Since 1970, the Chief Seattle Club has been the place in town for a hot breakfast and dose of hope for urban native people in need. But now the club...

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Since 1970, the Chief Seattle Club has been the place in town for a hot breakfast and dose of hope for urban native people in need. But now the club has an even bigger goal in sight: renovating a blighted block of Pioneer Square, with a new, $5.3 million community center designed by Johnpaul Jones, the nationally acclaimed architect.


After decades of leasing space at various locations in Pioneer Square, the club has launched a fund-raising campaign to restore a historic, vacant building at Second Avenue South between Yesler and Washington streets for its own facility.


So far, $4.3 million has been donated, including major gifts from the Norcliffe Foundation; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation; Seattle Foundation, and others, especially Steve Trainer, a partner with the Seneca Real Estate Group, and his wife Tricia, who donated the building and a pledge of $1 million for its renovation.


The move will enable the club to renovate the historic Monterey Hotel, vacant since the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, into a community center designed by Jones, the lead designer for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.


The new building is intended to reflect the culture and spirituality of native people, and consolidate the club’s services — now provided in three locations — under one roof, as well as renovated artist apartments on the upper two floors.


The heart of the new building will be a gathering circle with walls made from hand-adzed red cedar planks, and a wood floor. The dining area and gathering circle will not only serve club members but will be available for receptions, ceremonies and presentations to the public on native art and culture.


How to help


For more information to volunteer or to donate: Chief Seattle Club, 113 Cherry St., Seattle, WA 98104. Phone 206-292-6214.

The center needs backpacks, sleeping bags and breakfast food, including cereal, milk, eggs and meats.


Breakfast is served Monday-Friday from 7-9 a.m., at the Lazarus Day Center, 416 Second Ave. Phone 206-623-7219.


The center is open to Alaska Native and American Indian men, women and children.


A studio for native carvers, beadworkers and other artists is envisioned, and space on the first floor to display and sell native arts and crafts to the public.


Ground breaking is scheduled for October, with the center completed in about a year.


Founded in 1970 by a Jesuit priest, the Chief Seattle Club is 100 percent privately funded, and devoted exclusively to meeting the needs of urban native people. It’s run almost entirely by native people, many of them formerly homeless, but now quiet role models for what, with sobriety, life can be.


The club has long been more than just a day center and soup for homeless or troubled Indian people and Alaskan Natives who are homeless, out of money or out of luck.


They arrive each morning bleary, exhausted, used up, or bright-eyed and eager for company. Grant Buffalocap, a Cree Indian and formerly a homeless alcoholic himself, takes it all in stride, checking folks in and getting them settled as the cooks bustle in the kitchen, readying scrambled eggs with sausage, hot biscuits, oatmeal, juice, hot coffee and fresh melon, even sack lunches.


The club calls itself a sacred space that nurtures and renews the spirit of urban native people. Drum; sing; dance; burn sweet grass and sage and fan the smoke head to toe as a cleansing ritual, a blessing, a hope for a day without hurt: No one here would call that strange, indeed, they might join in.


“It keeps the unity of the native circle,” said Hiram Leggs, Blackfoot, Gros Ventre and homeless. “They help me with socks, clothes, a good meal. And you’ve got people from the native community, that makes you feel like you are still part of something that hasn’t been lost.”


There’s no sermon delivered here. Just a warm welcome, hot meals, clean bathrooms, showers and fresh towels, a laundry, donated clothes, and van transportation for hospital visits and family emergencies.


The club also gives people on the street a place to get their mail; use the Internet and e-mail; get referrals for drug and alcohol treatment; make long-distance calls; and get basic necessities, from blankets to toiletries, all in an alcohol- and drug-free environment. Smoking is contained to a lounge.


Last year, the club served about 700 people and 22,100 hot meals to native people from about 250 nations across the country. Typically 85-125 people are served a day, nearly 30 percent of them women.


Lennette Kaulaity, 51, a Colville Indian — formerly a drinking buddy of Buffalocap’s on the street — today volunteers at the center. She says she is planning to display her beadwork in the new building. But her most valuable demonstration might be her life: sober now, after five tries, and living independently, in her own apartment.


“I come down here to volunteer and try to show there is a different way to live, without alcoholism.”


Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or lmapes@seattletimes.com