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By Patricia Garrison, posted June 11, 2020

In a recent letter, President Gaudino made some assertions that we find, at best, dismaying and at worst offensive. Overall, he is correct that APOYO has been on Central’s campus for the past 20 years. But beyond that, his accuracy is questionable.

When Gaudino first offered us Brooklane house, we said it was in poor condition. But he claimed it was basically sound. In August 2016, he promised us a host of upgrades – new siding, a loading ramp, wider doorways for a pallet jack, even a modular classroom. We have his list.

The Agreement we signed was more modest, promising only to move our stuff from Old Heat, clean up the house, and re-wire it for our appliances. Perhaps we should have been skeptical about a vaguely worded promise to make “exterior upgrades.” But we assumed CWU was acting in good faith, despite their caveat that they had no obligation to give us alternative space “if for any reason the Facility should become unsuitable for APOYO's purposes.” Why would it? An inspector from insurance company found it safe enough to renew our policy.

In October of 2016, Gaudino touted our relocation as “win-win-win,” adding, “It protects our community members who rely on the valuable services APOYO provides. It maintains the hands-on learning and volunteer opportunities available to our students. And it preserves a long-standing partnership between CWU and APOYO.” That is still true.

Then, in 2018, CWU asked us to sign an Agreement identical to the first, except offering the house “AS IS.”

Gaudino says we were officially notified in January “that the building had been condemned.” But Dean Heinselman’s January 14th letter gave no reason whatsoever for our eviction.

Gaudino says CWU staff tried “to help [us] . . . by working with other community organizations.” That is true, sort of – but in a disingenuous way. We first learned of our eviction, not from the dean in January, but from Peggy Morache in November 2019 when Central’s Joel Klucking contacted FISH to  explore the possibility of “taking us in.” In a January 28th meeting, Morache explained. FISH would give us a ten-foot shelf in their warehouse, stocked with ethnic food, which they would buy with the WSDA grant money that would revert to them once we folded. Since Northwest Harvest supplies about 70% of our food, our clients would be shortchanged, and our mexicano staff would lose community service hours. But FISH felt sure our clients would have to come to them – or go hungry.

It took APOYO 25 years to earn the trust of a vulnerable minority community. Offended that they might not want to submit photo-IDs, be policed through a “shopping area” and be limited to twice-a-month distributions, FISH withdrew its offer. Instead, they set about reassuring community leaders that they could replace us. Our clients themselves have doubts.
No other group has offered us space that was both suitable and affordable. Some folks offered us the basement of the Kittitas County Public Health Office. But the county commissioners said we couldn’t store food there. So much for a food bank.

Gaudino praises our community for its generosity. And people have been generous. But no one else in Kittitas county has deeper pockets – or more space – than Central. And they’ll have even more this fall with online classes. Central is the largest employer in Kittitas County. Surely they should be able to scrounge up 1500 square feet of space to feed 400 mostly Hispanic families a month.

Gaudino gave us an extra two months to vacate our house, rather than the twelve we asked for. Why the rush?  He has refused to meet with us, or even answer our letters, since August 2016 – with the exception of his eviction letter – which still says nothing about our house being condemned.

He said in 2016 that our service to Central’s academic mission was important. Professors and academic departments have pleaded with him not to abolish us. Volunteering at APOYO is like studying abroad, but without the plane ticket. This isn’t about facilities management. It’s about what Central values. Would Gaudino say we couldn’t have an anthropology lab or a sociology lab because they don’t have space?

We hope that the Ellensburg community is perceptive enough to see his letter for what it is.

111 Peavine Rd.
Ellensburg, Washington 98926

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