It began in 1973, when a group of parents, government leaders and educators organized to address the growing problem of drug use among Auburn’s youth.
But things did not begin to take shape until a former Franciscan priest named Dick Brugger came aboard in 1976 to lend his seemingly boundless energy to establishing and developing Auburn Youth Resources — later Nexus Youth and Family Services and today the YMCA Auburn Social Impact Center — into an important community-based counseling center.
Two years after his death, Brugger’s name still carries a lot of weight in the Auburn community. And during a ceremony from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. June 4, the YMCA of Greater Seattle will dedicate the L-shaped building on its campus at 932 Auburn Way South to Brugger.
“Dick really started a legacy in the South King County community, so this is a way to honor his legacy and what he did for the community as one of the founding members of what was AYR,” said Scott Schubert, Senior Director of Homeless and Housing Services for the YMCA Auburn Social Impact Center. “It’s also a way for us at the YMCA to honor his legacy and tradition.”
Schubert said that 2020 merger was what recently gave the YMCA’s movers and shakers the idea to dedicate the support building on its campus to Brugger. The building houses YMCA’s behavioral health clinic and provides an opportunity for youth and young adults to access medical care through a partnership YMCA has with the University of Washington. It is also a meeting center.
“He would be so excited to have a building named after him,” said Brugger’s daughter Jessie Brugger. “He was so passionate about that job. It wasn’t even a job to him. He was so passionate about helping youth and families, and bringing families together. He just believed in people. He would be so happy and honored. We’re honored, too. We’re so excited for this, it’s such a great honor.”
Curiously, this is not the first time one of the organization’s buildings has borne the Brugger name.
The first dedication was in April 2009, and it concerned a building at 816 F Street that had served as Auburn Youth Resources’ mental health counseling center, and over the years had incubated many of the agency’s successful programs. No one with whom the Auburn Reporter spoke knew exactly when that structure had left the organization’s control.
On that occasion, Dick Brugger said he could hardly believe friends and supporters would do such a crazy thing.
“What a gesture,” the former AYR director said then. “It’s so incredible. I certainly didn’t expect this.”
“I put everything I had into this agency,” Brugger said at the time. “From the shelters and drug programs to the work along the Sea-Tac area and Interstate 5, a lot of the stuff started here,” he said. “Teen pregnancy was one of the big issues we dealt with, and we got the community to be aware of that from here.”
Under Brugger’s leadership, AYR began the first outreach, emergency shelter and residential programs for homeless and abandoned youth in the area. Working with the City of Federal Way, Brugger helped establish a drop-in center near what was then called the SeaTac Mall for youth in need of shelter and protection.
“He is our father, leader and mentor. The man is AYR,” then executive director Jim Blanchard said at that earlier dedication.