It's hard to believe that the Wenatchee Valley Senior Center is already 20 years old. Executive Director Dave Tosch tells me that there's going to be a celebration on Friday, 3 p.m. at the facility with dignitaries from both Wenatchee and East Wenatchee along with a color guard from the American Legion.
Tosch, who took over in July from Lori Kostors, sees lots of opportunities to build on the foundation established by his predecessors. "I'm positive about what I think we can do here," said Tosch.
I was fascinated to learn about Tosch's background. His grandfather Kelly came to the valley in the early part of the last century about a freight train from Chicago, along with brother Barney. Kelly worked as a fruit packer to earn enough money to open a business, the Cashmere Tire Shop, which began servicing Model Ts. Dave's dad took it over and Dave worked there while he was growing up pumping gas and changing tires. He learned that's not what he wanted to do for a living, so he spent 20 years in the Army, retiring as a Lt. Colonel.
Barney Tosch earned some fame by placing second in a box nailing competition. Dave showed me the clipping from The Daily World from 1913. He went on to open Barney's Tavern, which is one of the icons of Cashmere.
Dave has been back in the valley for a couple of years, after working in the financial arena in Tacoma for a number of years. While he wasn't looking for full-time work, the notion of giving back to the community by service there proved impossible to resist. "I just love coming here," Tosch said of the center.
This is a challenging time for the organization, which relies on local funding. There is some money from the federal and state governments to help subsidize meals for those who can't afford the $3.25 cost. Despite the financial help, the center has to come up with $8,000 or so a year to fully fund that nutrition program.
The thrift shop is a big money-maker for the enter, with revenues topping $200,000. The bingo operation brings in another $100,000. But they are getting cramped for space and so the center may look to relocate the thrift shop so that more space can be allocated to the myriad of programs that are run at the center.
I was surprised to learn that they have the most members of any senior center in the state. What started out with a membership of roughly 300 has grown to more than 1,700 today.
Best of all, the center is a place of community, where people come in a few hours before lunch to sit and chat with friends. The center has been a gift to our valley for 20 years and Tosch hopes he can help expand the good work in the years to come.