The mission of the civic center is to foster the civic, social, cultural and general well-being of the Key Peninsula community. Photo: Ted Olinger, KP News

The iconic Key Peninsula Civic Center has served the community for over a century as a school, museum, and community and office space, and now as daytime shelter.

After several upgrades paid for by state grants and donors, the Key Peninsula Civic Center can now offer refuge as a daytime warming or cooling station.

“We are designated as a warming or cooling shelter,” said KPCC Association board member and Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Peggy Gablehouse. 

“We started the emergency shelter talk probably a little over four years ago,” she said. “We realized right away there was little we could do until we had a generator to keep the lights on when no one else had lights.” It was also clear the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system would need to be updated.

The HVAC system was replaced in 2016, she said. Several upgrades were made to the infrastructure and electrical system to allow for a generator, which was paid for by a state grant in 2018.

“A warming shelter–cooling shelter basically means our doors will be open, people can come in, there’s going to be water and coffee or tea, games and cards to play, that kind of thing,” Gablehouse said.

The KPCCA board recognizes that the civic center can’t do everything that may be needed in a large-scale emergency, she said, but can serve the community as a clearinghouse for local resources and possibly a communication hub. “Down the road we are looking at possibly being an overnight shelter, but the difference is rather huge and it depends on the commitment of the volunteers because that involves a lot more time and knowledge,” she said.

Gablehouse has also coordinated with Susan Freiler Mendenhall, administrator of the Key Peninsula, Washington Facebook page, to create a subgroup for distributing emergency preparedness information, including meeting schedules, subjects and tips for the month. “It’s hopefully going to be a go-to spot for people,” Gablehouse said.

James Allyn, the civic center caretaker since 2009, helped secure and administer over $260,000 in grants to support the generator and upgrades, including a new wheelchair lift to be installed later in 2019 between the entryway level and the gym floor.

“Most people when they think of a shelter think of a place where the entire community can sleep for three weeks,” he said. “But the kinds of things we’re trying to prepare for are a deep freeze or a stupendous heat wave, a crisis that involves the greater KP family, where people have to move suddenly somewhere and need someplace to recover, charge their phones, maybe organize some assistance with transportation or moving fallen trees or what have you, and then go home.”

“In the event of some catastrophic event, the KP will be an island for a while,” he said. “We need to figure out how to get the word out to people that they can come here.”

Meetings on emergency preparedness on the third Thursday of most months are in the Whitmore Room at 7 p.m. For more information, contact Peggy Gablehouse at gablehousep@nullaol.com or 253-686-7904.

The Peninsula Emergency Preparedness Coalition of Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula meets on the second Wednesday of every month (except August); for more information go to www.pep-c.org or call 253-380-7240.

Editor’s note: The Key Peninsula News is published by the Key Peninsula Civic Center Association. The KP News retains editorial and financial independence from its parent organization.

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