After more than four years of perseverance, collaboration and a whole lot of heart,-á the new Sultan Boys & Girls Club is finally open for business.
Open since Tuesday, May 26, the newly constructed 6,000-square-foot building features a games room, office space, teen center, technology lab and classroom space for preschool students and Early Childhood Education Assistance Program (ECEAP) students. The new club was made possible through a collaborative partnership between the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County, the City of Sultan and the Volunteers of America Western Washington (VOA) organization, which allowed the new club to be constructed on its property.
The Snohomish County Boys & Girls Clubs organization hopes to launch the second phase of the project later on this year, which will add an adjoining 7,500-square-foot gymnasium.
"It'll be about a 12-month window from design to permitting to construction,GÇ¥ Tsoukalas said. "So once we know that the funding's secure on it, we will do that.GÇ¥
The club hosted a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, June 5, which was attended by Washington state Sen. Kirk Pearson, Snohomish County Councilmember Dave Somers, Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick, Sultan Police Chief Monte Beaton, VOA CEO Phil Smith and many others.
Members of the Sky Valley community turned out in droves to celebrate the highly anticipated new club.
As a way of honoring them for their support, Snohomish County Boys & Girls Clubs Executive Director Bill Tsoukalas provided key players with a piece of artwork created by Coralye Whitworth, one of the club's kindergarten-age members. He then acknowledged those who were instrumental throughout the long process of establishing the new club.
When the original club buildings burned down on Dec. 24, 2010, former VOA Director Dave Woods ushered the club onto the VOA campus with nary a pause. It was able to reopen on Dec. 27, 2010, in the VOA's large A-frame structure, which also serves as the Sky Valley Senior Center.
"We're very, very grateful to Volunteers of America for allowing us to do that,GÇ¥ Tsoukalas said. "We're like the relative that came to stay overnight and ended up staying four-and-a-half years.GÇ¥
Woods, who was passionate about serving the Sky Valley community, passed away in 2011. VOA CEO Phil Smith commended Woods for generously allowing the club to relocate to the VOA and mourned the loss of his friend and coworker.
"I know that Dave is with us here in spirit,GÇ¥ Smith said. "It was a part of his vision and drive to be authentically in the community with the City of Sultan, and I want to acknowledge that and just say thank you for embracing him.GÇ¥
Once the club was relocated to the VOA facility, Eslick implemented a Blue Ribbon Committee to identify prospective locations for a new building. The process took time, and funding was a challenge. A variety of funding sources came together to make the club happen, including insurance money, grant funding from Snohomish County, donations and a $500,000 grant from Washington state.
Russell Wiita, who served on Mayor Eslick's Blue Ribbon Committee, helped to spearhead the effort to obtain the state's grant funding by encouraging more than 50 students to write letters to the Legislature regarding the importance of the Boys & Girls Club to the community. At that time, Pearson was serving in the House of Representatives with Rep. Dan Kristiansen. The 39th District senator was Val Stevens.
"We were still kind of in the recession so a half-million dollars seemed like a lot of money,GÇ¥ Pearson said. "But we said we'd do our best.GÇ¥
Each year, the City of Sultan sends its staff and councilmembers down to Olympia to lobby for certain projects. Citizens are welcome to attend as well, as they are strongly encouraged to participate in the process. The endeavor paid off, and the state issued the grant funding. It was a community-wide effort.
"That's the beautiful thing about Sultan,GÇ¥ Pearson said. "Everybody's active. It's not one person GÇô it's all the citizens that take such ownership in this.GÇ¥
Eslick eventually made the decision to remove the city from the equation, to facilitate a more streamlined process. Since the city owned the former Boys & Girls Club buildings, city staff made arrangements to transfer the insurance funding to the club to help support the new facility. To avoid any concerns over the gifting of public funds, the Boys & Girls Club entered into a formal service agreement with the city, agreeing to provide services to the Sky Valley youth for a period of 15 years.
The Sultan Boys & Girls Club provides safety and community for approximately 145 kids. Unit Director Cherise Crawford is hopeful that with the new facility they will be able to serve up to 500. The new building was built by Gaffney Construction, which Tsoukalas acknowledged for its ability and willingness to stretch the funding, meticulously making every dollar count.
The Snohomish County Boys & Girls Clubs operate a total of 21 clubs around the county. The original Sultan club, which was established in 1990, was No. 6.
To find out how to help support the new club, visit bgcsc.org/snohomish-clubs/ sultan-club.-á