The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

New director brings enthusiasm to center


Diana Zimmerman

Sarai Burke, who grew up in Wahkiakum County, is the new coordinator at the Community Center in Cathlamet.

Sarai Burke's enthusiasm is infectious, and it's bound to be a boon to the community center in Cathlamet, where she just became coordinator.

Burke grew up here, and five years ago she returned to raise her own family.

"It's where I want to be," she said. I have girlfriends who never left. And there are people like me who go away for awhile and come back.

"I remember when this was a fire hall," she said of the community center. "This is the center of town, and for it to be the community center and to have the library above us where Carol (Blix) was my high school librarian? All the history right here!"

She was a volunteer at the center for a year, filling in as flex host when the coordinator couldn't be there, greeting people, helping to facilitate meetings or setting up for special events. She loved talking to tourists in the summer about the River Rat, about how Cathlamet used to have a movie theatre and a skating rink.

"I'm excited about being the coordinator because I can work with other people in the community and know the history and tie it all together," Burke said. "The first hurdle here was that it was called the senior center. My goal is to really make it about the community, make it community centered. That sounds obvious, but I want everyone to feel welcomed. I want this to become the central place, because we don't really have a central place anymore."

She wants it to be inclusive. She wants to work with seniors, teens, and youth, and maybe even more importantly, she wants to find ways to bring them together. She believes that they have something to offer to each other.

"I'm getting suggestions from the kids," Burke said. "They've shown interest in a chess night, or a gaming night, maybe a gaming night with seniors, because they've shown some interest in learning about technology."

A meet and greet for the community is in the works. Burke is hoping that community members, business owners, and leaders will gather to reintroduce themselves. And it's another opportunity to reintroduce the center.

Ideas are always welcome. Someone has suggested a trivia night, and another woman is trying to set up a women's support group.

A summer schedule may be in the works.

"We were trying to meet the needs when the library was closed," Burke said, "but I've been looking at data and we are thinking about switching up the hours to serve more people."

In the past, the center has been opened as a cooling or warming center, depending on the weather. Burke plans to continue to fill that need.

"I have a lot of ideas," Burke said, "I just need to see them implemented. Growing up here, you know how to navigate certain things. I'll just get the ball rolling and see what sticks."


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