The Alliance for a Better Community (ABC) has recently been awarded a $5,000 grant from the Medina Foundation, a Seattle-based philanthropy. The local organization is looking for best practice use ideas from the community. The grant is intended as start-up or operational money for a youth-related program in North Pacific County.
Local citizens are encouraged to send their ideas to ABC at PO Box 821, Raymond, WA 98577.
Originally, it was thought the funds could be used to set up an Internet cafe; three computers have been donated for that purpose. Some envisioned an Internet cafe as a place for people without Internet connection at home, or on the road, to contact their families and friends, apply for jobs, write resumes or do other computer-related tasks that aren't always possible at home. The intended location became unavailable.
Public Internet access is limited in this area. For instance, the Raymond and South Bend Libraries provide wi-fi connection until midnight seven days a week. It's a popular attraction when the libraries are open, and even after hours. Some locals have parked nearby, or even sat on the library steps, connecting to the library's wi-fi.
“We have seven internet computers available in the (Raymond) library,” said Emily Popovich, library manager. “Everybody and anybody can come in and use the computers whenever we're open... and out on the sidewalk... and in their car.”
Another resource was the local McDonald's where parents could connect to the Internet while their kids played in the attached playground. When McDonald's renovated this past summer, the playground was taken away, although wi-fi is still available there.
There are other challenges to an Internet cafe. “Even with the Medina Foundation money, it wouldn't go far to cover rent and utilities” for an Internet cafe site, said Jewel Hardy, ABC's chairperson. “Our original space would have allowed for cost sharing and better sustainability for all.”
While setting that dream aside for the time being, ABC continues a focus of a youth center where local kids can gather, especially during the area's rainy winters. Whether an Internet cafe or youth center, the vision of a refuge against boredom for young people and a safe place for latchkey kids – those who go home to empty houses because both parents are at work. The board's ideas expand to wider community use, too, perhaps as an emergency shelter.
The Medina Foundation funds came at a time when other programs have been cut.
“But ... after-school programs have been cut,” she said. “Family Policy Council funds were cut and so the state funds are no longer available for the North Pacific County network.”
While such cuts are discouraging, Hardy finds it a challenge as well.
In conversations with Medina representatives, Hardy said, “One of the comments made is that ABC is pretty scrappy... we survive with very little. $2,000 was the start-up money in 2004 and I think our balance now is $1,400 and something. So it goes up and down.
“We give of ourselves, we give of our own supplies most of the time, and the time... that is the most precious thing of all. That's what we all give a lot of,” she said of ABC's board.
“We were happy to report (to Medina) that our board is 100 percent participation. If we have a bake sale, it's board members sitting behind the table, and baking, and begging other people to bake, and picking up and delivering plates back and all that sort of stuff.”
Funds gathered by ABC do not stay long with the group.
“We are considered a pass-through organization. We have pass-through funding. We've been the fiscal agent for different things going on. For instance, the family policy council... we were not able to keep any of that; we passed it through.”
ABC also helped gather funds for replacing the projector at the Raymond Theatre. “Same with the projector money,” Hardy said; “we passed it through.
While there is no specific deadline for use of the Medina funds, Hardy would like to present public ideas at the ABC's board meeting in January. “We would like to give the public an opportunity for input by the second week of January,” she said. “Medina support is evidence that our efforts are serious and we hope to attract more support for our Family Center or Internet Café project.”
For more information about ABC, check out the organization's website, www.abc4u2.com. The group meets the second Thursday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at the Eastern Garden, next to the Raymond Theatre. Interested individuals are invited to attend the meetings.
In the meantime, send ideas to ABC at PO Box 821, Raymond. Your idea might be the best way to go with the funds available.