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Park district fundraises to bolster scholarship fund

Vashon Park District, faced with a staggering demand for program scholarships, is fundraising to help keep its reduced-fee program viable. The publicly funded district has stretched its levy dollars to cover $12,000 worth of scholarships, but expects more than $30,000 in demand this year, officials said. They’re looking to the community to fill in the rest. They plan to hold various fundraisers, starting with a car wash and the sale of commemorative 25th anniversary park flip flops, said park district program coordinator Susan McCabe.

The reduced fee fund has already doled out nearly $9,000 in partial and full scholarships this year for programs including dance, sports and exercise classes, she said. That’s more than twice the amount the park district handed out last year in the same time frame.

And summer camp season is coming up fast, McCabe said — the demand could be off the charts, and over the park district’s budget, within a month.

“We are concerned,” she said. “In years past, we’ve put about $10,000 aside and gone way over.”

This year, the organization may not have that option, she said.

The park district, which is fully funded by Island property taxes, is struggling with the reduced fee issue. A tenet of the district is that “everyone who wants to play gets to play,” but if the park district can’t support the burgeoning demand for scholarships, it could be forced to turn some Islanders away from its popular programs.

“We might just have to allocate a certain amount of money and after that there is no more,” McCabe said.

The park board will discuss the need for reduced fees at its June 9 meeting. Board chair Mike Collins said capping the scholarship fund could be a possibility.

“If the fiscal reality is that the funds aren’t there to support reduced fees or scholarships, we’d have to do that,” he said.

But he said he supports the fact that the park district does not turn away those who can’t pay full price.

“Our mission statement is to support the community,” he said. “Some people don’t have the financial resources, and it’s great that we can help them out.”

McCabe said she hoped Islanders would turn out on Saturday to the car wash.

“The programs we provide are not luxuries. They are enhancements to a healthy life, so we want anyone who wants to access them to be able to do that,” she said.

She attributed the rise in demand for the district’s many popular programs to the declining economy.

“I think there are people out of work, there are people afraid they’re going to lose their jobs,” she said. “We want to continue to support those people participating.”

Car wash

Vashon Park District staff and youth volunteers will wash cars and trucks in the Vashon Plaza parking lot from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 6. Cars are $10; trucks are $20. All proceeds go toward park district program scholarships.

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