Walla Walla Community Center for Youth hires new director

Gary Lunden will have as a major task finding a permanent home for the organization.

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WALLA WALLA -- Gary Lunden has been hired as the new executive director for the Community Center for Youth.

Lunden brings a strong financial and business background to the job, blended with a passion to make a difference in the lives of local youths, said Chuck Fulton, CCY board president and chief of the Walla Walla Police Department.

Lunden and his wife, Lynn, have lived in the area abut 11 years. His professional resume is weighted with experience in the financial, consulting and management fields. While perhaps a nontraditional background for a youth center director, it's one that should ultimately be a perfect fit for this one, Lunden believes.

"I really get a kick out of taking things that have fallen down for some reason and picking them up," he explained. "I have had a very good track record in fundraising, and I understand that to allow people to express their philanthropy, there has to be certain things in place to allow that."

Meaning, Lunden deciphered, donors want to support a local youth outreach, but they want to be sure it is a sustainable and well-managed effort.

The Community Center for Youth has suffered from turnover in directors in recent years, but has retained a committed core of board members and volunteers, he pointed out. "I think we will capitalize on that strength."

Employee burnout is a real issue for many nonprofits, he said. "That's why I'm perfect for this -- my passion is to make a positive difference in the lives of people and that means particularly teens or youth."

One of the more pressing matters within his new duties is finding a permanent home for the center, Lunden added. The center is presently at St. Patrick Catholic Church on West Alder. While safe and welcoming, the church is yet another location in a string of temporary spots. "The youth always wanted to have a place they can call their own, I see that in the young people that have come."

Partnering with other agencies and the community will add fresh mission to CCY, as well. "I think we need to change with the needs of the community. We are looking to bring programs to the kids," Lunden said.

Such programs will include several that have been successful in the past, such as art, photography, leadership and sports.

A new outlook can mean engaging youths in Milton-Freewater, College Place and elsewhere. "We can't be all things to all people, but we need to support the youth who have no place to go," the new director emphasized.

Community Center for Youth is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. For more information, call 526-2571.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

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