The Tukwila Community Center – shown, at left, during construction, and now, right – opened Feb. 1, 1997. COURTESY PHOTO, Tukwila Community Center

Tukwila Community Center celebrates 20th anniversary with February events

Since opening its doors Feb. 1, 1997, the Tukwila Community Center has provided residents with a place to socialize, work out and gather.

A variety of events are planned throughout February to mark the center’s 20th anniversary.

“We couldn’t narrow it on any day that would be exciting,” said Stephanie Gardner, Tukwila’s Parks and Recreation analyst. “There were so many great ideas, so we decided we would really celebrate the entire month.”

The celebration kicks off with an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at the center, 12424 42nd Ave. S.

“When it opened, they did an open house just to showcase everything,” Gardner said. “So what we are going to do on the First is another open house, not necessarily give tours, but we are going to have information about all of the stuff that happens here. All of our staff that work out of this building will be on site to talk about their program areas, our facilities rentals. People can also drop in for free to the fitness room and some of our fitness classes during that time frame.”

There will be informational booths for programs set up in the community center lobby, including youth and teen, fitness and seniors, as well as community partners such as Global to Local and Forterra.

There will also be a free community spaghetti dinner.

“It is just kind of a balance of celebrating our customers, our facilities, our families and, yet, trying to get the word out to others that may have not been out here,” Gardner said. “Mostly we are targeting customers, appreciating and thanking (them) for the past 20 years. This is how far we have gone, and we are still moving forward.”

An ice cream social from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8 honors volunteers who have helped out in the city during the past year.

“In the past it has been in April during National Volunteer Week,” Gardner said. “We decided to move it to February because we have so many youth basketball coaches we wanted to include and other volunteers around that program. Usually in April they are done, so they don’t come back for that.”

There are about 60 volunteers in the youth basketball program.

Individuals interested in becoming volunteers are also invited to the ice cream social.

“They also target future volunteers too to come find out about volunteer opportunities that could be coming,” said Marlus Francis, recreation coordinator.

A free throw competition will be going on at the same time as the ice cream social.

The contest is open to anyone. The city’s 350 youth basketball players are encouraged to participate.

“We are targeting them to come down for fun and also try to raise a little bit of money for our H.E.R.O. (Help Expand Recreation Opportunities) scholarship program,” Francis said. “We will be encouraging them to shoot free throws and get some donations from family and friends and all that money will go toward the scholarship program.”

The H.E.R.O. program helps ensure all youth have access to recreation opportunities in Tukwila.

Each participant will have the opportunity to shoot 25 free throws. All competitors will receive a participation award, and special awards will be given in each age group to the player, coach or parent who shoots the highest free throw percentage, shoots the most consecutive free throws, raises the most money and the team that has the most players participate. A $5 minimum donation is suggested.

The second week of February is I Heart Tukwila Week.

“(It) is just going to be a week of lovely activities,” Gardner said. “If (people) are in the building, they will see there is stuff happening and they will be able to either participate in an art project or the photo booth, and we will have some fun giveaways that week as well.”

The month of activities wraps up with a H.E.R.O. Gala on Saturday, Feb. 25.

“It really is just a celebration of the facility, of the people who have been here,” Gardner said. “We will have some folks attending to share their stories of what the Tukwila Community Center has meant to them and their families and the community.”

There will also be raffle prizes, entertainment and appetizers.

“This year it really is a social event,” Gardner said. “We are going see how it goes, and maybe the theme of it will change in coming years.… It would be more of an annual event to raise money for our H.E.R.O. scholarship fund, but this year the focus is really on celebrating this facility.”

For more information about the gala, visit tukwilawa.gov/event/hero-gala/.

Changes through the years

Francis has worked for the community center since it opened 20 years ago.

“We have three full-time staff that were here and are still here with us,” she said.

As Tukwila has become more diverse, so has the community center, Francis said.

“I always say when I started it was the ballet and the karate (classes),” she said. “Those are still here but we have so much more than that…the cultural programs, just the different community groups that meet here.”

Francis has enjoyed watching the community center’s clientele grow.

“The coolest thing for me is I have seen our participants, from womb to working here,” she said. “We have so many staff that came through the programs. I run the basketball program, so I’ve got kids that were program participants now coaching their children in their program.”

The community center has become a hub for Tukwila, Gardner said, adding that more than 100,000 people have come through the facility each year.

“It is really a center that is used by the community,” she said. “It is really cool to be here at all times of the day.”

Each day brings something new to the center, Francis said.

“Having the same job for so long, I am not tired of it because every day is a different challenge and different opportunity to work with different people,” she said.

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