Judith Youde woke at 5:45 a.m. Tuesday to the sounds of birds singing outside her open bedroom window.
Their simple yet beautiful songs welcoming the sunrise made her think about the day ahead and inspired her to look up “philanthropy” in the dictionary.
The first definition she saw — “affection for mankind” — was equally beautiful in its simplicity.
“We care very much about people,” Judith Youde said Tuesday afternoon as she and her husband, Jim, were honored as 2019 Philanthropists of the Year during the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington’s luncheon. “We see needs, and we fill needs.”
About 650 people attended the luncheon at the Hilton Vancouver Washington to recognize those who make the community better by giving their money, time and support.
“Philanthropy is addictive,” Judith Youde said. “There is always more to do, more to give.”
Alan Hamilton, president of the Clark County Food Bank, introduced the Youdes with a short video. Hamilton credited the couple with virtually establishing his organization, which works to alleviate hunger and its root causes. Today, the regional food bank distributes 6.6 million pounds of food and 5.5 million meals a year.
“But it is really how they live that makes a difference,” Hamilton said. “They care about people, and they volunteer and help.”
The Youdes have donated to other organizations, including Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington, the Columbia Land Trust and New Heights Church. They have been steady supporters of Vancouver Women’s Foundation, which provides financial assistance to women who have immediate, acute needs preventing them from attaining self-sufficiency.
In 2009, the couple pledged $1.4 million to Oregon State University. The Youdes met while attending college there and married shortly after graduation. Both had scholarships, so it’s no surprise they wanted the majority of their $1.4 million to be used for scholarships.
Judith Youde received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and taught high school business classes for several years. Jim Youde received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and went on to earn a master’s degree and doctorate in economics from the University of Wisconsin.
In 1977, Jim and Judith Youde founded Northwest Economic Associates Inc., a natural resource and economics consulting firm. Jim Youde served as the company’s president for 20 years. Judith Youde managed its finances for 18 years as secretary/treasurer and chief financial officer.
Since retiring, they have continued their philanthropy and community work.
“We continue to thank the Lord for the many generous folks who support worthy causes in our community,” Jim Youde said. “Most of all, I thank God for bringing Judith to me in the OSU library.”
The Community Foundation is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. It has helped establish more than 330 charitable funds and $189 million in charitable investments. It currently manages $292 million in total assets.
Mark Matthias, owner of Beaches Restaurant & Bar and chairman of the Community Foundation’s board of directors, started the luncheon by broadly discussing philanthropy.
“Philanthropy is about caring for one another, connecting with each other, even when we have differences,” he said.
Matthias evoked the legacy of Ed and Dollie Lynch, who contributed to many causes. In 1985, they gave $100,000 to the Community Foundation to launch its administrative endowment.
“Their vision for the community was as big as buildings and endowments and as small as food on the table,” Matthias said.
Tuesday’s luncheon recognized several other people in Southwest Washington for their community and charitable contributions.
Jim Martin was honored as this year’s Friend of the Foundation, which is presented to a person who provides professional and personal support to the Community Foundation’s mission of promoting philanthropy in Southwest Washington.
Martin, who spent three decades as chief investment officer for the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, said he doesn’t like receiving accolades.
“It’s not about receiving,” he said. “It’s about giving.”
The Ryan family of Clark County and Don and Margaret Fuesler of Cowlitz County were presented with Lifetime of Giving awards, which recognize individuals who make significant sacrifices for community philanthropy and service.
The entire Ryan family — parents Kevin and Annemarie and children Tristan, Aidan and Erin — have been involved in raising money for different causes.
The family’s volunteerism started with Courts for Kids, a nonprofit that builds basketball courts in impoverished countries. The family has raised in excess of $1 million for different causes, including Children’s Cancer Therapy Development Institute, Christian Youth Theater and Clark County Food Bank.
Kevin Ryan urged those in attendance Tuesday to give more than they take and to give until it hurts.
“We wouldn’t be up here if it wasn’t for an incredible community we live in,” he said.
Janie Spurgeon, executive vice president and chief development officer for the Community Foundation, introduced Don Fuesler as World War II veteran who is about to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied forces invaded Nazi-occupied France during World War II.
“This day almost claimed his life but served as a catalyst to cause him to care deeply for human life and choose a career as a physician,” Spurgeon said
The Fueslers have supported many causes, including the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts, Cowlitz County Court Appointed Special Advocates and Cowlitz County Historical Society.
Don Fuesler gave the shortest remarks of anyone who spoke during Tuesday’s luncheon.
“I was told I could say a few words, so here they are: A few words,” he said, drawing both laughter and applause as he walked off the stage.