Group for adults with special needs loses sponsor

MARYSVILLE – The Marysville Tulalip Integrated Learning Center is looking to form its own nonprofit after its sponsoring agency, Eagle Wings disAbility Ministries, ended its association Thursday.

Jim Strickland, a local advocate for people with special needs, said Thursday that the plan is to keep the MTILC going, but things may be a little “sporadic” for the next few weeks.

Strickland wouldn’t speculate why Eagle Wings pulled its support but did say he has no ill will toward them. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it without them,” he said. He added that Eagle Wings started the foundation for the program. “We learned from that and will carry on to the next phase,” he said.

Strickland added that Eagle Wings had planned to sponsor the pilot program through the end of the school year.

Eagle Wings did announce in December that it was short of money in general, and it asked for donations from the community. As the sponsoring agency Stickland said it paid for the facility at the Damascus Church annex and the full-time director, Eric Holmes.

The center just started up in September. It helped special needs students with learning different skills beyond high school.

In a letter sent from Holmes to parents and supporters, he wrote, “We will keep everyone informed of key developments as they happen.” The center still planned an event Friday, and Monday a new Aktion Club being formed with the Marysville Kiwanis Club will take place at 12:30 p.m. at the Center for Independence, 502 State Ave., Suite B, across from Comeford Park.

Holmes said in an email that the students spent time thinking on a new name and motto that they felt best defined them and the program. Starting Feb. 1, MTILC will now formally be called “Our Journey”. The motto is “Sharing the path to greater independence, because everyone matters.”

Strickland said those involved with the center just found out this week so “things are up in the air about what the next steps will be.”

“We’ll try to make it as little of a deal as possible,” Strickland added. “Eagle Wings was a catalyst for getting it going.”

Kinder Smoots of Eagle Wings said in an email Thursday that parents were reminded that this was a pilot program and would only survive as funds lasted. They were notified Dec. 13 that the school was nearly out of funds and would barely make it to the end of January.

She said many things being said on social media are inaccurate. “Sadly, the part that is correct is that MTILC had to be closed. As a parent myself, it has broken my heart as well,” she said.

Eric’s wife, Monica, said Thursday that they have asked the parents to be as positive as possible because the program will continue. She said most of the families are still onboard, and there are 25 more students who want to get in, along with those who will graduate from Marysville schools in June. “There’s a lot to look forward to,” she said.

Monica said they asked the students on the last day Thursday not to cry or be upset. “This is just a little vacation,” she said they told them. “They will be back with their friends and into a routine soon.”

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