How can philanthropists, nonprofits and communities overcome seemingly impossible challenges?
That was the question on everyone’s mind Tuesday afternoon at the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington’s annual luncheon, which was held at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.
Hundreds of people were in attendance, marking a triumphant return for the event following a two-year hiatus spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s theme was “moving mountains.”
The event began with a farewell. Jennifer Rhoads used the event to say goodbye to the organization that she served for nine years as president.
“Because of the pandemic, I haven’t been able to say a proper goodbye to everyone,” she said. “I want to thank the outstanding team that I have had the honor of working alongside over these years. Every co-worker at the foundation lives out their values, and I’m so proud to have worked with them.”
During her tenure, the foundation distributed more than $100 million in grants.
“During the same time, donors and fund holders grew our region’s charitable assets more than fivefold, making this community foundation the second largest in the state of Washington,” Rhoads said.
Following her speech, Rhoads welcomed incoming President Matt Morton to the stage. Before stepping away, however, Morton, a member of the Squaxin Island Tribe, presented her with a gift: a ceremonial blanket.
“I want to take a moment to acknowledge Jennifer and those many, many contributions that she’s made to both our organization and also our region,” he said. “You’ve built trusted, lasting relationships and assembled a remarkable team. You have truly lived your values, and we are all the better for it.”
Morton went on to discuss how the foundation has helped grow nonprofits throughout Southwest Washington.
“Throughout our work, we’re building deep lasting partnerships with nonprofits and also prioritizing connections between communities to find common ground, where work can really take root,” he said. “The progress we’ve made together represents the immense possibility of where we can go from here. At the Community Foundation, we’re moving mountains by putting trust, collaboration and equity to work.”
Then, a video featuring local nonprofits such as iUrban Teen and YWCA Clark County was shown.
“The vision of these nonprofits reflects the vision of our communities,” Morton said. “Transformative work is happening because our community shows the courage to try and the commitment to see it through.”
The luncheon marked the first anniversary of the foundation’s Social Justice Resiliency Fund that was launched in response to the pandemic. The fund is aimed at addressing systemic inequities and has so far granted $550,000 to local organizations.
“Thanks to the hard work of the staff and board and the generosity of our donors, at the end of last year, your Community Foundation had $413 million of charitable assets invested for a bright future in our community,” Morton said. “At the end of the day, these charitable investments don’t make an impact unless we’re moving resources into communities with the deepest needs. So we’re doing just that. In 2021, we granted more than $26 million to nonprofits and community-based organizations.”
Following Morton’s remarks was an award ceremony. The late Vaughn Lien, a founding principal at LSW Architects, was awarded the Friend of the Foundation award for his support for the foundation. Gerri Hiller was awarded the Community Champion Award for her nearly 20 years of volunteer work with the Winter Hospitality Overflow shelters and her ongoing work supporting people experiencing homelessness in Clark County. And Ron and Terry Prill were awarded the Philanthropists of the Year Award for their two decades of support for organizations focused on youth development and health care.
Keynote speaker Tyler Monk, a first-generation college graduate, entrepreneur and founder of The Underdog Mentality, spoke of the importance of courage, commitment, confidence and community.
Morton closed the event by reflecting on transformational change.
“This is my first annual luncheon, but I am just truly amazed not only by the honorees and the sentiments that have been shared, but by the breadth of knowledge, the love, the experience and the energy that we have in this room, which I think is really important for us, because we’re talking about moving mountains,” he said. “One thing I heard from our nonprofits and our honorees is that solving big problems takes communities working together. Our community provides the strength and momentum to make systems change and culture shift possible.
“The best way to move a mountain is one piece at a time.”