Big Way
OlyCAP Weatherization Program for Washington Residents on the North Olympic Peninsula