WAPATO, Wash. — After closing Tuesday due to a lack of funds, the Wapato Community Center could reopen by Feb. 1, thanks to donations.
In recent weeks, the center has received roughly $6,000 in donations: $3,000 from Elite Nursing in Yakima and $3,000 from Valley Fruit of Wapato. And United Way has a check for $4,000 it wants to give to the center, said Mike Kennedy, who heads the Wapato Youth Athletic League, the group that operated the center last year.
He said he was flooded with phone calls from people wanting to help after a story Dec. 12 about the closure in the Yakima Herald-Republic.
“I’ve gotten calls from about 12 other people who just want to get involved and help,” Kennedy said in a Wednesday telephone interview. “Now I’ve just got to get the (City) Council on board to get this going.”
The matter could come up at a work session Monday.
“In a perfect world, if they go for everything, we can have it open by the first of February,” Kennedy said.
Wapato City Councilman Frank Jaime said the full council should support renewing a contract with the group to resume center operations.
“We’d still like to see it open and provide for the kids during the summer,” he said. “That shows that people are still willing to help something that’s worthwhile to keep open.”
Elite Nursing owner Tami McDaniels said her organization, a skilled nursing facility, made the donation after a nurse pointed out the newspaper story about the center’s closure.
“We try to support healthy programs for children,” she said. “You know, our whole focus has always been on children and our Valley is in quite a bit of need.”
Wapato knows this all too well. This Lower Valley city composed of roughly 5,000 residents on the Yakama Indian reservation — where poverty is high and opportunity slim — has seen expenditures outpace revenue for years. As a result, money to operate the center and for parks and recreation was cut from the budget. The center previously sat idle for six years due to a lack of funding.
Last year, the center at 1009 S. Camas Ave. provided some 300 youth with soccer, basketball and baseball leagues before it was closed because the group operating it could no longer afford the building’s liability insurance.
The nonprofit Wapato Youth Athletic League relies on fundraisers, concession sales at games and league fees from participants to stay afloat. After operating the center for one year, the City Council wanted to group to increase insurance coverage, which drove up the annual premium from $2,600 to $3,000.
Kennedy said the group barely covered the cost of running each sporting event, which included uniforms and equipment. But the donations will cover insurance premiums this year, and there are others still willing to donate, Kennedy said.
Kennedy said a grant writer who wished not to be identified has also committed to help seek grants for long-term funding and that a local chapter of the national Alpha Beta Kappa Honor Society wants to set up annual funding for the center.
“I’m thrilled,” he said. “It’s a positive thing.”
• Phil Ferolito can be reached at 509-577-7749 or email@example.com.