In today's economy, grant-giving foundations are more important than ever in helping agencies that serve a community's most vulnerable.

In today's economy, grant-giving foundations are more important than ever in helping agencies that serve a community's most vulnerable.

The Carpenter Foundation, which provides everything from funding for local arts groups to medical equipment to scholarships for high school graduates, topped the valley's list of the top 10 charitable foundations in 2010.

The foundation was established by orchardist Alfred S.V. Carpenter and Helen Bundy Carpenter in 1942. Back then it was called the Jackson County Recreation Agency and provided recreational activities for servicemen at Camp White. The foundation was reorganized in 1958 as a general-purpose family foundation.

President Emily Carpenter Mostue, who is Alfred and Helen's niece, says the foundation provides grants to local organizations geared at making the community a better place to live.

Its assets have grown from $1 million to more than $20 million and grants have increased from 57 in 1959 to 100 in 2008. In fiscal year 2010, the foundation gave $676,000 in grants, according to its website,

Among its first recipients were the now-Rogue Valley Medical Center and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for construction of its current Elizabethan Stage, which opened in 1959.

OSF Executive Director Paul Nicholson called the Carpenter Foundation "a force in this valley for 50 years."

"We understand that the OSF is the only organization that they have supported for every one of those 50 years and we are deeply honored by their ongoing commitments to the festival and to our work on stage," Nicholson says.

"For a great many years they have provided grants that have enabled us to offer low-cost tickets to students throughout the Rogue Valley, and we know that thousands and thousands of students have gained their first exposure to quality professional theater through the generosity of the Carpenter Foundation."

Jennifer Mylenek, executive director for Court Appointed Special Advocates of Jackson County, echoed similar sentiments.

This past year, the foundation funded a case supervisor, keeping three-dozen CASAs on duty for at-risk children.

"CASAs are the first ones in the home to do the preliminary assessments, and they have really helped us sustain our important work," says Mylenek.

"With funding being what it is, we were in danger of losing a case supervisor, which would have meant the loss of supervision for 30 or 40 CASAs," Mylenek said.

"I can't even think of what would have happened without that funding."

Polly Williams, program officer for the Carpenter Foundation, says those who serve on the foundation's board cannot imagine not being able to help the many individuals who serve the community.

"It's incredibly rewarding to see what organizations can do with relatively small amounts of money," Williams says.

"When we did our 50th anniversary a number of years ago I actually did some research and I think they have impacted something like over 600 different organizations they have funded over the years."

She adds, "It's been pretty amazing."

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Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at