Washougal celebrates East County Family Resource Center renovations

City used $226K grant to revamp its downtown social services building

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category icon Government, Latest News, Washougal

Michelle Wright understands firsthand the value of the city of Washougal’s East County Family Resource Center.

That’s why Wright, who recently managed the Center’s remodel, did not view her role as just a job, but rather a way to ensure Washougal residents continue to receive the type of life-altering treatment Wright’s family had to depend on recently.

Wright said “everything changed” when the father of Wright’s son’s girlfriend died in a car accident. The father was the family’s sole supporter, so the young woman dating Wright’s son not only had to learn to live without her dad, but also how to figure out how to secure health insurance, food and money to live on.

“I brought her to the East County social service (building) so we could figure out how to start putting back together the pieces of her life,” Wright said. “(The staff members were) so kind and helped provide the tools to help her find the resources and the support she needed. We are so lucky to have a place like this that can help you when you need it.”

The city of Washougal and Akin, a Seattle-based family service organization, held a ribbon-cutting and open house event May 9, at the East County Family Resource Center in Washougal to celebrate the building renovations and provide community members with information about the programs the social services building houses.

In 2021, the City of Washougal received a $226,500 Community Development Block Grant to fund a project that provided the building with exterior repairs, new roofing, a new HVAC system, interior lighting, new windows, interior and exterior paint, flooring and an exterior Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) public restroom, according to Wright.

After some delays, the project was completed earlier this year.

“The social service building has become the primary facility for low-income and elderly activities for Washougal, Camas and portions of Vancouver, Clark County and Skamania County,” Wright said. “The facility is over 75 years old, and (needed) many repairs to fix many structural deficiencies. These needed repairs and maintenance items will ensure its continued viability.”

The facility has “benefitted the community to a great extent,” according to Washougal City Councilmember Ernie Suggs.

“I think we are the only small city in Clark County that provides a facility so that services like this can be provided to the community,” Washougal City Manager David Scott added. “It’s a super high priority for our council to be able to have this facility to continue to provide the services that we provide here.”

Akin, the building’s primary tenant, provides children and family counseling, treatment for child victims of sexual abuse, family support services — including parent education, parenting classes and family advocate services — and emergency food supplies for individuals and families in need.

Akin was formed earlier this year when two of Washington state’s family services organizations — Childhaven and Children’s Home Society of Washington — combined forces.

“This merger allows us to grow and evolve as one organization, not for the sake of size but for the scope of direct impact in how Akin can partner with parents, caregivers, children and communities, together, to strengthen families,” Akin Chief Executive Officer Dave Newell stated in a news release. “Our connection to families is foundational, yet the existing child well-being system ultimately leads to often unnecessary and harmful family separation through crisis intervention. Instead, we aim to understand the unique stressors and needs of each family to provide more concrete support and ideally prevent that crisis from occurring in the first place.”

The building also houses a branch of the Washington State Department of Health’s Women, Infants and Children program, which supports healthy nutrition for all pregnant and breastfeeding women and children through the age of five, providing services such as health screening, nutrition and health education and breastfeeding support.

The demand for the building’s services has increased over the past few years, according to Akin employee Beverly Skoda.

“This center is really well-supported by the community,” Skoda said. “There would be a lot of people in real dire need that wouldn’t get their needs met if we weren’t here.”

Skoda said the center provides vital services to people living in east Clark County, and noted that finding transportation to Vancouver to receive services can be “a nightmare” for many people.

“Just being out here (to provide services to east Clark County residents) is a huge plus,” Skoda said.