Community Center boiler campaign heats up

The South Whidbey Community Center is seeking donations to make its heating source more sustainable.

The South Whidbey Community Center is currently seeking donations to make its main heating source more sustainable.

A fundraising campaign has been launched to collect a total of $165,000 for the project, which includes removing one of the boilers in the community center’s main building and outfitting each room with individual heat pumps.

A grant from Puget Sound Energy to complete the project covers about $70,000 of the cost, and the South Whidbey School District is contributing $15,000.

To date, $58,000 still needs to be raised to finish the removal of the boiler and bring new heat pumps to the rooms where kids have been learning from community members. Besides being home to a number of classrooms and local businesses involving youth participation, Readiness to Learn, main offices and some community rental rooms are also located within the structure.

Gail LaVassar, executive director of the South Whidbey Community Center, said that during recent freezing temperatures, some coils of the boiler froze and burst, causing flooding in three classrooms.

“That was the big lesson in that, that they’re all susceptible to that,” LaVassar said.

Besides being a flood risk, the boiler installed in the 1980s has also been contributing to greenhouse gas emissions on a large scale. It was estimated that the current heating system emits equivalent to the amount produced by six average homes each year.

With the new heat pumps in place, each room will be able to reliably control the indoor temperature.

In the future, a second phase of the project would remove a second boiler in the main building and other outdated heating elements located in the outlying buildings on the campus, such as the Whidbey Veterans Resource Center and Create Space.

“The goal, over time, is to have the community really invest,” LaVassar said.

The fundraising campaign ends March 30. To donate, visit

Items are needed for an online auction March 9-13 benefitting the campaign. Community members have until Feb. 18 to donate objects or experiences. Some current offerings include a math tutoring package, gift certificates to local restaurants and a print from a local gallery.

For more information, call the South Whidbey Community Center at 360-221-0663.