Edmonds turns out for Waterfront Center virtual opening event and panel discussion

In an introductory video, Rick Steves conducted a virtual tour of the new Waterfront Center while talking about its history and role in the community.

The virtual doors of the new Edmonds Waterfront Center opened wide on Thursday as officials welcomed more than 500 community members to view a new informational video hosted by Rick Steves and hear from a panel of community leaders who have — and will be — key players in the center’s day-to-day operations.

The event began with the video created by Rick Steves, in which Steves reviewed the roots of Edmonds’ commitment to its seniors, going back more than 50 years to the original Edmonds Senior Center and how this evolved into today’s new multi-generational Waterfront Center.

This was followed with a panel discussion moderated by Waterfront Center/Senior Center Board President Gary Haakenson that expanded on the overall themes and mission of the new center, providing additional depth and detail to fill in the picture of what is in store for the community once COVID restrictions are lifted.

Edmonds Senior Center/Waterfront Center Board President Gary Haakenson moderated the panel.

In addition to Haakenson, panelists included Steves, Waterfront Center CEO Daniel Johnson, Edmonds Deputy Parks Director Shannon Burley, and Shubert Ho, whose Feed Me Hospitality business oversees all the center’s food services.

“This facility is all about community,” began Steves. “It’s more than a senior center – it’s a community center.”

He went on to recall his own growing up in Edmonds and described how his late father’s life was enriched by many offerings of the former Edmonds Senior Center. “It made his golden years more golden,” Steves observed, adding his conviction that “the caliber of a community is measured by how it cares for its seniors.”

And it’s not just talk. Steves has been a major financial supporter of the Waterfront Center from the beginning, donating more than $4 million toward the facility’s final $14.6 million cost.

“There’s whole groups of people who dedicate their lives to helping others,” he said. “It’s a true privilege for me to be part of providing support to those who do this. It’s where our collective love gains traction. I’ve thrived in this community, and it’s just the right thing for me to give back. For me it’s a good investment to help those who are dedicated to helping others. It brings me such joy.”

For Waterfront Center CEO Daniel Johnson, the programs, the wellness center, the activities, the classes, the venue to build social connections, and indeed every aspect of the new facility all boil down to one simple thing: helping people to feel connected.

Waterfront Center CEO Daniel Johnson talked about the center’s role in the community and the challenges of building the facility while keeping essential programs running through the pandemic.

“We’re helping people find purpose, give them opportunities to get engaged and involved,” he said. “With our multi-generational focus, we’ll not only see greater community engagement, but we’ll challenge outdated stereotypes of aging and build stronger connections between people of different ages at the same time. My dream is maybe five years down the road to have our members truly feel like they own the place.”

Johnson also spoke of the challenges of juggling building the new facility while maintaining programs during the COVID shutdown.

“During the pandemic we adapted,” he explained. “We went to online classes, delivered meals directly to homes, held nursing and social worker appointments online, hosted a COVID vaccine clinic, and pushed to make technology more accessible to seniors through training and providing tablets for their use. No doubt about it, 2020 really tested our mettle – but through it all we kept staff intact, provided the things our seniors need most like vaccines, meals, and help with taxes, and with it all were able to finish construction of the new facility.”

Edmonds Deputy Parks Director Shannon Burley talked about the efforts that went into restoring the adjacent beach area and the programs that the city hopes to run in the new Waterfront Center.

City of Edmonds Deputy Parks Director Shannon Burley spoke about the work done on the beach area to remove the old creosote pilings left over from Edmonds’ shingle mill days, reintroduce native landscape and the natural environment, and completely manage parking lot runoff water onsite rather than discharge it into Puget Sound.

She also talked about the various programs that the City of Edmonds will offer through the Parks Department. Some ideas include tai chi classes, yoga, cooking, gardening and parenting.

“Our goal is to offer social connections and build sense of community,” she said. “But as we decide on these, we really want to hear from citizens about what they want to help shape our offerings.”

Shubert Ho, whose company Feed Me Hospitality oversees the Waterfront Center’s food services, spoke of his plans for expanded offerings post-COVID, and his commitment to addressing food insecurity.

Shubert Ho, whose Feed Me Hospitality business provides all food services at the Waterfront Center (WFC), stressed that as a food-focused business a big emphasis will be on service.

“I’m really glad that the WFC will provide us the opportunity to help address food insecurity,” he observed. “Part of that will be providing lunches to those who need them, and we believe that our seniors and others facing food insecurity deserve the best meals we can provide.  We’ve already begun offering one-dollar cups of drip coffee to all WFC members regardless of age at our Shore Pine coffee kiosk on the first floor.”

By mid-summer, Ho hopes to be able to operate his Potlatch Bistro — located inside the center — at full capacity in the banquet room, and also offer beachside takeout meals for impromptu picnics on the beach.

“The senior center has been here longer than I’ve been alive,” he added. “Edmonds is a special place where everyone works together. I’m so glad for the chance to work side-by-side with the new Waterfront Center.”

The event concluded with moderator Haakenson thanking attendees for their participation and reminding everyone that donations are still needed to help put the Waterfront Center fundraising over the top. Donations can be made online at the Waterfront Center website, by mail, or in person.

If you missed Thursday’s event, the full video will be posted shortly on the Edmonds Waterfront Center website.

— By Larry Vogel

  1. Ok…so how do you become a member? I am a senior in Edmonds, but this is saying all ages now? Do you have to be a member to go to eat at the new restaurant and take your lunch to the beach?
    Last question I saw no mention of diversifying Edmonds? Do you have any plans for that. For inclusion. These are questions I will be asked, so I want to have the answers and make sure they are truthful and transparent. Thank you.

  2. Membership is not required to take part in any of the programs or activities offered at the EWC. However, membership beneifts include $1 drip coffee (reason enough to join) 10% discount at the Thrift Store (located at Westgate) and discounts on many programs.

    The EWC is committed to inclusion. All members of the community are welcome. We want our staff and Board to reflect the community. Our last two staff hires were people of color (one with training and background in diversity, equity and inclusion). Among our newest Board members were two people of color. We are continually working to engage people of all ages, eithnicity and backgrounds.

    1. Special and great thanks to all the movers and shakers who made this very positive thing happen for all the people of Edmonds. Sometimes we get it right. I think the WFC is one of those times and all these folks deserve our thanks, praise and admiration for making it happen.

    2. Excellent. I will get a membership and make a donation very soon. Thanks for that excellent info. Sounds great. I will have lots of time to help with volunteer and fun projects too.
      Also, I have no children, no grandchildren, am retired and a husband whose never met a golf ball he didn’t love. Xo Deb.

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