By Greg Wright
I had lived in Twisp for less than 24 hours when I made my first visit to the Methow Valley Farmers Market at the Community Center. I had been living out of the back of a U-Haul truck at the Omak fairgrounds for three days, so fresh fruit and hot teriyaki in the warm September sun were most welcome. Guitar Foundation Hall of Famer Rico Stover crooned under a canopy while I lunched, and I sat at a picnic table next to Ken Bevis, who sang along with Rico from time to time.
The fundraising drive to pave the parking lot was in full swing (and yes, that dates me as a noob). I was so impressed with the market and the Methow Valley Community Center, and the spirit of community in Twisp, that I had no hesitation in pitching an Andrew Jackson in the jar.
A couple weeks later, I disappeared to Europe for a month to leave my late wife’s ashes in a couple of special spots. By the time I returned, the parking lot had been paved! Even though things tend to happen “on Methow time” around here, I could tell that the folks who ran the Community Center weren’t ones to leave loose ends lingering. When my fellow Confluence poet Subhaga Crystal Bacon brought my name forward to join the board of the Association, I had no hesitation. I was all in.
Over the last two years, I have learned a great deal more about what the center means to this community. And as the board begins putting together an advisory committee to discuss options for replacing Bertha, the facility’s recycled-motor-oil burning furnace, we are grateful to have collected some pretty concrete input from the community.
Lots of support
In November, a letter was sent to all members regarding the building’s heating and cooling systems. It let them know that the cost of replacing Bertha will likely exceed $200,000. Because the building and grounds are owned by the Methow Valley School District, we have been hesitant to pursue a capital campaign without knowing how the valley actually felt about the Community Center. As the letter stated, the current lease with the school district includes some barriers, as we have little control over the building.
A survey was included in the letter and 64 responses were received through the holidays. The comments were 100% positive, and we would like to share some of them with you!
“I was around when it was formed,” said one member. “I can’t imagine Twisp without it.” We can’t either. It’s “a place for the community to gather and hold events,” said another member, “even events that do not interest me.”
The Community Center’s role as refuge in times of crisis was also mentioned by members, as it’s a “large indoor space available during inclement weather, extreme heat, or cold … or smoke!”
Others commended the varied “community services” offered in the facility, such as the Okanogan County PUD, the Twisp library, the Visitor Information Center, and drop-in activities at the gym (in better times), as well as “social opportunities” for the community –which in time will return.
“The CC is a real center of community,” wrote another member, with “no profit motive involved. This is unusual.” The center acquired its 501(c)(3) status in 2020.
“I love sending my 6-year-old there for dance classes,” said one mother, “because she gets to feel the richness of the Methow Valley history.” Yes! The center’s mission is “Honoring Our Past, Caring for Our Community, Building Our Future.”
A baker’s dozen of members described the center as “the hub of the community that brings people together.”
“MVCC is the most successful and visual place in Methow Valley where irreplaceable history and relevant current community activities come together. If Twisp is the ‘Heart of the Methow Valley’ then the MVCC is the Heart of the Heart.”
The board and Executive Director Kirsten Ostlie were very pleased with the enthusiasm and support of the community in response to the survey.
We now need to take the next step in fulfilling our vision: “To secure the building for future generations.”
Are you excited? We sure are. As one supporter put it:
“Looking back on 28 years in the valley, I am filled with nostalgia for the community center. My children had dance recitals and roller-skating parties, learned to appreciate the library, and did countless bake sales for all kinds of causes. I want that experience for all families in the Methow, both new and old. The Community Center is more than a building or a gathering place; it is a spirit of community that links generations. We need that now more than ever.”
Greg Wright lives off Twin Lakes Drive, and with his wife, Misuk Ko, owns The Iron Horse in Winthrop. He is also a member of Confluence Poets and sits on the boards of The Confluence Gallery and Art Center and the Methow Valley Community Center Association.