Nonprofit leader wins regional award

Lawson Knight of the Blue Mountain Community Foundation was named volunteer of the year by Philanthropy Northwest.

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Lawson Knight

WALLA WALLA — A leader in the Walla Walla nonprofit community was recognized this week at the Philanthropy Northwest annual conference.

The meeting took place locally for the first time at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center, Monday through Wednesday.

On the first day, staff members at Philanthropy Northwest voted to give Lawson Knight, executive director of the Blue Mountain Community Foundation, the Mary Helen Moore Volunteer of the Year award.

Knight does exceptional work at home and throughout the region, said David Landers, deputy director of the Seattle-based agency that educates, promotes and facilitates collaborative action by 200 philanthropic organizations in Washington state, Alaska, Montana, Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming.

“Lawson has shown tremendous leadership among his peer groups, being a community leader, making connections and interacting with other community foundations,” Landers said this morning. “He has also really set an example of how community foundations can work.”

What Knight does in his role as leader of BMCF in Walla Walla is duplicated and magnified in his work elsewhere, the deputy director added. “He is incredible. We’ve learned a lot from Lawson.”

Specifically, what Knight is able to teach other foundation directors is the power of collaboration, which is especially important in challenging economic times — not only in the immediate assistance to groups working for the good of their communities, but in providing a way for people to make legacy investments to causes and places dear to their hearts, Landers said. “Community foundations … are more than just dollars and donors.”

He agrees with Monday’s choice, said Jock Edwards, executive director of the Don and Virginia Sherwood Trust and co-chair for the 2012 Philanthropy Northwest conference.

“I think Lawson plays a vital role in providing expertise and an immense resource to local nonprofit corporations, to build their capacity and improve their effectiveness.”

Getting the Mary Helen Moore award was a surprise, Knight said this morning. “It’s an honor.”

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