After months of dreaming up an expansion and renovation of its aging building, the Key Peninsula Community Services founds itself in a dilemma several months ago. Not only did the Army engineers from Fort Lewis— who promised to do all the work for free—got deployed to Iraq, but the building permits for the expansion were declined. Due to the building’s structure, its well and septic system cannot be upgraded— and the upgrades are required for an expansion.

“Once we get the land, I think there are enough people to help with barn raising, that’s how the Peninsula is. It should be a community effort.”
-Cristi Watson, KPCS director

The building is already overoccupied, and many potential new services and programs are on hold due to lack of space, says Director Cristi Watson. Especially lacking are services for seniors, and with the food bank spread throughout the two stories and the constant moving of food around, the main room of the building cannot accommodate any additional events.

“Sixteen percent of the Key Peninsula residents are seniors, and we are only serving 2 percent,” she said. “People would like to come but we don’t have the programs to bring them, and we can’t bring them in without separating the food bank from the other programs.”

As population grows and ages, however, there is no doubt in the minds of KPCS volunteers that demand will continue to increase. The two choices are obvious: Either make do and not serve any more people, or build a new center, Watson said.

The board has been looking for commercial land of at least 20 acres between Key Center and Longbranch because that are has the highest concentration of seniors. Although the choices of commercial properties are slim, Watson says they are hopeful that something could turn out, along with funding.

The new dream is ambitious: a 6,500- square-foot, two-story building that would double the current space and take care of any future growth needs, add conference room space, a small gym, a senior day care, and plenty of wiggle space for new programs.

No specific plans can be made until a piece of land is secured, Watson said. And once the land is in hand, she is confident the center can raise the money needed to build it. The Army unit will be ready to help in 2006 as well. In fact, while they are no longer available for a remodeling, the engineers are excited to build a new structure, Watson said.

“Once we get the land, I think there are enough people to help with barn raising, that’s how the Peninsula is,” Watson said. “It should be a community effort.

” KPCS has recently applied for a grant through a Pierce County program, and was one of only seven finalists in February. The organization will know by the end of this month whether its $426,000 request is approved. Watson said even a partial funding would be welcome, because it would allow for the project to be done in phases.

In the meantime, while no new walls can be built onto the Community House, a renovation is still planned to move the food bank downstairs. And since the Fort Lewis soldiers who offered free work are out fighting the war, KPCS will have to pay about $12,000 in labor, for a total of about $43,000.

Watson says if the grant application is not approved for the new center, they will keep trying for others.

“We are at the end of our building space, we have to move,” she said.

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