While the Market’s service agencies were quickly growing to meet the community’s emerging needs, President Reagan’s 1981 federal budget cuts slashed social services nationwide. With one pen stroke, the agencies lost 50% of promised agency support and building rehabilitation funding. The Market’s social service agencies had lost crucial funding, just as demand for survival services skyrocketed during the economic downturn.
The Pike Market Medical Clinic was given two weeks’ notice that a $150,000 federal grant representing half their operating budget was withdrawn. Within a month, the soon-to-be-opened Pike Market Preschool received notice that their $60,000 federal grant for playground construction was canceled. This effectively stopped the Preschool’s opening, as state regulations required an outdoor play area.
Chris Hurley and Aaron Zaretsky sprung into action, realizing that the agencies needed to fundraise to make up the deficits. “That definitely put the fire under us to figure out that we need to start,” says Chris. “We needed to go talk to everybody we could think of, we reached out to just dozens and dozens of mover and shaker types in the city.”
PDA Council member Jean Falls and Market supporter Mary Fleming got to work raising the $60,000 needed for the Preschool’s playground, and hit their goal within a few weeks. In the process, they realized how enthusiastic Seattleites were to contribute to the Market they so dearly loved. “We thought we should band ourselves together,” said Chris. “Because we knew that people love the Market, but don’t know about the population of downtown.” This deep devotion to the Market could be reflected in a community foundation that could raise money for the long-term survival of the Market’s network of services.
After more preliminary research, Aaron and Chris sought advice from 25 downtown business people who were enthusiastic about the idea of a foundation for the Market. Concrete plans to create the new institution began, with Jean Falls and Sur La Table founder Shirley Collins establishing the Steering Committee: “We decided how many board members there would be, we recruited them,” Shirley remembers.
As a member of the PDA Council, Jean filed for the Market Foundation’s 501(c)(3) status and signed the official incorporation papers. The PDA played another critical role in establishing the Foundation, as Director John Clise backed the effort with office space, staff, equipment, and vocal support. Aaron Zaretsky became the Market Foundation’s first Executive Director, and his eventual successor Marlys Erickson was hired as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) soon after.
The Market Foundation’s founding board of directors met for the first time on the Market’s 75th birthday in 1982, with the original mission statement to “preserve and enhance the traditions and diversity of the Pike Place Market community.”
Echoing the Market’s opening day in 1907, this first meeting of community members and Seattle business owners paved the way for what was to come: a commitment to fostering a vibrant and diverse market community in the heart of downtown.