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Former teacher chairs The Commons

Sue Haworth is a retired school teacher and principal who is now chairwoman of the board for The South Whidbey Commons.  - Breeana Laughlin
Sue Haworth is a retired school teacher and principal who is now chairwoman of the board for The South Whidbey Commons.
— image credit: Breeana Laughlin

A 35-year resident of Whidbey Island is combining her dedication to youth and support for the community as the chairwoman for the South Whidbey Commons project.

Sue Haworth spent a good portion of her career teaching at Langley Middle School. She was also an assistant principal at Mukilteo and a principal at Oak Harbor.

Soon after her retirement three years ago, Haworth began volunteer work with the community.

“When I retired I looked to do stuff with kids,” Haworth said. “So I volunteered with what was then South Whidbey Youth Center and I volunteered at Bayview School.”

“Pretty soon,” she said, “I got involved with the commons.”

Haworth said her strong suit is in organizing and programming.

“And I’m learning fast on finance and fundraising,” she said.

Haworth said in 2005 commons organizers were preparing to get the final plans for building when they found out construction costs had gone up.

“We originally thought the project would cost $2 million and now it’s going to cost $2.7 (million),” she said.

So the organizers are back to raising funds so they can start the construction of the building, near Bayview Corner, and watch their vision become a reality.

Haworth was attracted to the commons as a place for the community to gather together.

“My vision is that I can go there with my mother, who lives in Langley and is 92,” Haworth said. “And my kids and grandkids can hang out. Or I can meet a friend for coffee.”

The commons will be a multi-generational hub where people of all ages can go to socialize, participate in programs and activities and share a sense of community.

“It’s going to be a pretty cool place to come and hang out,” Haworth said.

The South Whidbey Commons has built a network of partnerships with other community organizations. When the commons is complete, it will serve as a convenient place for the organizations to collaborate with each other.

These organizations are doing a lot for the community, but there is a lack of space for them to hold activities and come together to offer services.

“There’s no large gathering places for people of all-ages where you can just come in,” Haworth said. “Those needs aren’t being met right now.”

Once the commons is built, Haworth said it will serve as the heart for these organizations to serve the community in a shared place.

“It will be perfect,” she said. “Parents can come to classes and have the classes in the multi-purpose room while the kids are taken in the child-family center, or they can all be together.”

Even though the South Whidbey Commons is yet to built, many of its organizers’ values and visions are taking place in a sort of ‘mini version’ of the commons through the Island Coffee House.

The coffeehouse was opened by the Community Engagement Center, an ongoing partner with the commons. One important aspect of the coffeehouse is to give teens somewhere to go and have fun.

They hold a performance program every week called “Friday Night Live,” and it has attracted people of all ages.

“This is sort of like a mini-version of what we want to accomplish,” Haworth said. “We partner with them whenever we can.”

The Community Engagement Center and commons partnered together to create SummerFun, a program which provides summer classes and activities for teens at Bayview

School.

The commons has also sponsored and organized other community events that go hand-in-hand with their vision.

“We started out using Bayview Hall and having multi-generational events with seniors, like the senior Fun Band, and we had youth performers,” Haworth said. “We’ve also done dialogues, and we’ve had dances — all kinds of things.”

Haworth and others involved with the commons are enjoying these community events and are eager to raise the last bit of funds to start construction of the commons building in late Spring.

“I’m sure we will be continuing fundraising throughout the year,” Haworth said.

“And we hope to start building in 2006 — and completing building,” she said.

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