Q&A with Diane Haugen, former director of the Lake City Community Center and the Chamber of Commerce
Moving on to New Things
Enjoy Lake City (ELC) recently visited Diane Haugen at a local restaurant to talk about a changing Lake City, the meaning of community, and the joy of Alpacas. The former Executive Director of the Lake City/North Seattle Chamber of Commerce and manager of the Lake City Community Center has moved on to new work in a different neighborhood, but says she feels she will always be part of the Lake City community.
ELC: How long did you work at the Chamber and the Community Center?
Ten years for the Chamber and five at the Community Center.
Do you miss Lake City?
I do miss the community. I drive through it every day though, and I’m not too far away, just in Meadowbrook. I go to restaurants in Lake City all the time so I really feel like I haven’t left.
ELC: What did you like best about the work?
I’ve met a lot of people and I have a lot of connections. I open windows for people. I like to put people together if they can help each other. At Chamber after hours, I’d find out what people needed — a caregiver, a salesman, etc.- and make introductions face to face. That is the part of the work that feeds me.
ELC: What do you think were some of the biggest changes and accomplishments that happened during your years with the Chamber ?
The development of Salmon Fest. Taking Pioneer Days and bringing it forward. The Lions used to volunteer to do the Salmon Bake, then we took responsibility for both of events. We started using social media, created a new logo with dancing salmon, and we spoke to different people and started getting younger people and families coming to the event who had never attended before. At one point, we were up to 95 vendors and had music by live bands in the mini-park sponsored by local businesses.
ELC: Is it true that the Lake City Chamber of Commerce is being dissolved at the end of this year?
(* The North Seattle Chamber will be continuing under new leadership in 2018)
*Yes it is (see above note). I have been encouraging the Chamber to join with Lake City Future First (LCFF). I think LCFF’s intent is to continue having business luncheons and inviting people in the Chamber to participate in the new format.
In the city and all over the country, small chambers are joining with community groups like LCFF. We’ve seen it with the University Chamber, Ballard and others. Part of it is economic. Twenty years ago a business person had time to go to Chamber after hours, and work on a committee or do fundraising but that just doesn’t happen anymore. Some of these businesses people are working so hard just to make their businesses work. They don’t have time for business lunches. They need new ways to network, maybe even a completely on-line Chamber, like the Greenwood Chamber.
ELC: What were some of the highlights for you at the Community Center?
We were able to partner with the Hunger Intervention Program who brought in the senior meals. Then Sound Generation brought in social workers and other activities. Sea Mar is there working with the Latino community. Two Dog Yoga leads seated yoga classes and Silver Kite does performances. We’ve had World Dance parties and holiday events too. The first time we had Taproot Theater in, we had 250 people attend and everyone was thrilled.
ELC: Who are some of the other organizations that offer programs at the Community Center?
There are a lot. North Seattle Family Resource Center, Lake City Lions, Lake City contra dancers. The fun thing is that Lake City Community Center has fun and funky events, like a toy show twice a year. Yo Mama’s Records has been here over 30 years with their music buy/sell/trade show.
ELC: There’s a lot of talk about the future of the Community Center. What would you like to see happen there?
If money is no object, I’d like to see a Senior Center and a broad spectrum of after school and instructional programs. I’d really like to see an arts element and an auditorium with a stage. Drama classes, dance, singing, community choir and band. A gym, maybe a pool. The kids need to have a recreation center of some kind. I guess my vision is about five stories tall!
ELC: What would people be surprised to know about you?
I love animals and I have a dream to be able to give big in this life. I would really like to live the rural life and have a farm with alpacas, pigmy goats and small animals. About 10 acres with overnight sleeping, maybe a barn for weddings. I’d like to put the profits into a nonprofit foundation dedicated to supporting human and animal service organizations.
What are some of your favorite places in Lake City?
Kaffeeklatsch! Annette came to the Chamber even before they opened to ask what we thought. They have become a cornerstone for the business community. I also like Brother Barrel. They have a mural there that really tells a story. Both of those places raised the bar in Lake City – you can sit down and stay a while and they’re open at night. I’d like to see more places like that to bring more people to Lake City.
What opportunities do you see coming up for Lake City? I think this could be a great place for education. We have so many buildings which could be replaced. The Pierre family owns a lot of properties so it will be interesting to see the changes they may make. So many people come through here, it would be great for an arts college or trade school. We could have a different kind of vibe here that could be educational and artful like Columbia City or Georgetown.
What do you think Lake City’s biggest challenge is? The number of homeless people we have here is a challenge. We have homeless services, but most close at 5 o’clock so the homeless live on the streets nights and weekends. We have services but not enough if we’re going to provide something and give them a hand up.
What will you be doing next? My new employer is Saint Anne’s Nursing and Rehab in Meadowbrook. I worked in senior care for 13 years in another life. My job now is admissions, and discharges, working with residents and families to be sure they’re happy. You have to listen to people because you have residents and family members that need you, especially at the end of life.
Anything else you want us to know?
Get involved! We have an opportunity to redevelop the summer festival all over again. Get ahold of Lake City Future First and see how you can help. If they decide to hold a salmon bake, volunteer. Be part of your neighborhood. Don’t just show up for the party. That’s how you get to know your neighbors. People talk about building community, but only a few really live it, so go live it!