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Youth center ready for kids

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By John Leggett-The Courier-Herald

It takes a village to raise a child.

The phrase has been uttered so often it has been shopworn. But the city of Buckley took one giant step toward fortifying itself for that tall task May 27 when it debuted its freshly erected $750,000 youth center adjacent to its skate park.

Buckley firefighters cooked up and handed out at least 500 free hot dogs for those who witnessed the ribbon cutting and a skateboard expo going on next door.

At least a half-dozen dignitaries attended the festivities, including Congressman Dave Reichert, 31st District State Rep. Christopher Hurst and Pierce County Councilman Shawn Bunney, who made sure the Buckley Youth Center was not a project that fell by the wayside.

“On a scale of 1 to 10 this project was an 11,” Bunney said.

At the final appropriations meeting in the summer of 2007 it became clear the project could be put on the chopping block, Bunney said, something he didn't want to see happen.

“When the kids come home from school, their parents are either driving home from work or are still at work,” Bunney said. “So they are left to run around and, trust me, trouble will find them unless they have someplace like this to be, where there is caring adult supervision.”

The county councilman said he called in some political markers and found the funding to make the youth center a reality. Pierce County kicked in an additional $200,000, to put alongside the $200,000 in grant money made possible by a Housing and Urban Development block grant pushed through by former Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn.

While the Buckley Youth Center was funded primarily with outside dollars, Hurst reminded everyone of the contribution made by the city itself.

“The land that this youth center was built upon was prime commercial real estate and could have fetched a small fortune had the city elected to sell it as such,” Hurst said. “The city's elected officials though showed great foresight in building this youth center right next to their skate park.”

The legislator noted how such projects pay long-term dividends.

“If you tell and show a youngster enough times that they are a very important part of our lives and we are interested in what they are doing, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and they begin to believe it,” he said. “Hopefully, now, these kids will reach down deep inside themselves” and continue making positive choices in their lives.

“The city of Buckley should be proud of this center, because they went to a lot of time and expense to make sure this venture was done right,” Hurst added.

Joe Kessell, the president of Interwest Construction and Development - project contractor and currently in the process of building its corporate headquarters in Buckley said he had a personal stake in the project. “My wife grew up in this area, I raised five boys around here and many of our employees live in this community,” he said.

“Talk is cheap, but I made a commitment to Buckley Mayor Pat Johnson,” Kessell said. “ I told her that it was time for businesses to give back to this community and that we wanted to be a major player in something of this positive nature happening on the plateau.

The company, he said, “kicked in about $200,000 in materials, extra labor and financial backing to make sure that this thing got done, so we basically donated all of our profits.

“Many times I would drive by here in the evening and still see (construction supervisor) Scott Drummond,” Kessell said. “He really took a lot of private time away from his family to make sure we created a quality structure that the kids in his area would be proud to call their gathering place.”

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