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  • GUEST OPINION

    The power of local philanthropy

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  • Earlier this year the Oregon Shakespeare Festival wowed New York audiences with its commissioned play "All the Way," which won the Tony Award for best play and best actor. Now, thanks in part to a $125,000 grant last week from The Oregon Community Foundation, the festival is embarking on a new project, this one with a global reach. The grant will support an international artistic team in developing, designing, rehearsing and premiering the most popular modern play in China, "Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land," which will open in Ashland in 2015.
    The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is one of only 13 arts and culture organizations throughout the state to share in $1,102,300 this year from The Oregon Community Foundation’s Creative Heights Initiative, a new program that will help arts organizations take strategic risks, as well as provide unique opportunities for Oregonians to see high-quality new works.
    I am honored to serve on the board of The Oregon Community Foundation, our state’s largest charitable foundation, and to chair its Arts Committee. OCF supports much more than the arts, however. From education to dental health, from neighborhood livability to economic vitality, OCF supports the causes that Oregonians care about by making grants and awarding scholarships in every county.
    Unlike a private foundation, which typically is created by a single family’s wealth, a community foundation brings together many donors who pool their resources to create something larger than themselves. In OCF’s case more than 1,800 families, businesses, service clubs and others have created charitable funds under one umbrella. Each fund is unique: they vary in size and they vary in their charitable interests.
    For example, in Southern Oregon the Robertson E. Collins Fund, which honors the late Robbie Collins, who helped to preserve Jacksonville’s historic character, supports historic preservation. The Nye Family Fund, created by one of Medford’s original orchard families, supports programs for people with disabilities. And the Medford Rogue Rotary’s many scholarship funds help send dozens of local kids to college each year. Each of our donors, in their own way, is focused on making their communities, their regions and our state better.
    Forty years ago, when OCF’s founding board — including Medford’s Otto Frohnmayer — gathered to form an organization that could serve the entire state and unite Oregonians, they could scarcely have imagined that the first gift of $63,000 would be the rock on which generous Oregonians from all walks of life would build a $1.6 billion community foundation.
    OCF assets are a permanent endowment for the state. The money is invested prudently, so that it will be here to support Oregon in perpetuity, while at the same time generating earnings to help meet current needs. Last year OCF distributed nearly $70 million in grants and scholarships. More than 2,100 students across the state received scholarships, and in Jackson County that meant that 218 students received more than $500,000 to further their education.
    OCF’s grants in 2013 went to nearly 2,400 nonprofits statewide. For our county this meant $5 million distributed to organizations such as Kids Unlimited, the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, the Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon and the Upper Rogue Community Center.
    We are proud to be celebrating our 40th anniversary and, as we celebrate, we pay tribute to the thousands of generous donors, committed volunteers and effective nonprofits working in every corner of the state. Their generosity, passion and commitment fill me with great optimism for the future of The Oregon Community Foundation — and the future of the state.
    As we begin our second 40 years, OCF will use its role as civic leader to build partnerships among the public, private, business and philanthropic sectors to address statewide issues that no one sector can address alone. We will engage our donors at a deeper level and we will use our research capacity to focus resources on the most effective and promising practices, making significant inroads on issues such as education, health and economic vitality. We are here for Oregon, and we are here for good.
    Sue Naumes is a state board member of The Oregon Community Foundation and chairwoman of OCF’s Southern Oregon Leadership Council.
     
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