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

Wheeler County Made the National News

The Atlantic magazine sent a reporter to Fossil and Mitchell to talk to people about how things have changed in the past 50 years. What she learned was featured in an article in the June 2016 issue called “The Graying of Rural America.”

The story is realistic and hopeful. It describes the people of Wheeler County as resilient, self-sustaining, and smart – able to make the decisions they need to make to continue living in Oregon’s frontier.

You can read the whole story by clicking on this link:

The Atlantic is a literary and cultural commentary magazine with a national reputation as a high-quality review with a moderate worldview. It was founded in 1857 by several prominent people and writers of the day including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Greenleaf Whittier, and James Russell Lowell, who served as its first editor. Its circulation is nearly 500,000 subscribers.


Harney, Grant, Wheeler and Crook County Nonprofits Received More Than $1 Million in Grants in 2015!

Local grants ranged from $1000 to $200,000. They included general operating support as well as funding for staff and strategic planning. Grants also helped build new community meeting places and renovated or replaced kitchens, floors, and equipment for existing community buildings. Foundations funded projects at fairgrounds, parks, libraries, emergency shelters and food banks in communities across the four counties including Spray, Fossil, Long Creek, John Day, Burns and Prineville.

We know it takes hard work to plan a good project, research funders who have an interest in your project area, and then collect the information and write a grant that tells your story. Congratulations to our nonprofits! Well done!

Training and Workshops Pay Off

Most grant recipients were organizations who have sent people to grantwriting workshops and nonprofit trainings supported and endorsed by the Shelk Foundation.

With our encouragement, the Center for Nonprofit Stewardship (CNS) and Nonprofit Association of Oregon (NAO) brought their quality programs into our communities throughout the spring and fall, saving time and travel expense for hardworking community volunteers and staff.  We also worked with Rural Development Initiatives (RDI) to bring their Regards to Rural conference to Central Oregon for the first time last summer and to Ontario in June 2016.

Connections with Funders Build Awareness and Understanding

The Shelk Foundation helps in other ways, too, by bringing funders’ attention to critical needs and important projects in our counties.

When the Canyon Creek fire struck Grant County last summer our friends at Roundhouse Foundation provided Columbia Sportswear coats for students who had lost everything in the fire.

When a failing roof threatened the senior meal site in Fossil, we helped connect them with Meyer Memorial Trust who provided funds to fix the roof before winter.

The Lamb Foundation gave a significant grant to help start a family relief nursery in Prineville, and the Barbara Emily Knudsen Foundation brought their entire board of trustees to Burns in an innovative grantmaking process that included meeting face-to-face with nonprofit volunteers, listening to their grant proposals, asking questions, giving guidance and making truly informed grant decisions.

By working and learning together, we all make a difference in our rural counties.



We are here to help

Isobel Edwards Hall has been the center of community activity in Fossil since it was built nearly 50 years ago. Weddings, reunions, funerals, high school dances and public meetings are held there. It also serves as the weekly senior meal site.

In October, when Wheeler County Judge Chris Perry told us the roof was failing and there was a possibility the seniors would be without a meal site for the winter, we made a call to our friends at Meyer Memorial Trust. A few days before Thanksgiving, Judge Perry received news that Meyer awarded Wheeler County a $10,000 grant for emergency roof repairs on Isobel Edwards Hall.

“This grant is a godsend,” Judge Perry said. “We can’t thank Meyer Memorial Trust enough for their generous and timely grant. We also know it would not have been possible without the Shelk Foundation’s making the connection.”

Thank you for the compliment, Judge Perry. We are happy to help. That’s why we’re here – to build bridges and relationships between rural communities and foundations who want to assist but are not always aware of a community’s needs.