Fund drive under way for Williams Center

"What they’d really like is a phone system – preferably with voice-mail capability.But cash and checks will do just fine, as a fund-raising drive for the Marge Williams Center gets under way next week.“I’m convinced we will do it,” said Ed Kushner, who chairs the campaign to raise $420,000 in private donations for renovation of the Winslow Way West building. “I know we will do it.”The office building was purchased last year from the estate of Williams, the longtime island civic leader who was murdered in her upstairs apartment in August 1998. A group of “angels” from the island’s business community put up $300,000 for purchase of the building; the fund drive will settle those accounts, and pay for a thorough refurbishing of the center’s interior space and reconfiguration of its cramped parking area.The name also has been shortened, dropping the phrase “Memorial Office” to create the somewhat more wieldy Marge Williams Center.Following the mantra “a permanent place to nurture non-profits,” five island organizations have been tabbed as the center’s first occupants.The list includes Team Winslow, which has been the building’s sole tenant since the Bainbridge Review moved out in February of last year; the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council, now located on lower Madison Avenue; the new Health, Housing and Human Services Council; and the Bainbridge Island Land Trust and Housing Resources Board, currently next-door neighbors above the Madison Avenue laundromat.The building’s meeting areas should be made available for use by other groups, once the tenants are in and the building’s administration is set up.Kushner said the tenants were chosen from among a number of applicants, by virtue of their track record in serving the community.Wendy Johnson, who left Team Winslow in November to devote more time to her family but is one of the leaders of the office center drive, expressed regrets that she won’t be a daily beneficiary of the finished environment.“There were a few things that made it difficult to leave Team Winslow,” Johnson said. “To not be in the middle of the synergy this is going to create, that was difficult.“I don’t think we’re (yet) aware of the dynamic impact it can have for the future.”But none of it will see fruition without money.So the first phase of the fund drive, which begins Jan. 25, will target big-ticket donors around the community. The group hopes to solicit at least 20 “keystone” gifts of $10,000 or more, payable over a three-year period. Kushner chairs that effort.The second phase, which kicks in next month, has a target of 30 “cornerstone” gifts of in the $2,500 to $10,000 range, also payable over three years. Island attorney Kate Carruthers will spearhead that part of the drive.Then in March, Johnson will lead a push to drum up 100 or so “community” gifts of up to $2,500, payable over a one to three year period.Islander Gordon Imlay, a professional fund-drive coordinator, is lending his expertise to the campaign.Once the drive reaches the $250,000 pledge mark, Kushner said, work on the building will begin. Renovation will be in the hands of Drury Construction, although some volunteer labor may be solicited. Donated building materials are also being sought. Organizers are also looking for the donation of a copier and a fax machine, preferably in good working condition, to outfit the offices. And a reasonably modern phone system.Furniture, Kushner said, should take care of itself.“Given that the organizations are bringing stuff, I don’t think we’ll need much,” he said.Because the center is a 501(c)3 project, contributions are tax-deductible.The building’s management – cleaning services, bill paying for utilities and the like – will be handled by Windermere Property Management.The work schedule should allow a formal dedication of the building in August – coinciding both with Williams’ birthday, and the date of her death two years ago.“You could put that down as a goal,” Kushner said.For information on the fund drive, call Ed Kushner at 842-5626."

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