Key Peninsula Civic Center serves as community hub, resource

January 29, 2014 

Plans for the near future for the Key Peninsula Civic Center include the addition of solar panels and the designation as a Pierce County Department of Emergency Management emergency shelter.

KEY PENINSULA CIVIC CENTER/PHOTO COURTESY

The Key Peninsula Civic Center has been serving the community for nearly six decades, and has evolved through the years to add more programs and amenities. The center, operated by the nonprofit Key Peninsula Civic Center Association, also functions as headquarters for several nonprofits, including the Key Peninsula Museum, Two Waters Arts Alliance, Key Peninsula News, Key Peninsula Family Resource Center (part of Children’s Home Society) and Fresh Food Revolution co-op.

From karate classes and public meetings, to concerts and theater productions, the Civic Center has seen it all. Located in the heart of Vaughn, the hub is popular for private events ranging from memorial services to birthday parties. The nonprofit also organizes and hosts an annual Livable Community Fair, an avenue for organizations and providers serving the local area to showcase their services.

The association does not receive government or tax funding, relying on rentals, private donations and fundraising events. Major fundraisers include an annual crab feed, a fireworks stand and a Flavors of Fall biannual gala.

In addition to a board of 18-plus people, about 50 volunteers are involved in various committees and events, along with helpers from Boys Scout Troop 220 and Cub Scout Troup 222. The organization has two paid employees, Holly Hendrick, who serves as marketing and facilities coordinator, and James Allen, caretaker and maintenance and security coordinator.

“We are extremely fortunate to have two outstanding employees who have taken ownership of our center,” said KPCCA President Phil Bauer.

Bauer, who has served another term as president several years ago, said the biggest challenge is funding. The center has struggled financially through the years and is always looking for new ways to boost revenues and bring in more contributions. One recent example is a partnership with the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation to set up an endowment, with seed money from the KPCCA’s past presidents fund.

The KPCCA board has been successful through the years in obtaining grants for capital improvements, inside and out.

“I’ve been a volunteer for 15 years and I can say that the facility has never been in better shape,” Bauer said.

The main building was originally built in 1907 as the home of Pierce County’s first rural high school, according to local historian Colleen Slater, a Vaughn native who was a pupil there when the building became an elementary school in the ‘40s. Volunteers built a gymnasium in 1937 with help from the Works Progress Administration (WPA). An annex was also added, used originally as a study hall and library. When Vaughn Union High School merged Vaughn and Gig Harbor schools into what is now Peninsula High School, the school district turned the building into an elementary/middle school.

With the last school bell ringing in 1954, the local community formed a committee determined to buy the property from the school district. Two years later, the newly formed KPCCA hosted an inaugural celebration for the new center, attended by some 750 people including dignitaries.

Children and youth are still frequent visitors to the former schoolhouse. The KPCCA sponsors a skate night for kids and a teen late night. And other local groups —Two Waters, Children’s Home Society, Key Pen Parks, among others — host various kids activities regularly.

“Every Friday night during the school year, not only does the KPCC open our doors to create a safe, fun place for kids to be kids, through our part-time staff and wonderful network of ‘Friends of the Key Peninsula Civic Center,’ we mentor local teenagers in leadership roles to coordinate and manage the Skate Night program,” Hendrick said.

The Friends of the Key Peninsula Civic Center, a new tool to recruit volunteers, is an example of new KPCCA initiatives and improvements. Other changes have been more visible. In partnership with Key Pen Parks, for example, KPCCA built a modern new playground a couple of years ago, and is adding a new picnic pavilion this year. Plans for the near future include the addition of solar panels and the designation as a Pierce County Department of Emergency Management emergency shelter.

Much of what happens at the civic center is a community affair — from the grounds beautified by the Boy Scouts, Vaughn Bay Garden Club and Lakebay Fuchsia Society to a gym painting project organized by volunteers. The spirit that founded the Key Peninsula Civic Center Association in 1956 continues strong.

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