Whatcom Cares: Point Roberts’ Judy Ross and Ed Park lead fundraising effort for new library

Nominated for their “unflagging energy and fundraising zeal” toward a new public library in Point Roberts are Judy Ross and her husband Ed Park, residents of the small peninsula across Boundary Bay from Blaine.

Currently, the library operates in a 900-square-foot space in the Point Roberts Community Center. The nonprofit Friends of the Point Roberts Library wants to renovate the village’s former volunteer fire station into a 2,500-square-foot library. The building is owned by the Point Roberts Parks and Recreation District No.1 and it would be operated by the Whatcom County Library System.

“This is one of the cutest little Dickensian libraries you’ll ever see,” Ross said. “But it’s not the 1900s anymore.”

Both in their late 70s, Ross and Park moved to northern Whatcom County 20 years ago from Los Angeles, where Park was an economist at the Rand Corp. and Ross taught medical ethics at UCLA.

“He got dragged into this because he’s a loving husband and he noticed that I was overwhelmed,” she said.

They’ve raised about $400,000 of their $538,000 goal in three years of fundraising.

“That’s quite a lot, considering that we only have 1,300 permanent residents, “ Ross said. But she noted that many Canadians spend the summer there feel strongly about the close-knit community. “I’m always talking to people who have been coming here since they were 3 — and now they’re 80,” she said.

Ross, who’s a member of the library friends group, decided to get all those residents involved in fundraising too. They got publicity from the local All Points Bulletin newspaper and staffed a table to sell items at the area’s Saturday markets. Other fundraising gimmicks they’ve employed are getting people to empty their coin jars and getting everybody to go to the bank and donate $20.

This year, they’re writing grant proposals in an effort to secure the last $150,000 or so.

“People for the most part are pretty generous toward the library,” she said. “Who doesn’t love a library? We’ve had a couple of anonymous large donations, but for the most part it’s been in bits and pieces.”

Ross, a renowned quilt artist, sells her crafts at fundraising events. Park has been providing advice about legal agreements between the park district and the library system, said Christine Perkins, executive director of Whatcom County Library System, who nominated them for Whatcom Cares.

“Ross and her husband have boundless creativity for finding new ways to raise money , including (the) Stand and Give me 20 campaign, iGive efforts online ... and seeking large donations which will be matched by anonymous donors,” Perkins said.

Ross, who describes herself something of an introvert, said the fundraising has been a challenge and she looks forward to seeing it to fruition.

“We’ve now actually hired an architect” to look at the space, a garage-like structure that once housed firefighting apparatus.

“We’re pretty confident we’ll get the rest of the way,” she said. “The truth is, who gets the credit? The people who gave the money.”

Ross said books gave her a sense of adventure and purpose in the rural area where she was born and raised. Her only reading material was encyclopedias that her mother bought at the grocery store, one volume a month. There were no other books at home, so she spent a lot of time at the tiny one-room library.

“I come from a small town in Idaho and ended up tracking all over the world — everywhere I went, the library was how it started.”