Island Thrift celebrates community

In 2003, Island County residents have seen a new building for Whidbey Playhouse thespians in Oak Harbor and renewed interest in the WSU Extension Ropes Adventure Challenge Course near Coupeville.

To help those and many other projects get off the ground, one organization has been crucial in providing financial support -- and it will show off its accomplishments next week.

Island Thrift is holding its Holiday Open House Nov. 19, a celebration of the institution’s impact on the island.

Over the past year, Island Thrift raised approximately $400,000 for local organizations.

“We just wanted to celebrate that and let the community know how we’re doing,” said Peggy Whitford, president of Island Thrift board of directors.

Island Thrift divvies out their funds in several different ways. It provides monthly checks to 13 non-profit organizations and also offers one-time grants to help fund various projects.

“We’re just really proud and excited that the community supports us so well that we can put the money back into the community,” Whitford said.

One group that receives monthly support is the Toddler Learning Center, a United Way organization that serves infants with special needs.

Executive Director Toni Kotschwar said Island Thrift gives the learning center $550 a month.

“They’re amazing,” Kotschwar said. “They see a need and step up to the plate.”

She added that Island Thrift has provided support for the center for at least 16 years. The years of support makes it the Toddler Learning Center’s largest benefactor.

Kotschwar said the monthly income was crucial to expanding the center’s speech therapy program.

Another group benefiting from Island Thrift’s fund-raising is Whidbey Playhouse.

The community theater received $75,000, dispersed over a three-year period, that helped fund the construction of a rehearsal and education facility.

“They were the largest contributor for it,” said Sue Riney, executive director of the Whidbey Playhouse.

The grant covered about half the cost of the new building, which is substantially completed. Riney said she’s waiting for an occupancy permit before they can use it.

Washington State University Cooperative Extension Office also received grant money from Island Thrift.

Don Meehan, WSU extension agent, said in a written statement that Island Thrift support is keeping the ropes course operational. It teaches confidence and team-building skills. He is looking to Island Thrift for additional support in 2004 for a corporate program that utilizes the course.

Island Thrift helped fund a new building for the Senior Day Respite Center and provided support for the Oak Harbor Senior Center.

Whitford said the sole source of the funds that Island Thrift doles out comes from store sales.

Her goal in the upcoming year is to encourage residents to shop even more at the popular store on Barrington Drive.

“The more people shop, the more money we can give back to the community,” Whitford said.

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