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Science Center reels in large donations

POULSBO — “Wow,” was about all Marine Science Center executive director Michelle Benedict could initially muster last Thursday when she first laid her eyes on a generous donation forwarded by the Kitsap Community Foundation.

The $20,000 check was presented by Poulsbo attorney and KCF board member Richard Tizzano but its origins are being kept anonymous. The mystery will continue in the coming months, according to Tizzano who said that the donor will provide similar donations in late-2002 and late-2003.

Nonetheless, whether the money was from a citizen or just fell out of the sky isn’t overly important to Marine Science Center supporters who have been diving for dollars for several years and struggled at times to simply pay the rent for the Front Street business. Officials from the Marine Science Society of the Pacific Northwest will likely have much grander plans in store for the unexpected windfall, Benedict predicted.

“The (Marine Science Society) board of directors has a prioritized list of things they want to accomplish at the center,” she explained, noting that hiring an educator, starting an outreach program and continuing improvements to the exhibits at the MSC were among possible uses for the money.

“We were very excited that the individual chose the foundation,” said Tizzano, explaining that The Kitsap Community Foundation was simply a “pass through” for the donation.

According to a Jan. 3 letter from KCF president John M. Davis, Jr., the “gift is unrestricted and may be used in any manner that the Board of the Marine Science Center believes will further your purpose.”

Thinking of all the good that would come of the donation, Benedict remarked, “I can’t get the smile off my face.”

Public relations director and MSSPN member Nancy Sefton was also ecstatic about the news. Sefton’s eyes and smile grew as she read the letter from the Kitsap County Foundation over Benedict’s shoulder.

“I had nothing to do with this — I wish I had,” Sefton said, almost laughing with joy.

Benedict said the donation came at a great time for the Marine Science Center because it is entering an era of “newness,” not only in its exhibits but in its overall attitude as well.

“We’re trying to refresh the society and come up with new projects,” she said, looking at the letter again before adding, “This will sure help.”

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