Three Creeks community group rising up

It aims to expand services beyond holiday party to aid Heritage Farm, seniors

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

Published:

 

Children need holiday cheer. Senior citizens need medications. And Hazel Dell's agricultural past needs preservation.

The unincorporated area north of Vancouver and south of Ridgefield — sometimes called Three Creeks but centered in Northeast Hazel Dell — needs all kinds of help, according to a new nonprofit group that's launching a grass-roots effort to ride to the rescue.

CHRISTMAS IN JULY

A summer toy drive benefiting the annual holiday party hosted by the Northeast Hazel Dell Neighborhood Association — now supported by Three Creeks Community Partners.

Donate new, unwrapped toys at:

• Applebee’s Hazel Dell, 816 N.E. 98th Circle.

• McDonald’s Stockford Village, 710 N.E. 98th Circle.

• Applebee’s Salmon Creek, 13006 N.E. Highway 99.

• McDonald’s Salmon Creek, 13002 N.E. Highway 99.

• Burgerville USA, corner of Northeast Highway 99 and 99th Street.

• Blind Onion Hazel Dell, 9230 N.E. Highway 99.

• McDonald’s Hazel Dell, 7010 N.E. Highway 99.

For more information about Three Creeks Community Partners, visit its website.

How grass roots? Very grass roots. As in, plenty of planning but no money yet.

"We want to proceed cautiously so we don't raise anybody's expectations when there's really no funding," said organizer Colleen Kuhn, whose day job is executive director of the Hazel Dell-based nonprofit Human Services Council.

"We are starting out very small," said Doug Ballou, a longstanding Northeast Hazel Dell Neighborhood Association officer.

But a late May meeting of the Three Creeks Community Partners board of directors included lots of discussion by important local players such as Kuhn and Ballou regarding the area's growing list of needs. Like helping senior citizens who can't afford medically necessary prescriptions. Like making sure area children continue to enjoy an annual party that's the only holiday hoopla some get. Like making sure Clark County's Heritage Farm, the living emblem of our agricultural heritage, gets the community care and feeding it deserves.

To get the word out, the Three Creeks board has scheduled an inaugural fundraising dinner and silent auction for Sept. 22 at Royal Oaks Country Club. That's in east Vancouver, of course, not Hazel Dell — a point that wasn't lost on officers at the May meeting. No banquet facility in Hazel Dell is big enough, they said.

Stay tuned for more information on the fundraiser, like how much it will cost. It must be both beneficial to the cause and affordable to anybody who's interested, Three Creeks vice chairman Brad Lothspeich said, so the ticket price likely will be lower than your standard charity banquet at the Hilton Vancouver Washington or the Heathman Lodge.

Ready for Christmas?

Meanwhile, get ready for a Three Creeks Christmas — in July.

The group's first order of business is supporting the holiday bash nicknamed Bud's Party (masterminded by longstanding Hazel Dell activist Bud Van Cleve.) There's no better symbol of Hazel Dell's growing need and community spirit than the yearly gathering held at Sarah J. Anderson Elementary School, which drew an overwhelming 800 children last Dec. 15; add parents and volunteers and the actual tally was well over 1,000 people. The party, now heading for its 14th year, always draws community support from businesses such as Burgerville and Hewlett-Packard. There are gifts for children and food boxes for the needy. And there's always Santa.

The party has been so successful, it's generated copycats. Last year saw similar parties in the North Salmon Creek and East Minnehaha areas, hosted by neighborhood leaders who looked to Hazel Dell for inspiration as well as technical assistance. This year, to get way out in front and avoid any seasonal competition for resources, Bud's Party planners settled on a summer toy drive.

"We're not going to be impacting anybody else's toy drive," said Lothspeich. "Their needs are big too. There are big needs everywhere."

New, unwrapped (not gift wrapped) toys will be collected July 6-27 at toy bins stationed at popular local restaurants. Fliers and media spots will spread the word about Christmas in July, too.

Future projects

Two other projects that Three Creeks Community Partners have taken on are more ambitious, and remain less defined for now.

One is providing prescription support for senior citizens whose medical coverage doesn't pay for everything they need. At the May meeting, Kuhn and group secretary Bill Cline outlined plans to develop guidelines for a prescription assistance program and considered where the money might come from.

Kuhn, Cline and others are exploring partnerships that might be formed with local pharmacies, assisted living facilities, corporate sponsors and the Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors program operated by the state Insurance Commissioner's office.

There are lots of ideas, they were quick to point out, but no money yet.

Nurturing Heritage Farm

The other project is bolstering Clark County's Heritage Farm on Northeast 78th Street, which hosts a thriving network of community gardens benefiting everyone from individual families to local food banks. Boosters would love to keep stocking the facility with everything it needs, from walking trails to farming equipment to scholarship opportunities for those who can't afford the fee for a garden plot.

In some cases, said Three Creeks treasurer Ila Stanek of the West Hazel Dell Neighborhood Association, the nongovernmental Three Creeks Community Partners organization may be able to apply for and administer grants for the Heritage Farm that no other local body can pursue.

"There's an amazing amount of interest in the property," said Stanek. "And there's a huge master list of needs."