Grants show strength of local giving

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WALLA WALLA — It might have been the 27th annual discretionary grant giveaway for Blue Mountain Community Foundation, but fresh excitement was in the air at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center on Thursday evening.

Representing the newly-formed Milton-Freewater Ambulance Service Health District was Board Chairman Bill Howard. The granting event was a personal first for him as well as the district, he said. By the end of the evening, he would leave with a check for $2,500 for purchase of safety gear for emergency responders.

“We’re very proud they realized we’re struggling to get going,” Howard said this morning. “This will help us get a start.”

While Blue Mountain Community Foundation — which was recently named Nonprofit of the Year by Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce — has seen the same tough economic times every other nonprofit in the area has, the “foundation is very strong,” said Dan Reid, board of trustees president, in his opening presentation.

The organization was able to give away $228,358 for 2012, nearly $10,000 more than last year’s total of $218,686 in discretionary granting. The foundation began in 1984 with a $200,000 gift, based on the idea the Valley needed a way for community-minded donors to make long-term investments.

To date, BMCF has grown to $30,811,104 in cash, investments and other assets.

In the course of about 60 minutes, Executive Director Lawson Knight distributed some of the fruits of that initial seed via 65 grants to nonprofits in four counties, divided by seven “areas of impact.” Those areas were determined by the foundation’s mission statement to help donors invest in a healthy community.

This year, that looks like as follows:

$20,877 for art, including Athena’s Gem Theater restoration project, office construction for Dayton Historical Depot Society, Waitsburg Public School District music program and Walla Walla Valley Bands.

$96,250 for basic community needs, such as abating homelessness, providing domestic violence services and employment help. Helpline, American Red Cross Blue Mountain chapter, the Linus Project, Umatilla Morrow Head Start and the STAR Project were among recipients in this category.

$4,000 went to economy, including Dayton Developmental Task Force for directional signs and Lillie Rice Center for building improvements.

$42,961 benefitted education through programs such as the Blue Mountain Action Council adult literacy program, Columbia County Community Network to help those struggling from adverse childhood experiences, Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho for local scouting opportunities and Walla Walla Public Library’s technology lab support.

$2,200 was dedicated to environmental efforts by agencies such as Blue Mountain Land Trust.

$56,570 landed in the coffers of organizations that tackle health and wellness issues. Blue Mountain Heart to Heart, Rising Sun Clubhouse, the YWCA and Medical Teams International were among the recipients.

$5,500 was granted for groups promoting neighborhood living and social support. Blue Mountain Humane Society, Community Council and The Moms Network were the beneficiaries in the category.

“It makes me feel good to give that money away, that’s the God-honest truth,” Knight said morning. “We are fortunate that people have trusted us over the years to continue to invest in the health of our communities.”

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