A group of spinners chatted happily while Flip Breskin gave them a brief guitar serenade. On Wednesday this week, the Roeder Home saw the first “public” use of the home for many months.
It seemed things had come full circle: after the home was donated to the county in 1971, the spinners were among the first to use the home, and so it was this time also. Mollie Faulkner, a member of the spinners group, recently served on the Roeder Home Task Force and was also the Roeder Home’s first program coordinator many years ago. Faulkner was there once again to help open the doors to the community’s use of the home.
The Roeder Home, effectively closed to public use as of January 2009 due to cost-cutting measures on the part of the county, has once again become available. County Council recently approved the Roeder Home Task Force report, which in part, advocated opening the home with the help of volunteers.
Since the start of the year, there have been two major obstacles to use of the home by groups that had held events there for many years: cost and liability, and those obstacles now seem to have been overcome.
Those who sign up to volunteer at the Roeder Home will be covered by liability insurance through the umbrella of the Whatcom Volunteer Center. At the time of the county’s policy change in January, the county started requiring those offering events or classes to be fully responsible for liability. Many people were unwilling to take that risk, feeling they could potentially lose their homes in an adverse lawsuit. That obstacle has now been removed with the help of the Whatcom Volunteer Center.
The second major obstacle, a substantial increase in rental fees for use of the home, has also been removed. According to Whatcom County Parks Director Mike McFarlane, the home is available for free to arts and cultural groups who hold a demonstration or class open to the public, and have at least one of their group who is present at the event signed up as a volunteer.
For events charging a fee, McFarlane said the rental rate Monday through Thursday for the main floor of the home is $20/hour, and for a smaller upper room $10/hour. Rental fees for Friday through Sunday are substantially higher.
Those wishing to use the home should contact Rob Bunnett, by email or phone at Rbunnett@co.whatcom.wa.us or 733-4030, x47013. Bunnett is on staff at the Whatcom County Parks Department, and is based at the Bellingham Senior Center.
Bunnett is also the contact person for those wishing to volunteer at the home. Breskin, who served on the Roeder Home Task Force, said that anyone willing to volunteer, whether that would be weekly, monthly, or yearly, should sign up so there is a generous list of people to call on. She said that people can contact Bunnett directly or pick up a volunteer form at any Roeder Home event in the near future.
McFarlane said there are currently four orientations scheduled during July and August for new volunteers, and that more will be slated as needed.
The Whatcom County Homemade Music Society will be holding a music circle, free to the public, at the Roeder Home on Wednesday, July 1 and also a fundraising concert on Wednesday, July 22 with all donations going to the support of the Roeder Home. Both events are at 7 p.m.
McFarlane indicated that donations to support of the Roeder Home can also be made to the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Foundation, and are tax-deductible.
The Roeder Home is located at 2600 Sunset Dr., Bellingham. Historically, it was the home of Victor Roeder and was donated by the Keyes family to Whatcom County in 1971 for use as a cultural center for the public. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.