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Home arrow COMMUNITY arrow Real People arrow REAL PEOPLE: Community center director making dreams a reality

REAL PEOPLE: Community center director making dreams a reality

Amanda Welch and her 9-month-old son, Quinn, make use of good weather earlier this month to enjoy the new playground equipment at the Tom McDowell Park in Elgin. Welch wrote the grant application to get the park equipment purchased and installed, a two-year project from start to end. (Trish Yerges photo)
Amanda Welch and her 9-month-old son, Quinn, make use of good weather earlier this month to enjoy the new playground equipment at the Tom McDowell Park in Elgin. Welch wrote the grant application to get the park equipment purchased and installed, a two-year project from start to end. (Trish Yerges photo)
ELGIN — Amanda Welch is the busy director of the Elgin Community Center, booking the meeting room and overseeing all summer pool activities and swimming lessons.

But during the pool’s off-season, she’s just as busy brainstorming her next big project for the new year. 

“I’m not the type of person who can just sit here in the office,” Welch said. “I like to have new things to do. So that’s why I’m here at the office even though the pool is closed right now. I’m thinking of things that we can do to improve the pool, thinking of grants that might help.” 

Welch, who has a degree in Web and graphic design, was hired on as an administrative assistant at the center in 2009. However, it didn’t take her long to discover other activities where the Community Center could make a positive impact in the health and fitness of local children. 

“In 2010, I started a swim club here and a year later our club started partnering with the swim club in La Grande, so that the Elgin kids could also get a chance to compete,” Welch said. “I’m an assistant coach year round in 
La Grande, which helps keep our clubs together.”

Last year, 20 Elgin kids participated in the swim club, practicing five days a week during the summer at the center. Eight swimmers went on to compete as members of the La Grande Swim Club. 

To keep the swim club program going, grant monies were sought, and Welch taught herself how to write those grant applications. She said she’s always loved writing, and this was a perfect way to use that talent for the benefit of kids at the Elgin Community Center.

“We got a grant from the Elgin High School’s Community 101 class in 2011,” Welch said. “From that, we were able to give out $1,000 in swim scholarships over the course of a couple of years. We also used some of that money to pay fees for the kids in the La Grande Swim Club.”

Welch said her motivation for this activity came from her youthful desire to be on a swim club. 

“When I was a kid, I really wanted to be on a swim club, but my parents wouldn’t let me,” she said. “So here was my chance to make that possible for other kids.”

With the swim club well established, Welch thought of another activity for the kids to enjoy on Fridays, their day off from school. Since 2010, the Community Center has hosted Friday art classes during the school year and on Tuesdays during the summer.

“In the summer, we partner with the library program, doing art projects and crafts in conjunction with what they are doing at the public library,” Welch said. “The art classes are free of charge.”

This has been a successful project and has continued each year since, so Welch’s focus returned to the pool again and its improvement. She applied for and won a grant in 2012 from the Wildhorse Foundation for a pool lift for swimmers with disabilities. The next year, she won another grant from the same source for new insulated pool covers, all great enhancements to the pool.

“The grant that was a lot of work was the playground grant last year through the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department for $36,912,” she said. “All our matching funds were satisfied through volunteer labor and materials we received. So we didn’t actually have to come up with money.”

Welch credited all the volunteers who helped make the playground project a reality. By the time it was finished, from the grant writing stage to the installation, Welch said it was a two-year process. 

“We just got the last slide for it last summer,” she said. “There has been a lot more kids out there on the playground since we installed the new playground equipment.”

Welch said her motivation for going the extra mile at her job is “so the kids can have extra activities to do. I’m really passionate about art and swimming, and I’d like to share things I know with them and give them an opportunity to try it.” 

 
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