Working Together to Connect Resources and People

Last year 51 organizations in Wheeler, Grant and Crook counties, as well as others serving Eastern Oregon, received a total $164,351 from the Shelk family through its various funding sources.

We support projects that improve people’s lives across a spectrum of education, youth development, civic engagement, natural resources, arts and culture, and children and families in need. A domestic shelter in Grant County, a 4-H STEM project in Wheeler County, a youth summer theater camp in Prineville and a senior center in Monument are a few examples. This past year we also funded a food bank, the Hatfield lecture series, a newspaper intern program, and a butterfly garden.

Shelk Foundation grants are relatively small, but the impact is large. Our funding serves as matching local support, an important factor that larger statewide foundations including Oregon Community Foundation, the Ford Family Foundation, Collins, Miller, and Reser consider when evaluating grant applications.

Because of our relationships with other funders, Shelk Foundation support of a local project serves as a “seal of approval” that can help leverage larger grants. As funders conduct their due diligence on grant proposals, they often reach out to us for our insight and knowledge of local projects and needs.

It is a great partnership and we all – local organizations, statewide funders, and the Shelk Foundation – are working together to connect resources and people in the communities we serve.

The Costs of Building and Operating Public Pools

A number of communities around the Northwest are facing the decision to repair or replace aging public swimming pools. And the cost has risen significantly!

An outdoor pool built in 1948 for $40,000 would cost nearly $2 million today just to renovate and upgrade the existing structure. A basic indoor pool built in 1979 for $2 million would cost upward of $10 to $12 million now.

The public’s expectations of a public pool have changed, too. Public pools in some towns are becoming more than a place to learn to swim and cool off on a hot day. Pools are incorporated into year-round aquatic centers that provide a variety of physical fitness and recreation activities. Costs to build these facilities can range from $20 to $78 million.

And then there are the ongoing expenses of operations and repair. Personnel, heat, maintenance, materials and supplies for a year-round indoor pool facility cost at least half a million dollars annually.

The Shelk Foundation report, Rural Oregon Public Pools: A Comparison of Communities, Amenities, and Costs, comes to the conclusion that the most practical and likely funding mechanism for building and operating public swimming pools and recreation centers is a taxing district. Grants, donations and sponsorships comprise an important piece of the funding strategy, but are not enough.

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The report also highlights a number of small communities in rural Oregon that recently have built and are operating public pools.

The common factors are for their success? Developing a thoughtful and realistic financial plan to pay for construction and operations, building strong, broad-based community support and partnerships, and finally going to the voters with a reasonable bond request.

Our report was written to share information, facts and data that may help other communities plan the construction of a new pool. To order your free copy, email:


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