Skagit County is more than just a beautiful place to work for many of Seattle City Light’s employees at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project. It’s also home.
One example of their longstanding involvement in their community is the Marblemount Community Center, which has been revitalized by major renovations thanks to the work of Kathy Hunter, a City Light administrative specialist, and her husband, Jim, a maintenance laborer.
“The center has a fresh, new look after all of the work they put into it,” said Bob Hopfield, who lives in nearby Newhalem and works for the Washington Department of Transportation as a maintenance technician.
The center was built in 1956, when then-City Light employee Bill Newby and resident Merv Peterson bought the cedar, harvested the logs and made the siding shakes for construction as a donation to the community.
The community center has hosted countless dances, receptions, birthday parties and anniversaries as a focal point for community gatherings. But over the five decades that followed its construction, the building began to deteriorate. Paint chipped, cracked and faded. Floors were scuffed, scraped and scratched. Kitchen equipment broke down. The center gathered dust and dirt in all its nooks and crannies.
Rather than a place of community pride, the Marblemount Community Center became a spot of neglect. Worse yet, the condition of the center — the designated official Red Cross shelter for Marblemount and the neighboring towns of Rockport and Newhalem – raised questions about its ability to provide safe shelter when needed in an emergency.
“It was in such shambles, nobody wanted to use it,” Kathy Hunter said.
It pained the Hunters to see the center just rotting away, so they decided to get involved and find a way to help.
The Hunters joined the Marblemount Community Board in 2008, a 10-member panel that was down to only one other member at the time. Their first proposal was to seek grant funding for a kitchen remodel at the community center.
Winning two grants from the Department of Ecology started a turnaround for the building.
“I never thought I could do something like that,” Kathy Hunter said. “I was amazed.”
Today, the kitchen has been remodeled, the floors have been refinished, a generator has been installed and the center has a fresh coat of paint donated by City Light. The Hunters, other City Light employees and community members who turned all the ideas and dreams for the center into a reality volunteered their time outside of work to help renovate the center.
Improvements have made the community center a hub for activities such as community fundraisers, family gatherings and more once again.
“The salmon barbeque fundraiser is held there, several Christmas bazaars, Halloween get-togethers and other community events,” Hopfield said. “They re-vamped the whole kitchen, attracting a lot more people to the center to be used.”
But the Hunters are looking to do even more to enhance the building. They are trying to recruit additional members for the board and volunteers for fix up projects. And they’re always looking for donations, which can be a particular challenge.
While the Marblemount Community Board is recognized as a nonprofit organization, the specific type of status does not enable tax deductions for individuals and businesses that make donations.
“One lumber yard could not donate to us, even though they really wanted to, because of our non-profit status,” Kathy Hunter said.
Such challenges, though, seem small compared to what has already been accomplished and the Hunters look forward to working with others in their community to make the center a place to be proud of for years to come.