One last hurdle for Marge Center

"Thirty thousand dollars.That's what it's going to take to clear the last hurdle and complete funding of the Marge Williams Center on Winslow Way.That was the good news from Kate Carruthers and Wendy Johnson, who took time to give us an update on the project in the Team Winslow office Monday afternoon. Better still, they told us, building permits are on the horizon, and the purchase of the property itself will close this week.With the building permits and the ownership, we're in business, Kate said. But we still need money.This marks our third update in this space as we keep readers apprised of the progress of the Williams Center, which backers are calling a permanent place to nurture non-profits. The building was the home of longtime civic booster and downtown activist Marge Williams, who was slain in the summer of 1998; the property was purchased from her estate by a group of local angels, who put up money and held the building in trust during a fund drive for its renovation. Envisioned as a dynamic hub for local social service agencies, the center will house Team Winslow, the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, the Health, Housing and Human Services Council, the Housing Resources Board and the Arts and Humanities Council.Most recently, the sale of decorative bricks - inscribed Roman pavers ($150) and larger, limited-edition rose bricks by island artists Little and Lewis ($500) - for a community pathway next to the center has boosted the campaign handsomely. Businesses, friends of Marge and ad hoc community groups including a downtown coffee klatch and a Crystal Springs-area youth group have pitched in, with more bricks still for sale. Look for displays at Bainbridge Gardens, Bay Hay and Feed, Bainbridge Bakers, Winslow Hardware and city hall. Even Mayor Dwight Sutton will man a booth this Saturday outside Town and Country, displaying the One Brick at a Time drive wares.The look of the path is really going to reflect the dynamic personality of the island, Wendy told us this week.Overall, the campaign has raised $390,000 toward a goal of $420,000, and with construction bids due to go out shortly, backers hope to begin construction sometime in September.But with all the good news, there is also a bit of sadness to report; our good friend Ed Kushner, the project's visionary and prime mover, has stepped down as board president for health reasons. Now, if we know the low-key Ed - who eschews the spotlight under the best of circumstances - he'll be annoyed with us for even mentioning his name. But he can't escape the gratitude of his friends and colleagues for getting the Williams Center project this far this quickly, nor can he duck a little public well-wishing. (Just deal with it, Ed.)It's going to take the whole community to do what Ed was doing, Kate told us Monday. So we need help.To that end, backers have scheduled a rally at the Williams Center building, slated for 7 p.m. July 19. Volunteers will be asked to turn out in a show of support for the project and for Ed Kushner; participants will be rallied to make one last round of contacts with local businesses and organizations to solicit last-minute donations - contributions of any size are welcome. They'll also begin putting together a volunteer labor force, in anticipation of this fall's construction.The next time you hear from us on the Marge Williams Center, we're confident that it will be at a formal dedication around the first of the year. Between here and there stands only some work, and $30,000.We're almost there."

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