Opinion

Thumbs up to Gesa and the community for helping Mid-Columbia youth

Shelter from the storm

The Gesa Credit Union and generous donors throughout the Mid-Columbia raised more than $53,000 to keep the doors open at Safe Harbor Support Center and its teen shelter program My Friends Place.

Gesa launched the fundraiser earlier this month after Safe Harbor leaders announced the Kennewick nonprofit was in danger of closing because of financial difficulties. Gesa pledged to match up to $15,000 in donations from the community made before July 18.

By early last week, more than $38,000 had been donated, bringing the total with Gesa's match to more than $53,000, the credit union announced.

Safe Harbor provides support for children dealing with trauma, as well as outreach, support and training for families. My Friends Place is the only shelter for homeless teens in the Mid-Columbia. It welcomes an average of eight to 12 youths a night.

Safe Harbor officials hoped to raise $30,000 to make it through the next few months while they worked to restore some state funding. The nonprofit took a revenue hit of more than $150,000 because of some changes at the state level.

"We're overwhelmed and incredibly appreciative of a community that's so willing to support youth in need," Mark Lee, president of the Safe Harbor board, told the Herald.

A community has no higher calling than caring for its youth.

It's gratifying to see the Tri-Cities heed that call but more is needed.

Smart money

Thumbs up to the owners of Innovation Center at Tri-Cities Research District for investing in the Tri-Cities' future.

The Lofts at Innovation Center held a grand opening for its new apartments in north Richland last week. The $19 million complex includes 160 units in the first and second phases.

The project goes a long way toward turning the vision of a high-tech community where creative people can live, work and play into a reality.

The research district, which was formed in the early '90s by community stakeholders, includes adjacent properties owned by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington State University Tri-Cities and the Port of Benton.

It's one of 11 innovation partnership zones in the state, and its goal is to attract research and development jobs to support all of the Tri-Cities.

It's a great idea that capitalizes on PNNL, WSU Tri-Cities and other existing assets. But it's doomed to failure without private investors willing to bet on the vision.

Kudos to Wayne Perry and Cal Cannon, former executives of McCaw Cellular Communications, which became part of AT&T Wireless, for taking the lead in developing the research district.

Ounce of prevention

Thumbs down to parents who use their misguided opposition to immunizations to put other people's children at risk.

Public health officials were alarmed last week when measles cases in Washington climbed to 27 for the year -- more than the past five years combined.

This isn't a disease that should be experiencing a resurgence. It is a disease that can and should be eradicated. In fact, measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000.

But cases imported by travelers from overseas continue to infect unvaccinated U.S. residents, and they spread the disease to other Americans, especially infants.

It happens often in doctors' waiting rooms, where children seeking treatment for measles come in contact with infants and children who are simply too young to be vaccinated, according to health officials.

Their parents often plan on getting them fully vaccinated, following the latest immunization schedule of the American Academy of Pediatrics, but they just aren't old enough yet.

Children don't get their first dose of the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine until they are 12 months old and aren't fully protected until they get the second dose at age 4.

Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.

According to the World Health Organization, it remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. Approximately 122,000 people died from measles in 2012 -- mostly children under the age of 5.

Efforts are under way to get rid of measles for good. Vaccinations resulted in a 78 percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2012 worldwide, the WHO reported.

It's shameful that infants in the United State are still at risk from older children when vaccines are readily available.

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