The Campus Woods neighborhood in Federal Way proved the power of community by raising nearly $10,000 to fix their local sign.
Just over a year ago, a stolen car crashed into the sign and the driver fled on foot, according to neighbors of Campus Woods. Left with the rubble of masonry and a damaged sign, the neighborhood decided to take action.
The Campus Woods neighborhood and sign is located off of South 320th Street and 6th Avenue Southwest.
“We could’ve left the wreckage, but we didn’t,” said Robert Curtis, who has lived in the neighborhood since the 1990s.
The previous sign was built in 2002 and maintained over the years by a small group of neighbors. To fund the $8,900 cost of the original sign, a group of neighbors went door-to-door to gather money, according to the community’s Facebook page.
After the car wreck in September 2017, there was no way for the neighborhood to financially compensate for the damages, except by reaching into their own pockets.
A core group of about 15 neighbors met in October 2017 to discuss options of what to do with the mess, said Nancy Rice, treasurer for the Campus Woods sign project. Rice is also on the neighborhood’s Homeowners Association Architecture Control Committee.
“It was quite opportune the timing of it all, because the sign got destroyed [close to] October, which is when it starts to get dark early,” Rice said, noting the lights of the sign provided guidance to the entryway of the not-so-easy to find neighborhood. “Not having that sign made everybody miss it more because of the safety factor, and it was an eyesore to have the sign all busted up.”
One neighbor in particular sparked the sign-saving movement, she said.
“Actually it was Lisa Lewis [who] got us all [to start] meeting,” Rice said. “She would arrange a meeting room at the library, she would write minutes and she was kind of the person that got the whip cracking, got us all organized.”
Through frequent meetings and communication on a community Facebook group, the neighbors began to devise a plan for the sign.
Earlier in the fall as the wreckage remained, the main wooden piece of the Campus Woods was stolen, but miraculously recovered, said Lewis.
“It was complete luck,” she said.
A neighbor who was on a walk with their dog along 10th Avenue randomly found the stolen sign buried in the bushes, she said. Scratched and cracked, the recovered sign also had several bullet holes.
In another act of community kindness, neighbor Darol Hinton Jr., known for his woodworking skills, was able to repair the sign to be reused in the current structure standing today, Lewis said. His work saved the community about $5,000 in expenditures they would’ve had on a whole new sign.
“It truly was a group effort,” Lewis said. “What was really nice was those who weren’t able to come to meetings, came together as a community in other ways. We had so many people chip in their time and resources, so many people expressed their gratitude for [us] getting this done. It was amazing.”
Donation requests started in March 2018 as Jeff and Lisa Lewis mailed postcards and pamphlets to neighbors about the sign project, Lewis said. The pair created them through their business, Victory Graphics, and donations started coming in.
On a rainy day in April, several neighbors waved signs along 6th Avenue to encourage donations and raised $717 that day, according to Rice.
Around mid-May, sign project team members went door-to-door to neighbors who had not yet donated, Rice said, with the help of maps marking which neighbors had already provided their donations. They also organized weekly pie charts posted to the Facebook page showing budget updates.
Some donations were small, such as $10 or $20, said Rice, noting the smallest donation coming from a neighbor’s granddaughter who offered up $1.25 from her allowance and the largest donation being $500 from a generous neighbor.
By June, donations exceeded the $8,500 goal and the replacement process commenced.
The refurbished sign was repainted by the original painter, Milan of Federal Way Sign, LLC. Reconstruction of the masonry was completed by M&M Masonry, while using some of the original structure.
As the monument was finished in late summer, two neighbors took it upon themselves to reinstall a light fixture to illuminate the community’s pride and joy once again, Rice said.
According to a timeline on the Facebook page, many people stepped up to help.
Rice, along with Lois Dennett and Melissa Marshall spruced up the landscaping with both purchased and donated plants. The Bach family donated a roll of weed barrier for the area. Another provided three yards of mulch, and several cul-de-sac neighbors helped with transportation of the yard waste.
Almost exactly a year after the accident, the Campus Woods sign was finished earlier this month.
In total, the project collected $9,800 by community donations, with the extra funds put into the Campus Wood’s HOA Division 3 bank account to be used to pay the sign’s light bill for the next several years, said Rice.
“We know we can reach out to other folks,” she said. “We don’t see each other as strangers, we see each other as neighbors now.”
The sign is tangible proof of community pride, said neighbor Jim Klouse, who has lived in the area since 1994.
“For a group of people to raise funds when a sign was destroyed and want to replace it, it takes a lot of gumption and perseverance,” he said. “It makes me happy to see that sign out there like ‘Hey, this is our neighborhood.’”