Puyallup: News

After 6-year stint of running fair parking lot, Puyallup South Hill Rotarians seek new fundraising venture

Kitty McGuane of South Hill waves cars into the “closest parking lot to the fair,” across Meridian Ave. from the Gold Gate of the Washington State Fair in Puyallup on Sept. 1. It has been operated by the South Hill Rotary for years, but this is expected to be the last one.
Kitty McGuane of South Hill waves cars into the “closest parking lot to the fair,” across Meridian Ave. from the Gold Gate of the Washington State Fair in Puyallup on Sept. 1. It has been operated by the South Hill Rotary for years, but this is expected to be the last one. phaley@thenewstribune.com

For six years, the Puyallup South Hill Rotary has been providing places to park at the corner of South Meridian and 9th Avenue during the Washington State Fair.

But this will be the club’s last year, as plans to redevelop the lot for a “quick service restaurant” have progressed.

“We are definitely going to miss it, but we’d like to take advantage of it while we do,” said Jeff Lieurance, past president of South Hill Rotary.

We are definitely going to miss it, but we’d like to take advantage of it while we do.

Jeff Lieurance, past president of Puyallup South Hill Rotary

Last year, the club raised $70,000 from the lot, which provides more than 300 parking stalls. Prices for each stall range from $5 to $20, depending on the time of day.

The owners of the lot get 25 percent of the proceeds.

“It’s otherwise generating no revenue whatsoever, so it’s a win-win,” said rotary president Jessica Witte.

But everything else goes right toward helping the community. Rotary provides funding for local school scholarships, animal services, transitional housing for families and books for school libraries.

“We’re always busy seeing where the need is,” Witte said.

A former Rotary president got the idea to use a lot to raise money, and sought out a partnership with the owner of the land. At first, the lot was full of holes and broken concrete. There was an old adult care building that was eventually torn down.

“The first year we came in … and tried to fill the holes as best we could,” rotary member Rick Hansen recalled.

Over time, the Rotarians got used to handling the large amount of drivers rolling through. Now, the majority of the club’s 71 members volunteer for shifts. Altogether, they spend 1,440 hours of their time here, Witte said.

“It’s a tremendous amount of hours, but we’ve done really well with it,” she said.

It’s a tremendous amount of hours, but we’ve done really well with it.

Jessica Witte, president of Puyallup South Hill Rotary

“It’s a great team building effort for the club,” added Lieurance.

But those years of parking cars don’t come without some interesting stories. Some of them are stressful — like making sure attendants’ toes don’t get run over, or like that time a car got completely blocked in.

“I was sweating bullets the whole time,” Witte said. “Finally someone came in and moved so they were able to get out.”

Other times, there are perks.

“On the hot days, someone will come back and bring me a scone or something,” Hansen said.

But many times, Rotarians have stories of kindness from fair-goers, who often make donations once they hear where their parking money is going.

“Some people pull extra money out of their pockets,” Witte said.

The parking fundraiser was one of Rotary’s biggest every year. Without it, members are going to focus on other ways to raise money.

“We have to try and replace it with our other fundraisers (and) encourage others to support our other fundraising endeavors,” she said.

Rotary’s other fundraising events include the Hounds on the Hill community event and the Gold and Silver Raffle.

“We’re always brainstorming to come up with the next big deal for a fundraiser,” added Lieurance.

Allison Needles: 253-597-8507, @herald_allison

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