Community Foundation honors seasoned, new philanthropists

Awards presented at annual luncheon

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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Some philanthropists are blessed with the means to give a lot, all at once. Others, with pockets not quite so deep, manage to give a lot, too — but in a steady stream, across a lifetime of measured generosity. Some have a wealth of knowledge about financial markets and community needs. Others are just getting started, and can use expert guidance.

The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington honored all types of philanthropists at its annual luncheon on Tuesday — from major donors and corporate sponsors, to dedicated teachers who buy their own classroom supplies, to high school students learning to vet charities and make decisions with real money, to anybody who’s ever slogged through a walkathon for some worthy cause.

“Reconsider whether you belong in the company of the DuPonts and the Rockefellers,” said Foundation board member Candace Young, after asking everyone who’s ever done even the most modest of these things to stand and be recognized — which meant everyone in the room. One popular view of philanthropy, Young said, is you give millions and wind up with your name on a building — but it also should mean the smallest of gestures, the tiniest of teachings. A parent who encourages a child to share a toy or a hug “is mortaring the building blocks of philanthropy,” Young said.

She pointed to various recent scientific studies — such as a 2010 “Do Good, Live Well” study by UnitedHealthcare and VolunteerMatch, which surveyed more than 4,500 American adults and found that 68 percent of those who volunteered in the past year said it made them feel healthier and better emotionally.

“Your gifts will return to you tenfold in the form of the bounty to your own spirit” when you choose to do for others, Young said.

The Community Foundation is a clearinghouse for millions of dollars in charitable donations in Southwest Washington; in 2011 the total was $7.6 million. About 700 people attended the event at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

While the emphasis at the luncheon was on the wide variety of giving in our community — from airlifts of funds to drops in the bucket — there were a couple of special recognitions along the way.

Steve and Jo Marie Hansen were named Philanthropists of the Year for 2012. The Hansens were recognized for their ongoing support of Share, Boys & Girls Clubs, the Children’s Center, the Clark County Food Bank, the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington, Innovative Services NW and many more local charities.

But their standout effort was leading the fundraising for the return of a Catholic high school to Clark County for the first time in more than 40 years. The Hansens chaired a $2.5 million capital campaign that saw Seton High School open its doors in 2010. Now in its third year, Seton High School is about to graduate its first group of seniors. One school requirement is that students complete 100 service hours to graduate.

“When I was 30, I didn’t have a lot of money to give away,” said Jo Marie Hansen. But she realized that “starting small and giving to other people is what made me really happy.”

In modern American culture, she said, the notion of rugged independence is celebrated — but it’s also a red herring. Everybody is dependent on everybody else, she said, and “when we live like that, our lives work better.”

Scott and Jody Campbell, third-generation owners of The Columbian newspaper, were named Friends of the Foundation for 2012. The award recognizes people who have provided personal and professional support to the Community Foundation.

In the Campbells’ case, foundation president Richard Melching said, that support comes in a variety of ways: from hundreds of thousands of dollars in free advertising for local nonprofit agencies to the news, features and other information about charities and fundraisers that The Columbian regularly carries in its pages. Plus, the Campbells have been personally involved in numerous charitable causes — among them the Columbia Land Trust, Pink Power, People In Need and the Clark College Foundation.

“It’s always been a given that part of being a businessperson in this community — it always involves giving back,” Scott Campbell said during a videotaped statement at the luncheon. “I never considered it not being part of the game plan.”

“Some of the best people in town we’ve met through being involved in community service,” said Jody Campbell.

And two longtime local philanthropists were named as recipients of the first-ever Lifetime of Giving Award, honoring years of philanthropic generosity that were sometimes made thanks to “significant personal sacrifices,” Melching said. The winners were Harris Dusenbery and Margaret Colf Hepola.

Dusenbery, 96, paid tribute to his late wife, Evelyn, for encouraging their frugal and philanthropic lifestyle. Coming of age during the Great Depression had a profound effect on the couple’s outlook, he said. “We saw a lot of poverty at that time, and I think we developed a feeling that if we lived a simple life, then we’d be able to give generously to others,” he told The Columbian. Giving to others, he added, has a boomerang advantage: it brings joy back to you.

Harris and Evelyn Dusenbery have given to causes from Reed College scholarships to homeless services and a Vancouver performing arts fund, to name just a few. “I think the list of organizations I can deduct from my income tax is about 40,” Dusenbery quipped.

Margaret Colf Hepola, 94, is a famous name in north Clark County and Woodland, where she has led efforts such as the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens, the Old Grist Mill, Hayes Cemetery and the Amboy Historical Museum. She was instrumental in transforming an old La Center hospital into today’s town library. In 2006 she won an award named for her — the Margaret Colf Hepola Heritage Award — from the Clark County Historical Society for her work in historical preservation.

“If I leave a legacy with younger generations, it’s that I hope they will also help others,” said Hepola. “When you leave this world you only take what you have given away — your time and your kindness.”

To encourage everyone to consider philanthropy and the future, the Community Foundation invited the public to a seminar on planning a philanthropic bequest. It’s called “Touching Tomorrow: Leaving a Legacy” and it’s set for 4 to 5:30 p.m. May 31 at the Community Foundation office, 1053 Officers Row. Please RSVP at http://www.cfsww.org/legacy.html if you plan to attend.

Scott Hewitt: 360-735-4525; http://www.twitter.com/col_nonprofits;scott.hewitt@columbian.com.