“For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these.”
It was to be their dream. And not just theirs but all who would pass through its doors who would find help there for their own particular journey toward self-sufficiency, stability and family.
The dream of being the first, ever, as far back as mom and dad – if there was a dad – could remember of relatives that actually had graduated from high school let alone attended college would be the impossible dream given possibilities here.
It wouldn’t be a church but long-term community members would be memorialized here just the same. Perhaps their name placed on a plaque on the wall.
Birthday parties, holidays, a garden out back for budding little green thumbs, story time, cracker-barrel debates over politics, honest-to-goodness-made-from-
Rumors would fly as neighbors gathered by, no need for a newspaper as truth mixed with opinion would ebb and flow in the small community like the coming trains roaring through, to and back again from destinations no one cared about.
It would be swell.
Now gone to hell.
How the collapse of the castle of the community – and the dashing of dreams of so many – came about no one seems sure.
Perhaps there was too much loyalty, not enough honesty. Certainly there was money. Lots of it. Maybe that was it. Easy come, easy go. Smooth sailing, sun shining, visionaries on board half-sleeping and trust – blind trust now in hindsight – incrementally may have led, and lulled, all on board to thinking things were just fine.
And if they weren’t those who could do something about it would get around to it.
But tomorrow never came.
No one rocked the boat. Hard questions weren’t asked. All were friends here after all. Like family.
But where once people shared of their time and swapped stories of times-gone-by, now – like a decrepit hulk of a once-proud sailing vessel shipwrecked along the shore – grave, somber and solemn the castle is no more.
Once known for uncompromising quality – and quantity – of service, the castle is but skeletal remains leaning starkly naked and exposed against one-another, huddling and clinging as if fending off – and afraid of – the inevitable final crushing collapse.
Which no one will hear.
They will have found gathering places elsewhere. Where dreams come true; capped-and-gowned beaming graduates whose tassels were moved are welcomed home to the community where the dream began; gardens are grown; laughter echoes off the walls.
All that could have, should have, have happened here.
But here our story ends – as so many noble enterprises, entrepreneurial aspirations, and even once successful establishments do – with the four saddest words of tongue or pen:
It might have been.
As is often the case with your writing, the reader has to try to guess what you’re really writing about, though it typically manages to turn into some kind of attack against the City of Lakewood on one of your pet topics, regardless of the facts or what topic you start with, but I’m going to assume you’re talking about the Tillicum Community Center and I’m going to refrain from what I’ve been wanting to say about how you’ve tried to make the City of Lakewood the bad guy in this situation. Instead, I’m going to offer something positive from my experience.
In years past, I’ve had the dubious honor of stepping into the leadership of two different non-profit organizations just in time to make the decision that it was time to close the doors. Both situations stemmed from a combination of changes in the community, the moving on of an original, dynamic core of leaders who formed and let the formerly very-successful organizations for years, and a series of what turned out to be bad decisions by those leaders over a period of several years. Problems crept in, little-noticed, until suddenly the bottom dropped out and there was not really any choice but to pull the plug. And as unavoidable as those final decisions were, I guarantee you they were not easy. If that weren’t enough, in one of those organizations, we had the very hard task of dealing with financial impropriety by a trusted employee (which ended very badly!). In the other, there were other improprieties that clouded things and played a role in the downfall of the organization.
What’s interesting is the end result. One, which was not a community organization, was done. There was too little left, too little time and energy, and those who were left had to move on. The other was a community organization and, while the original board and structure and way of doing things was passing away, a new group was rising up, with new ideas and energy, and ended up stepping into the vacated shell and renewing the organization. Same name, same mission, a few of the same people, but a new start and a new way of doing it.
It sounds like the Tillicum Community Center was a good organization that was run well and trusted by the City of Lakewood and others, but maybe people started to snooze at the switch, or were overwhelmed by shrinking funds and other problems of the recent economy, or whatever, and the train slowly ran off the tracks. That doesn’t have to be the end. It may just clear the tracks for a whole new train. The community can step up. Policies and financial controls that fell by the wayside in recent years can be put back in place. Energetic people can look for new funding sources (but don’t let it get stuck relying on government funding or too heavily on any one unreliable funding source). The castle can rise again and be better than ever, but it’s going to have to take the community (not the government) to step up and make it happen and to be vigilant and make sure it doesn’t go off the tracks again! The Tillicum community has come together and done some great things. You can do this, too!
Susan Rothwell says
David Anderson says
Thank you Hub for taking the time to share your experience.
I too shall refrain from addressing your comments (while saying that your opprobrium is my badge of honor) that imply that the facts – all of them – should be ignored especially when the facts may involve the city and investigating them reflect poorly on its administration.
For those who do care about transparency and those “who push back screens, peer behind facades, (and) lift rocks,” (“Tell Me No Lies,” edited by John Pilger) there’s this article:
As to the ‘you can do it, we can help’ Home Depot slogan, you are right. Resurrecting what has fallen into disrepair is not without possibilities. And dependence upon a not always reliable source of funding – like some cities dependence upon, some might say addiction to gambling – is “not a long-term strategy for sustainability” (Dr. Suzanne W. Morse, “Smart Communities”).