Closed but busy serving the community

One of the hardest decisions we had to make was closing down activities at Orcas Center. That included classes, art showings, productions, meetings and gatherings of all kinds. After all, it was just a few weeks ago we were in full swing to bring three weeks of Chicago to the Orcas Center main stage. This was to be the biggest musical production of the spring. More than 50 islanders had been rehearing for five months. Oh, how the cast, musicians and crew looked forward to wowing the audience with the talent that lives on Orcas Island. Could Chicago come alive on stage at some point in the future? We all have dreams of that happening once COVID-19 is no longer a health threat. When that time comes, we will also begin organizing some kind of Gala. Our annual fundraiser was planned for June but is now canceled indefinitely. Each year the financial health of the Center relies heavily on a successful Gala.

“Closed” does not mean that the staff and trustees are not busy. The center is a community resource that stands ready to do whatever we can to help during these very difficult times. Two weeks ago a blood drive took place at the Center because the fire department needed to close its doors to public gatherings of any kind. Last week the Dance Studio was commandeered to store 3000 boxes for food distribution for the Food Coop. Being close to the medical center, fire department and airport makes the Center an ideal place for an emergency shelter, if that becomes necessary. No one ever considered the Madrona Room being used as an overflow medical facility. However, in a worst-case scenario, we need to think outside the box, be creative and be prepared to support the community for the worst while praying for the best.

Our Executive Director, Dimitri Stankevich, is now wearing two hats. He continues as our ED, often working from home, but now serves as the Orcas Island Deputy Operations Section Chief for the San Juan County Emergency Operations Center. Jake Perrine, the Center’s Artistic Director is working to produce video messaging for numerous island organizations including the Food Bank, Island Market, and the Community Foundation. Bethany Marie, our Communications Director, is converting our website and our weekly newsletter which is emailed to a list of nearly 4000 Orcas Islanders, to share information from any community organization or business about relief resources and other information important to our island community.

Although a reduction in staffing was necessary, we hope to have them all back in full force when this pandemic is over. But even during this scary time, many staff and volunteers are actively involved in helping neighbors and the community’s response to COVID-19. Our mantra now is to keep safe while planning for a time when we can once again congregate as islanders and pull those curtains open to all that makes Orcas Center come alive.

And personally, I am looking forward to not maintaining six-feet apart from all of you.

Bev Polis

Orcas Center Board President