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Land donation sparks big plans for senior center

Glen Lee, Federal Way Senior Center board president, stands in the center
Glen Lee, Federal Way Senior Center board president, stands in the center's food bank area. After a recent land donation, the senior center's board decided to relocate the food bank to another structure, allowing for more community events to take place within the main facility.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

By JACINDA HOWARD, The Mirror

A land donation to the Federal Way Senior Center has spurred the organization’s eagerness to grow.

The senior center has rented the land it resides on at 4016 S. 352nd St. for decades. This past summer, Lakeland Community Club donated the nearly 5 acres to the senior center. The gift will provide opportunities to expand the senior center’s services and partner with Advancing Leadership to begin a mentoring program for school children.

Prior to the donation, the senior center, an overwhelmingly volunteer-run organization, paid an annual rental fee of $1 to Lakeland Community Club. The cheap rent allowed more money to be spent on programs that benefited the community and its senior citizens. But the senior center board and executive director wanted to see the seniors more involved in their community. The acreage could be utilized in a variety of ways, if only the senior center owned it.

“When you rent the property, it’s hard to do anything with it,” Federal Way Senior Center board president Glen Lee said.

The board shared its ideas for expanding and upgrading its facility, establishing a plant nursery, creating a separate space for the center’s food bank and initiating a mentoring program, among other things, at a meeting with the Lakeland Community Club. Unexpectedly, a community club representative made a motion to donate the land to the senior center, Lee said.

What were dreams now have potential for actual projects.

“It gives us the potential to really do something special here,” Federal Way Senior Center executive director Nathan Brown said.

Plans to improve the senior center through the Intentional Community And Network (ICAN) for seniors project began. The goal is to fully utilize the land while also preserving the land’s natural setting. Discussions with Cascade Land Conservancy were inaugurated.

The senior center wishes to upgrade its structural layout, which includes a 3,700-square-foot main building and several free-standing trailers. The seniors have outgrown the facility, Brown said.

“It’s not very aesthetic or efficient,” he said.

Currently, the center’s food bank is located in a small room tucked in the back of the building. It will be relocated to a trailer already on the land. The space will then be expanded into a meeting area, Lee said.

Outside, a public park — wheelchair accessible — is part of the vision for the senior center’s future. A nursery and garden will liven up the landscape and bring joy to the center’s master gardeners, Brown said. It will also serve as a way to connect older generations with youths, he said.

“I’m looking at that as the first fruit of the ICAN project,” Brown said.

Another lucky break came for the Federal Way Senior Center when the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce’s Advancing Leadership class visited the site and listened to Brown speak about his goals for the organization and its land.

“(Brown) just inspires such a cool vision,” Advancing Leadership executive director Teri Hickel said. “He has this energy and we tapped into it.”

Advancing Leadership embraced the senior center’s idea of an inter-generational mentoring program as its 2008 community project. Though the specifics of the undertaking are still in the works, a pilot program is expected to begin in the spring, Brown said.

Senior citizens will be matched with fourth- and fifth-graders from the Federal Way School District, Brown said. Together, the pairs will learn from one another and share their experiences. Brown envisions the seniors teaching the children how to nurture a garden, he said. The youngsters could then take home the plants and vegetables they helped grow, he said. Senior citizens may also help the students with their academics, Hickel said.

The senior citizens will benefit from the social interaction and the children will benefit from having a mentor, Brown said.

“I’m so thrilled we’ve connected up with the senior center,” Hickel said. “The project is going to make such an impact.”

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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For more information about the ICAN program, to volunteer time or donate, contact Nathan Brown at (253) 838-3604

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Check it out:

King County Metropolitan County Council member Pete von Reichbauer, R- District 7, donated a retired King County van to the Federal Way Senior Center. The van may be used to transport senior citizens to and from services, such as day trips offered by the senior center. The senior center is also recruiting drivers and establishing van routes to transport senior citizens to and from the Federal Way Senior Center, which is located in unincorporated King County and is not adequately served by the King County Metro bus system.

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