Discover! Children's Museum

Brayden Caywood, 20 months old, plays at the Discover! Children's Museum in Chehalis on Wednesday afternoon. The interactive museum has been open since February as part of a pilot program to gage community interest in the idea. The museum lease at the Twin City Town Center location will run out at the end of the month forcing it to close the doors.

Leaders of the effort to build a permanent Discover! Children’s Museum adjacent to Home Depot in Chehalis have hit a couple of stumbling blocks recently as they work to raise the last of $3 million needed to construct and open a multifaceted educational youth center.

Allyn Roe, chair of the Discover! Children’s Museum Board of Directors, and Vice Chair Larry McGee relayed that news to the Chehalis City Council on Monday while providing an annual update on their progress. They also highlighted their plans to adapt their fundraising model and their commitment to see the project through to the end.

“This year has been frustrating,” Roe said. “We want to see this happen, but to look at where we are since it started 10 years ago, I think it’s still a lot further along than we originally envisioned.”

McGee said the museum board has been working with a local consultant to workshop their messaging for a fundraising push featuring meetings with individual prospective donors. Having spent a lot of time and energy working to gain a foothold with larger nonprofits and foundations, he said a common theme has emerged.

“We’ve heard from a lot of grant sources that they’re focused a lot on helping homeless people and on health,” McGee said. “While everyone agrees education is important, I’m not sure it trumps homelessness right now, for a lot of people.”

McGee added that ongoing conversations with local organizations like Reliable Enterprises and with state officials have led museum backers to explore different ways to enhance or expand their preschool offerings. The goal is to build out the pre-K programming without cutting into the space allotted for museum exhibits.

The Discover! Children’s Museum first opened as a pilot program in 2013 next to the Michael’s storefront in the Twin Cities Town Center. It was set to run for six months and host about 5,000 patrons, but wound up operating for 11 months and welcoming more than 15,000 guests.

Stakeholders have previously stated a goal of having the museum open either late next year or early in 2021. A portion of the funding already raised is in the form of state appropriations, which could theoretically be redistributed elsewhere during future budget cycles, though that is an unlikely outcome.

“This could be a very valuable asset for the entire area,” Chehalis Mayor Dennis Dawes said. “Not just for Chehalis, but the surrounding area. A number of school districts could take part in it instead of going up to (Hands On Children’s Museum) in Olympia.”

For more information about the museum or donate to the cause, visit discovermuseum.org.

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