PORT TOWNSEND — In the back of the Skookum building on Benedict Street, biscuits are the order of the day.
On Fridays, volunteers at Gatheringplace — a nonprofit organization that provides activities to those with developmental disabilities — are hard at work rolling, mixing, cutting and packaging bag after bag of organic dog biscuits.
It is one of several activities held in a given week where the adults can come together, make friends and create something special for the community.
Started in 1994, the inspiration for Gatheringplace was Megan Ferris, the daughter of organization Director Linda Ferris. Megan had significant developmental disabilities and the family moved to Port Townsend from Seattle so she could attend the special education program at Port Townsend High School.
Initially a simple private residence for Megan and one or two other adults, the organization soon created opportunities for daytime programs for disabled adults in Jefferson County and beyond. Cooking classes are held Mondays, art classes are Tuesdays and the famous dog biscuits are made Fridays.
“It’s a really neat way to engage with the community and with people that are, a lot of times, not very prominent in our overall community,” said Jesse Watson, a former art teacher and now public relations person for Gatheringplace.
“A lot of times people with disabilities are marginalized. This is a great way to connect.”
Gatheringplace is also well-known around town for its annual Port Townsend calendar, featuring scenes created by local artists. The proceeds of the calendar provide Gatheringplace with more than half of its annual funds to put on these programs, according to Ferris.
The calendar is now in its 24th year, and this year a special Hawai’i ‘Ohana (which means family) calendar, featuring Hawaiian artists will be sold both on the islands and on the mainland in partnership with several Hawaii-based nonprofit organizations to raise additional funds for each organization.
“Our philosophy is we have to do things that are renewable, every month, every year,” Ferris said. “So, that’s why the calendar has been so successful. The Hawaiian calendar helps us find a new stream of revenue and partners us with other programs.”
Ferris has a long-standing connection to Hawaii — she and her family would often travel there when she was a child. The family embraced the culture; Ferris’ mother would often give hula lessons to locals at their house in Seattle.
And those trips have continued into adulthood. Ferris has engaged with local nonprofits such as La’akea, Arc of Kona and Full Life Hawai’i, all of which support those with disabilities.
“When I go, I’m really interested to see the different programs over there,” Ferris said.
The Hawaiian calendar features renowned artists such as Herb Kawainui Kane, Al Furtado, Patrick Ching, John Holm, Tim Nguyen and Lynne Boyer. As with the Port Townsend calendar, each piece of art reflects life in the local communities of Hawaii.
Calendars can be bought at any number of locations throughout Jefferson County, including Aldrich’s Market, Don’s Pharmacy, Elevated Ice Cream Co., Food Co-Op, Nordland Store and Port Townsend Gallery.
They also can be purchased at http://www.gppt.org/home, where a full list of merchants carrying the calendar can be found.