Ranger rides to El Centro's rescue

On a day when Texas Ranger pitcher Vicente Padilla pitched six shutout innings, what he did off the field Tuesday will be remembered in Bremerton far more than what he did on the mound in Detroit.

Padilla’s $25,000 gift to El Centro de La Familia, which provides education on health services, nutrition and infant care to local Hispanic families, was announced at the Kitsap County Board of Health meeting by El Centro volunteer Martitha May.

“The El Centro program does wonderful things for families in Bremerton and surrounding areas,” Padilla said. “I hope that the donation helps El Centro continue to positively impact and support those in need.”

The gift goes a long way to answering the call put out by United Way of Kitsap County through a $40,000 challenge grant.

“It’s a great day for Kitsap County,” said United Way Director of Fund Development Patricia Hennessy Tuesday afternoon.

Before Padilla’s gift was made public, Health District director Scott Lindquist told the board it appeared El Centro “was off the chopping block for 2008.”

“That is because it got funding from other sources,” he said.

Currently the health district is facing a budget crisis that limits the amount of non-mandatory services it can provide, he said.

El Centro and the health district’s Poulsbo clinic were the first two programs to be hit by the budget crunch and give a picture of the future of the health district’s ability to provide services throughout the county, Lindquist said.

United Way stepped in with its community challenge grant and until Padilla’s large donation, only $11,207 had been raised to keep the program alive through 2008.

“This gives us what we need the most,” Hennessy said. “Time to hit the collective pause button to come up with a long-range plan.”

During the next year, the challenge for El Centro supporters and volunteers will be to come up with a long-term plan to sustain the program in the future, she said.

Without the funding, El Centro was slated to be close in October because of the health district’s budget shortfalls.

However, if a plan is not developed, El Centro could once again find itself on the cutting block due to the ongoing health district budget problems, Lindquist said.

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