Joyce L. Sobel Family Resource Center staff members Delphina Liles and Mary Uri walk along the new back sidewalk with new landscaping to connect the food bank and family resource center to the Mullis Senior Center parking lot. (Contributed photo)

Joyce L. Sobel Family Resource Center staff members Delphina Liles and Mary Uri walk along the new back sidewalk with new landscaping to connect the food bank and family resource center to the Mullis Senior Center parking lot. (Contributed photo)

Growing community at Mullis Center

  • Mon Mar 8th, 2021 8:47am
  • Life

Submitted by the Mullis Center

The Mullis Center is committed to meeting the needs of San Juan Island seniors and disabled adults, either directly through our own programs or indirectly by supporting like-minded organizations also dedicated to meeting the needs of our community. We are honored to share our campus with three such organizations, the Joyce L. Sobel Family Resource Center, the Friday Harbor Food Bank, and the Master Gardeners’ Demo Garden.

The Mullis Center’s Senior Nutrition Program, which provides Meals on Wheels, is busier than ever providing nutritious meals to self-isolating San Juan Island seniors. In partnership with Whatcom Council on Aging and San Juan County, we are serving more Meals on Wheels than ever before. Our Meals on Wheels kitchen crew prepares meals fresh three days a week and volunteers deliver approximately 250-300 meals per week to San Juan Island seniors who depend on the meals and/or are in self-quarantine to minimize their exposure to COVID-19. To learn more about the program, volunteer, or make a donation, please contact senior services specialist, Debbie Haagensen,, 360-370-7526.

Foot care appointments are an essential service and they have been available throughout COVID-19. To make an appointment with our foot care nurse, Randi Dooly-Park, please call the main office, 360-378-2677.

Two online fitness classes, led by Katerina Wen, are offered weekly. During COVID-19 these classes are open to all SJI seniors and disabled adults on a donation basis. Also during COVID-19, Mullis Center members are welcome to take advantage of any free online class or activities sponsored by Bellingham Activity Center. Finally, fee waivers for Mullis Center memberships are available upon request. Please contact Anna Coffelt, Mullis Center manager, for information about any classes or membership.

While the Mullis Center is closed to the general public, community members are welcome to call ahead of time to set up appointments with Mullis Center or San Juan County Senior Services staff members, Debbie Haagensen, Gail Leschine-Seitz, or Coffelt. Additionally, if you would like to donate or borrow mobility equipment please call the main office to arrange for pick-up or drop off.

While the building is closed to the public, space is being well used. The expansion of our Meals on Wheels program takes up a lot of space to stage. We’re also sharing our building with the Rotary Club, which runs the 36 Weekend Program and Spring Street International School, which’s using our big dining rooms for extended classroom space. And the Fish for Teeth Dental Clinics are back in full swing, using our parking lot and library/hall for a reception. These non-traditional uses have been approved by San Juan County Health Officer Dr. Frank James.

Nearly three years ago the Mullis Center reached out to Sustainable Connections in Bellingham, to perform an Energy Audit. Since then, we have followed nearly all their recommended actions to help improve our energy footprint. The final piece is a solar panel installation project which will begin within the next month or two and will be completed just in time for us to take full advantage of the sunniest months of the year.

We’re also planning on working with Jennifer Harris to update all of the Mullis Campus landscaping, including in and around the Mullis Center, food bank and demo garden. We’d like to focus on the island’s natural beauty while being mindful of reducing water consumption and minimizing yard maintenance.

All four Mullis Campus organizations are here to serve our community. And though the pandemic has created many challenges and hardships, it has also provided a unique opportunity for our organizations to develop new ways to work together to serve our community members in need. Through collaboration and the pooling of resources, we’ve become stronger together.

We are also working to create intergenerational collaboration opportunities; most recently by partnering with Spring Street International School and the FRC and YAAS to make hundreds of homemade Valentines for our Meals on Wheels clients.

Submitted by the WSU Master Gardeners

At the far end of the Mullis Center parking lot, you may have noticed a vegetable garden. It is the San Juan County Master Gardeners demonstration garden.

Master Gardeners are a nation-wide group of volunteers dedicated to educating the public about gardening. The organization is connected to the land-grant universities in each state. In Washington, we are agents of Washington State University.

There is a training session in San Juan County every other year to train new volunteers, and we provide a menu of services, including a diagnostic clinic, presence at the farmers market, yearly plant sales and an annual gardening workshop. In addition, there are multiple projects in the islands, such as the heritage apple orchard on Lopez.

The Mullis Center has generously donated the land for this garden and also supplies the water from a well on the property. We, volunteers, grow a variety of vegetables and donate the harvest to the food bank. In 2020 close to 2000 pounds of produce was donated. Our dedicated group of volunteers works in the garden each Wednesday morning year-round.

Take a stroll down the parking lot and look in at the garden.Due to the pandemic, this past year has limited our ability to host visitors in the garden, but when the current restrictions are behind us, we’d love to have you pay us a visit, and we would love to answer your gardening questions too.