Rural Oregon Public Pools

Public swimming pools are a vital community amenity. Kids (and adults) learn how to swim there, a life-saving skill in Oregon with our lakes and rivers and irrigation canals. A local swimming pool also serves as a community gathering space, creating memories of playing and splashing with friends and family at the pool on hot summer days.

But pools have a limited lifespan, and many pools that were built fifty or sixty years ago have reached that limit. Towns across Oregon are studying options: renovating, replacing, or reaching for the ultimate aquatic center. Eventually, planning committees all bump into the hard facts of finance. Not only funding the high costs of construction, but how to pay ongoing operating and maintenance expenses.

Some communities in rural Oregon have found answers and have been successful in building and operating their public pools. The Shelk Foundation commissioned a study to learn how they did it and released a 26-page report late this summer. Copies are available in Prineville at the Central Oregonian and Crook County Parks and Rec; or request a copy by emailing


Prineville “Likes” Facebook

We Love Facebook

When Facebook announced its very first data center would be built in Prineville, most people hardly knew what Facebook was, much less what to do with it. What quickly became apparent, though, was from the very beginning Facebook was committed to playing a positive role in the community.

Prineville Data Center Community Action Grants

Facebook grants due

A local grants program is just one of the many ways Facebook and the people who work at the Prineville data center contribute to Prineville and Crook County. Since the community grant program began in 2011, Facebook has awarded more than $1.5 million to local schools and nonprofits.

2019 Grants Totaled $210,000

Eighteen programs and organizations received Facebook grants this year. Projects ranged from providing technology access to seniors in a local assisted living facility to purchasing rocket kits for the 4H STEM Club. Crook County Kids, an after-school program, received $6497.98 to purchase Sphero robotics kits to teach programming and coding skills. Kiwanis received $25,000 to help complete a community splash pad and Better Together received $10,000 to help establish a student internship program linking the business community with the schools.

Facebook 2019 recipients

Facebook Community Grant recipients

Crook County schools received a large share of the 2019 grants, much of it for technology and STEM and CTE programs. “We are so grateful for Facebook helping to support our schools through their Community Grants program,” said CCHS Assistant Principal Joel Hoff. “These grants have allowed our educators to provide innovative and enriching learning activities for our students. With their support, we are able to leverage our resources to maximize the learning experience for all CCSD students.”


Bringing Grants into Grant County

Five years ago the Shelk Foundation partnered with the Juniper Arts Council to administer the Shelk Community Grants. Since then the Council has granted a total $15,000 to Grant County nonprofit organizations and projects.

Kids across the county have benefited from grants to 4H and FFA clubs, the Cinnebar Mountain Playdays, and for Lego nights at the library. Community grants have also supported CASA, Heart of Grant County, Mt. Vernon Grange, and purchased safety gear for a Blue Mountain Community College welding class at Grant Union High School.

FFA Prairie City blooms

Prairie City FFA greenhouse

Cinnebar Mtn Playday JAC [2]

Cinnebar Mountain Playday patriotism

Healthy and Fit Kids JAC

Healthy ‘n’ Fit Kids day camp

Juniper Arts Council disburses about $7000 annually for the Oregon Cultural Trust which supports art, arts education and cultural heritage in Grant County. It also offers scholarships to Grant County college students pursuing a degree in an arts-related field.

CulturalTrust2019 BME photo

2019 Cultural Trust grant recipients                                                                                                                                                                                 — photo courtesy of Blue Mountain Eagle

All in all, the Juniper Arts Council distributes more than $10,000 every year in Grant County for a range of community projects. In addition, they provide local training and experience in writing grants. This fits nicely with the Shelk Foundation’s goal to help build skills and provide tools to successfully bring more grants from larger statewide foundations into Grant County.

Deadline for the 2019 Shelk Community Grant is April 5. Applications are available from Karin Barntish, 131 West Main Street, John Day 97845. For information, phone Kris Beal at 541-932-4892.

Gratitude for the Grantors

Sunset over Monument

Sunset over Monument

The Monument Senior Center kitchen renovation was such a success story, we have to revisit it. This time is to acknowledge and express gratitude to the many foundations who granted nearly $100,000 to the project.

The Charis Fund was first in with a grant for a convection oven. The Ford Family Foundation came in next to help replace the refrigerator/freezer compressors and evaporators. Grants from the Collins Foundation, the Oregon Community Foundation and the Shelk Advised Fund went toward a new range, griddle, water heater, dishwasher and commercial mixer.

With the kitchen complete the Gorge Community Foundation and the Joyce Miller Owens Charitable Foundation topped off with large grants to upgrade the building entrance with a new ramp, ADA railings and exterior lighting, repair damage and replace the floors in the entry hall and meeting room, and bring the restroom fixtures and floors up to date and ADA accessible.

Thank you to the funders who answered the need in this remote town with a population of 125. You recognized a project that was well-planned and vital to the local community – the building is used more than 200 times a year. Last year alone 56 people volunteered 3,476 hours and drove a combined 15,555 miles to help operate the senior center, maintain the building, and host events and programs. Your dollars were put to good use!

Receiving a Bigger Grant Than You Requested

Very rarely does a foundation grant more money than a nonprofit has requested. But that has happened – TWICE in the last year – to the Monument Senior Citizens Association.

On the surface, the Monument Senior Center project was similar to many others.

The kitchen appliances bought used 25 years ago were wearing out and getting harder and harder to MacGyver together. The building needed some renovation to make the entrance and bathrooms ADA compliant. And on the “wouldn’t it be nice” list was a cement floor, electricity and shelving in the storage building.

Jan Ensign with new convection oven, range and griddle

So what made the difference to funders?

Passionate volunteers was one factor. Judy Harris loves fundraising and tirelessly organized rummage sales, auctions, and established an annual Buckaroo Harvest Festival. Elaine Eisenbraun researched foundations and wrote grants. The entire board was on hand to prepare three meals a day for four days for hundreds of visitors during the 2017 Eclipse to raise money for the project.

Jan Ensign and Judy Harris

Strong local support also made a difference. Alongside the volunteers was a community who stepped up and offered whatever they could: salmon, elk and potatoes for the Harvest Festival dinner, donations and bidders for the auctions, personal contacts with out-of-town funders and donors.

Good planning and budgeting was important, too. Jan Ensign set up a solid accounting system and diligently tracked every dollar contributed and spent. Projects often were completed under budget because of unexpected inkind donations of labor and material from local electricians, plumbers and contractors. Whenever money from a grant was left over, she contacted the foundation. Each time, the response was, “What else do you need? Put the extra money toward that.”

Foundations love to support a community working together for the greater good. The Monument Senior Center not only hosts senior meals. It is also home to the local library and provides meeting space for 4-H clubs and sewing groups, city council and soil and water committees, EMT trainings, monthly medical and foot clinics, birthday parties, weddings, funerals, class reunions, bingo and bunco. Thanks to a lot of people, the center will still be there when the kids coming now for 4-H meetings will be socializing there at senior meals.

Annual Christmas Tree Auction Sets the Mood for the Holiday Season

For 27 years people have been decorating trees, sewing quilts, and donating silent auction items for the Hospice Christmas Auction and Dinner. And then buying them back — sometimes paying thousands of dollars for a Christmas tree.

Of course these are not ordinary Christmas trees. The top seller this year, at a bid of $6700, also included a generous travel voucher for when winter thoughts wander to warmer climes.

Rosendin tree edit

Another was decorated in memory of loved one and his favorite movie.


In true Prineville spirit, the auction and dinner is held in the Crook County Fairgrounds indoor arena, which on other weekends hosts rodeos, the 4-H fair and high school graduation.


There are no limits to what people in rural communities will do to help each other. More than 700 attended this year’s event raising more than $90,000.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Everyone from the Shelk Foundation!











For the Kids

By next summer Crook County kids (and grown-up kids) will have new places to play. A splash pad for the littles, an awesome skate park for the teenagers, and four pickleball courts for everyone.

Imagine a skatepark from this
old skatepark
to this
new skatepark sign

pickleball courts here…..                               and kids splashing in water fountains here
old tennis court[1]  fundraising sign

A combined effort including businesses,service organizations, local government, volunteers and grants, along with tenacity and perseverance, made it possible. There are no limits to what a community can do when people work together!


                                                       photo courtesy of Jason Chaney, Central Oregonian

IMG_1765 cropped (1)

  photo courtesy of Jason Chaney, Central Oregonian