PASCO — Three Rivers Children's Museum is sending out a last plea for help.
Without community support, the nonprofit museum will close for good this winter.
Organizers say the museum's crisis is a combination of a lack of continued support such as corporate sponsorships, and the museum's move last year that cleaned out the budget reserves and cost three months of revenue.
The museum had to move last year when Charter College expanded into the museum's former space at Broadmoor Square Mall in west Pasco, said Terry Andre, a volunteer board member.
At the last minute, the mall offered the museum another space in the complex. But moving cost the museum more than $10,000 to make the building safe for children, she said.
"It took out all of the museum's reserves," said Andre, who has been involved with the museum for 17 years.
Rent now is about 300 percent higher than it was six years ago when the museum first moved to Pasco, said Jolene Hatke, museum executive director. That's even with the discount Broadmoor Square Mall provided.
Admission, birthday parties and other museum events bring in about 75 percent of the revenue needed to keep the museum running, Hatke said. Similar to other children's museums, it depends on the rest coming from donations and sponsorship.
The museum has been getting by on a bare bones budget of about $45,000 a year, Hatke said. That covered three part-time staff, but didn't allow for new exhibits.
"What we need is ongoing support," Hatke said.
There isn't anything else like the museum in the area, she said. The nearest children's museum is in Walla Walla.
If the museum closes, it will leave few options for preschool and younger grade-school children, she said.
Hatke said the museum sees around 10,000 visitors a year. It opened in 1991.
Three Rivers Children's Museum is where Andre took her children when they were younger. Her daughter Kristen, who now is 22, used to get so involved in playing at the museum that Andre would have the staff turn off the lights when it was closing time so she could tell her daughter it was the museum's nap time.
"It's a valuable community resource," Andre said. "It's tiny, but it's just full of fun."
The museum is a place where parents and children can play together and where children can learn from playing, Andre said.
There's plenty to do with a castle with thrones for a king and queen, a train with a dining car and a kitchen to cook in, she said. The museum also holds discovery classes and field trips for children, Hatke said.
Without help, Hatke said, "There is no doubt in my mind that we will have to close."
The museum's board plans to make the decision mid-January.
"This is our last call," Hatke said.
Donations can be sent to Three Rivers Children's Museum at 5220 Outlet Drive, Pasco, 99301.
Holiday hours at the museum are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 20-23, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 27-30. Admission is $3.75 for adults and $3.25 for children. There will be the New Year's Celebration and Activities from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 31.
For more information, call the museum at 509-543-7866.
* Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org