Bringing Funders and Trainings to John Day

Recently more than 50 people from nonprofits in six counties gathered in John Day for a workshop on strategic planning. It was a great turn out and from all accounts the time was well-spent. Everyone learned something and valuable contacts were made.

Big thanks to Adrienne Graham and the Nonprofit Association of Oregon (NAO) for bringing practical and useful training to us way out here in Eastern Oregon. And thank you to the Oregon Community Foundation for funding the workshop so there was no charge to the people attending. Special thanks to Yvette Rhoades from The Ford Family Foundation who drove over 300 miles and 6+ hours to be with us in John Day!

Time and distance are big factors out here, something we accept without thinking much about it. But we do appreciate greatly when funders and nonprofit trainers make the sacrifice to come to us and our communities. Our shops, restaurants and motels also appreciate the visitors. And when you visit you get to see some beautiful scenery and meet some friendly and creative people.

You’re welcome to come see us anytime!

Good People Doing Good Things in Grant County

Teresa Aasness and her staff at Families First are doing an outstanding job helping children and families in Grant and Harney counties, beginning with prenatal counseling and installing car seats to parenting classes and home visits; and providing trauma-informed training to everyone who interacts with vulnerable children and families.

Rick Minster, Heart of Grant County board member, is spending most of his retirement hours finding property and funding to build a safe place for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse.

Derek Daly, CEO of the Blue Mountain Hospital, is traveling to Monument and other outlying communities to support local EMTs and emergency vehicles that will save time, and potentially lives, across Grant County.

John Day city manager Nick Green is working on a vision of making the John Day River accessible to the community and visitors with a connection of trails, parks, and innovative development that will attract new businesses and jobs to the area.

And the Grant County Library Foundation board is in the midst of a capital campaign asking friends and neighbors in Grant County to support a new county library. If everyone chips in, they could be breaking ground for a modern new county library within the next year!

Monument School Receives Trail Blazers Foundation Grant

Congratulations to Monument School for receiving a “Take it to the Court” grant from the Trail Blazers Foundation. The $2000 award will help fund the Missoula Children’s Theater, a week-long arts residency program that results in the production of a play involving every student in the K-12 school.

The Trail Blazer Foundation partners with Wells Fargo to award $110,000 annually to Oregon schools for a wide variety of academic, art, athletic and community programs. It is one of few grant programs that focuses specifically on local schools. More than 300 apply and Monument School was one of only 24 who were selected.

Monument’s proposal was compelling, but had a hitch with a technicality. Fortunately school superintendent Mickey Lane let us know he was applying for the grant. And when the Trail Blazer Foundation contacted the Shelk Foundation during their due diligence process, we were able to explain the idiosyncrasies of rural Eastern Oregon schools and communities.

Thank you to the Trail Blazers Foundation for recognizing and supporting rural Oregon!

Two Family Foundations Who Have Helped Make Crook County a Better Place

The Autzen Foundation

Mix badminton with tennis, throw in a little ping pong and you get pickleball, one of the America’s most popular growing sports. The craze has hit Crook County and when the local parks and recreation district wrote a request to build some playing courts, Autzen Foundation responded with a $4000 grant.

Some people think of pickleball as tennis lite, played on smaller courts with lower nets and using paddles and a whiffle ball. Others liken it to a giant game of ping pong. According to Wikipedia, pickleball was first played in 1965 at a family gathering on Bainbridge Island, Washington. However, contrary to urban legend, the game was NOT named after the family’s dog.

Long before pickleball was a “thing”, the Autzen Foundation has worked to make Oregon a better place. Founded in 1951, the family foundation supports youth, education, arts and culture, environmental, and social service organizations across the state. We thank them especially for their grants in Eastern Oregon.

The Lora L. and Martin N. Kelley Family Foundation Trust

Children won’t have to be shushed and made to sit quietly reading books in the Crook County library any more, thanks in part to a $5000 grant from the Kelley Family Foundation. Gone will be the traditional bookshelves and heavy tables and chairs. They will be replaced by lower, more accessible shelves and lighter, brighter furniture. Zones will be created to make a quiet place for reading and doing homework, a play area, an experiment and creation station, a science table, and an electronics area.

Librarian Buzzy Nielson explained, “We want to make the children’s library more conducive to learning and play. The new, lighter furniture will be mobile and easy to rearrange to create activity stations to encourage collaborative and imaginative play as well as quiet areas to read and study. We’re very appreciative of the Kelley Foundation for helping us create one of the best children’s library around.”

Welcome to Prineville

Earlier this year the Shelk Foundation invited a few of our friends to experience life in a rural community.


During the last week of July staff and trustees from Autzen Foundation, Kelley Family Foundation, Knudson Foundation, Lamb Foundation, MRG Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, Randall Charitable Trust, Reser Family Foundation, Spirit Mountain Community Fund, and Grantmakers of Oregon and SW Washington came to Prineville.

They met community leaders, volunteers, and regular folks as they were immersed in a culture and lifestyle very different from an urban area.

They hiked around the Crooked River Wetlands, the city’s new wastewater treatment project that is home to birds, native plants, walking trails, and educational kiosks designed by local students. A conventional, chemical treatment facility would have cost taxpayers $62 million. The wetlands were built for $7 million, including $3 million in grants.

They visited a family farm and learned the difference between boy carrots and girl carrots, and why both cutter bees and honey bees are necessary for pollinating crops. They also caught a glimpse of the long, hot days and hard work put in by every member of the family. They also saw the rewards of three generations spending time together.


They were surprised by the number and diversity of activities and events held at the county fairgrounds, the parks and the library. And how many county residents – nearly  everyone – used those community facilities during the year.

The visit was capped at Crook County High School, the only public high school in the county, with a graduation rate that ranks in the top 20 in Oregon. They learned about the variety of activities, clubs, sports, out-of-school programs and alternative teaching methods available to students and families. They talked with principals, teachers and the janitor who each connect with students at a different level. It was apparent the staff knew and cared about every student in the school and was committed to helping each one find success.


What did our visitors take away from their rural experience? In their own words, here are a few comments about their strongest impressions:

  • “The careful consideration of deep issues. They talk and think – not about the next new thing – but what will work here. I think that’s due to the deep relationships and good leadership.”
  • “Surprised by the sophistication and use of technology. How they knew exactly how much water was needed in the field. And the importance of good leadership leading the way forward.”
  • “The relationships, how well everyone worked together. Their willingness to hear both sides and not exactly compromise, but find the best solution for everyone.”
  • “The innovation – and courage – to make changes.”
  • “The anonymity in a city makes it easy. You can go out and no one knows you. You can’t do that in small communities.”
  • “Walking to dinner tonight I passed a couple people we met during the day. We stopped and visited. It was nice.”

So thank you all for coming. It was a great experience for all of us.

Statewide foundations award $500,000 in grants to meet needs in Wheeler, Grant, Harney and Crook counties in 2016

Meals for seniors, shelter for the homeless, protection for neglected and abused children, bicycle and skate parks, music, libraries and community centers in the sparsely populated communities in Grant, Wheeler, Harney and Crook counties received grants this past year.

Awards ranged from $1,500 for musical instruments at Crook County High School to $41,450 for Kids Club of Harney County. The all-volunteer ambulance crew in Mitchell, at least an hour away from a hospital in either direction, purchased a power gurney with an Oregon Community Foundation grant. The Prairie City Senior Center received $7,000 from the Barbara Emily Knudson Charitable Foundation to build an emergency exit ramp.

All in all, at least a dozen Oregon foundations supported our counties in 2016. Thank you for recognizing the needs of our rural communities! Gratitude also goes to the dedicated nonprofit staff and many, many volunteers who work tirelessly to accomplish great things with limited resources.

New Year, New Grant Opportunities

As we pause and reflect at the beginning of a new year, we are grateful to all nonprofit staff and volunteers who give time and talent to your community and the people you serve. We also thank the foundations and donors whose financial investments in rural communities help us fill the gaps. May 2017 bring us more opportunities to work together and learn from each other.

Several grant deadlines are coming up in the next few months. Here is a partial list of Foundations who support rural nonprofits and communities and their application due dates.

January 15 – Oregon Community Foundation Community Grants
February 1 – Reser Family Foundation
March 15 – The Autzen Foundation
April 4 – The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation
June 1 – Trust Management Services (Wheeler, Grant, Harney, Malheur counties)

The Collins Foundation and The Ford Family Foundation have rolling deadlines with funding decisions made throughout the year. (Check their websites for more information.)

Nonprofits! Save time preparing your grant applications by keeping an updated file of the following information that nearly all funders need in addition to specific information about the project in the grant request:

  • List of current board members and their affiliations
  • Copy of IRS letter of determination of 501(c)(3) status
  • Organization budget for current year
  • Project budget showing projected income sources and expenditures
  • Organization financial statement including balance sheet and statement of activity (revenue and expense)

Before applying, study each foundation’s website to be sure your organization’s proposal fits that foundation’s fields of interest.

Oregon Community Foundation:
Reser Family Foundation
The Autzen Foundation:
The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation
Trust Management Services
The Collins Foundation
The Ford Family Foundation