Rick Steves calls on community to support Waterfront Center

Edmonds travel expert named Citizen of the Year
By Brian Soergel | Jun 01, 2017
Photo by: Brian Soergel Rick Steves: “The mark of a community, to a large extent, is how they care for their seniors.”

Rick Steves is calling on those with means – “means” meaning money – to dig deep to finish funding for the future Edmonds Waterfront Center.

“The mark of a community, to a large extent, is how they care for their seniors,” he said last week when accepting his award as 2017 Edmonds Kiwanis Citizen of the Year. The $11 million Waterfront Center would replace the current Senior Center and serve all community members, including seniors.

“You know, I’m one of those progressives, and I spend a third of my life in Europe, where they pay taxes and have high expectations, and their seniors have dignity,” said Steves, a multimillionaire who employs more than 100 people at his Rick Steves’ Europe office on Fourth Avenue North.

In December, Steves announced a $2 million pledge to support the construction of the Waterfront Center, being built by the Edmonds Senior Center in partnership with the city of Edmonds. He said he’ll kick in an additional $1 million in matching funds.

“We’re going to give our seniors dignity here in a good old-fashioned, human way,” the 62-year-old told a full house who paid to hear him speak in the conference room at Beck’s Tribute Center.

“We’ve got the land. It’s an $11 million building, and we’ve got $7 million in the can, essentially, right now. I think we’re going to be breaking ground here in a few months, and it’s exciting. There’s money in this community to make that happen. There’s no doubt about that. If this community can’t come up with $11 million – take my three, take three from the government, and somehow scrape together five more, it’s not an Edmonds kind of day.”

Steves once again spoke about his philanthropy, which he prefers to call “enlightened” rather than “generous.”

“As you mature as a citizen, you realize there’s a dimension of stewardship,” he said. “For the life of me, I can’t understand why thoughtful people can’t get their minds arounds stewardship. It makes life more meaningful. You have to fight for the common good. The inclination in a capitalist world is to fight for the individual good, (but) the common good is what we need to look out for if we want to have a community. It takes a village.”

50 years in Edmonds

John Rutter, a retired judge and Kiwanis member, introduced Steves, who was presented with a representative brick – a similar one will be placed in his honor on the Edmonds Historical Museum plaza.

“Getting this award means a lot,” Steves said. “Many of you know how blessed we are to live in a community like this. This award makes me think about what it means to be a citizen, and what a beautiful town we have to be a citizen of.”

He again called on attendees and all residents to participate in the community, saying he realized that would be more difficult to do if Edmonds weren’t so easy to love.

“You’ve got no excuses, living in Edmonds, recognizing that it’s not just something you take, it’s something you give to, so other people, those in the future and many who aren’t as fortunate as us, can enjoy it as well.”

Steves spoke a little about his childhood, recalling that he hung out with some “rough kids” in Kenmore during his first 12 years. In 1962, Steves’ parents moved to a home on Brookmere Drive in Edmonds.

“This is my 50th year since my family moved here,” said Steves, who takes two, two-month tours of Europe for his popular guidebooks and his syndicated travel show on PBS’s “Rick Steves’ Europe.”

The time away gives him even more appreciation of his hometown.

“I just got back from Paris, and was driving down Fifth Avenue. I felt that, yes, I feel more strongly than ever that this is where I belong.” He talked about the joy of the train and ferry blasts, watching freighters ply Puget Sound, and even the joyful noise of kids playing at the Civic Field skate park.

Steves also praised the work of business owners, pastors, service clubs, city officials and teachers in supporting Edmonds’ sense of community. When he spoke of teachers, his voice broke.

“I get choked up when I talk about teachers,” he said.

Steves said that he and his partner, Trish Feaster, frequently take in the sights and sounds of downtown to sense that community feel. He talked about what they called “Eight Oaks,” the area around Starbucks and the Fifth and Main fountain.

”You sit there long enough, you’ll be able to say hi to everybody that’s been in your life over the years.”

To donate to the Edmonds Waterfront Center, visit www.edmondssc.org/difference.htm, call 425-774-5555 or go to the Edmonds Senior Center, 220 Railroad Ave., Edmonds.


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