San Juan County could lose two nonprofits in 2017 — Friday Harbor Grange No. 225 and Community Treasures. That’s what Frank Penwell, grange program chair and Community Treasures founder, said at the grange’s open house on Friday, Dec. 16.
“I recommend a symbiotic relationship with the Community Treasures and the grange,” said Penwell to a crowd of about 18.
The grange is a chapter of a national organization that typically promotes family and community. This grange separated from the San Juan Island Grange No. 966 in 2012 and only has about 17 current members.
Community Treasures is a San Juan Island nonprofit thrift shop and recycling center that could close if the county does not change the property’s land-use designation to commercial, from one that does not support commercial activity, said Penwell. While the county is not threatening action, Penwell wants to turn over the lease to the nonprofit’s board by this January, as the liability to operate it is too high. The board wants the designation to change before purchasing it. Community Treasures operates by buying county permits that label the property as “non-conforming.”
Penwell proposed that the Friday Harbor grange focus their service on Community Treasures. Grange members could own part of the property, earn a portion of the revenue, vote for the board and receive discounts at Community Treasures. Eventually, Penwell would like Community Treasures to have the 80 volunteers the Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District has, compared to Community Treasures’ current three.
“We would like to see Community Treasures succeed,” said Danielle Wheeler, fundraising consultant for the Orcas Island Exchange. The Exchange uses Community Treasures to recycle electronics. Community Treasures is the only county recycling center that processes and transports e-waste, which state law mandates.
Supporters hope to present a petition of at least 1,000 signatures to the San Juan County Council by mid-January to allow them to explain the need for the organization’s services. Council would have to pass an ordinance to declare Community Treasure’s parcel for commercial use, even though the land around it would not permit businesses. Penwell said he has been fighting to make this change since 2008.
When Community Treasures started in 2004, it recycled two tons a year. Last year, it recycled more than 500. To learn more about the permit issue, read The Journal’s “Will Community Treasures continue?” article from October 2016.