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Welcome Vashon will celebrate successes, generate new ideas
When Dan Kaufman and a small group of Islanders organized Welcome Vashon last winter, they had no idea how many people would show at the group’s kickoff event — where they hoped Vashon residents would brainstorm projects to make the Island a more welcoming place.
“We did a good job getting the word out, but we had no idea if it would be 25 people or 100,” Kaufman said, recalling the February event they called “We All Belong.”
As it turned out, more than 150 Islanders showed at the Open Space for Art & Community to join in the effort. Twenty projects emerged, created by Islanders of various ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“It was was beyond our wildest dreams in terms of numbers, energy and excitement. … Once the actual event was over, the energy around the project and the work has kind of continued to grow,” Kaufman said.
At the group’s second big event, Saturday’s Welcome Vashon Celebration, leaders hope to recognize the work done by participants over the last six months, as well as build on the existing energy by brainstorming new projects and developing a community mural. Kaufman said event organizers hope to see 300 people show this time, a goal he called ambitious.
“People had a great time (last time). It’s not just a working thing,” he said. “This really is an energetic and fulfilling opportunity for people.”
Since February’s event, Kaufman noted, Welcome Vashon participants have been very active, some aided by mini-grants given out by the organization.
One group has held conversations about homelessness on the Island. Another made treat bags for children who visit the food bank. Some are working to get welcome signs installed at both ferry docks. Two separate groups have taken steps to make the Island’s Hispanic community feel more included. Another group’s goal is simply to smile at strangers more, and one woman brought an award-winning PBS documentary film series to Vashon.
“There has been a ton of stuff happening,” Kaufman said.
At the celebration event this weekend, representatives from each project will give short presentations on what they’ve accomplished. Then, like at the first event, the room will break into small groups to brainstorm what participants should do next, possibly coming up with entirely new projects.
“We hope to turn a small flame into a forest fire by providing an opportunity for people to come together and share what they’re doing,” Kaufman said.
Islander Raven Pyle-McCrackyn showed up for Welcome Vashon’s February event and has since become involved with several projects. Now a Welcome Vashon organizer, she says she loves how the project has embraced and included Islanders of all ages, races and walks of life.
“When we had skateboarders at the same table with seniors, they found things they had in common and had some really good ideas,” she said.
Pyle-McCrackyn said that as the mother of a young boy who has autism, she herself has at times felt out of place on Vashon, unable to socialize with other parents easily. As part of Welcome Vashon, she says she has made new friends and connections with a wide variety of Islanders.
“We often go home to our hidey-holes,” she said. “This process itself has really connected me to the community.”
Kaufman said he has invited members of other Vashon service organizations to this weekend’s event, hoping to recognize their efforts and build connections among Islanders who have similar goals in improving the Island community.
“We’re trying to create a bigger net and interconnectedness,” he said.
To conclude the morning, attendees will select designs for a mural that will eventually go up on Vashon. Pyle-McCrackyn said the Welcome Vashon mural, or perhaps several mini-murals, will combine
images from Vashon Allied Arts commun-ity quilts that have been created and raffled off for the past 30 years. She hopes the final product, a quilt-like mural of squares from the past decade that participants feel best represent the Island, will be one more thing to make both visitors and Island residents feel welcomed.
“The images of Vashon are so incredible,” she said. “And the idea that everyone brings their own image and it creates a whole is a great metaphor of what Vashon is all about.”
The Welcome Vashon Celebration will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Open Space for Arts & Community. A complementary breakfast and free childcare will be provided. For more information see www.welcomevashon.org or contact Dan Kaufman at firstname.lastname@example.org.