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Community Foundation for Southwest Washington honors those who care

Organization’s annual awards luncheon makes a triumphant return

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
3 Photos
The late Vaughn Lien, a founding principal of LSW Architects, was awarded the Friend of the Foundation award for his years of support for the Foundation. "He had a beautiful mind," said friend and colleague Ralph Wilson. "I'm so proud to have known him and to see the light that he brought to every type of situation.
The late Vaughn Lien, a founding principal of LSW Architects, was awarded the Friend of the Foundation award for his years of support for the Foundation. "He had a beautiful mind," said friend and colleague Ralph Wilson. "I'm so proud to have known him and to see the light that he brought to every type of situation. His kindness and love for this community is something we will all miss." (The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington) Photo Gallery

Since 2004, the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington has presented three awards at its annual luncheon: the Friend of the Foundation award, the Community Champion award and Philanthropists of the Year.

In 2020, the luncheon and award ceremony were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, awards were presented virtually, but there was no in-person luncheon.

This year, the luncheon had a triumphant return — hundreds of people attended the event Tuesday at the Hilton Vancouver Washington, making the award ceremony a special celebration.

Here’s who was honored at this year’s luncheon:

Friend of the Foundation

The late Vaughn Lien, a founding principal at LSW Architects, was given the Friend of the Foundation award, which recognizes a community member who provided exceptional support for the foundation.

Lien served on the foundation’s board of directors for more than a decade, contributing thoughtful leadership and financial support to advance its mission.

Beyond his work with LSW Architects and the foundation, Lien supported multiple organizations across Southwest Washington, including the Columbia River Gorge Commission and the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools.

Lien died Sept. 24 2021, one day after Give More 24!, the foundation’s largest fundraising event of the year.

“He had a beautiful mind,” said Ralph Wilson of LSW Architects, who worked with Lien. “I’m so proud to have known him and to see the light that he brought to every type of situation. His kindness and love for this community is something we will all miss.”

Community Champion

Gerri Hiller was given the Community Champion award for her nearly 20 years of volunteer work with the Winter Hospitality Overflow shelter program at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Vancouver.

Hiller helped found the shelter program along with others in her congregation. At the time, the founders had one goal: “We thought we were going to end homelessness,” Hiller said.

Over the years, Hiller has had to calibrate her goal, but her passion for supporting those in need has only grown. She believes that compassion, determination and collaboration can provide people experiencing homelessness a path to reestablishing their lives in Clark County.

As a volunteer, Hiller helps provide meals and other resources at the Winter Hospitality Overflow shelter. She also helps with building upkeep. But what she does most is build relationships with those who stay at the shelter, who she affectionately calls “the guys.”

“They really are a good group of guys,” she said. “Some of them have made bad decisions. For some of them, it’s just life and home circumstances. Most of them have not had a relationship with a family, basically. It’s easy for me to step in as a mom or a grandma figure. It helps to build a relationship with them, because a lot of times when they first come in, they really don’t trust anybody. They’ve been hurt on the street, and so they really don’t trust. It takes a while, but once they can look you in the eye, then you know they’re coming around, and that’s a good feeling.”

When she started working with people experiencing homelessness, some of her family members were concerned. Now, many of them — including her two grandsons — have volunteered at the shelter, too.

“It’s become a family thing,” she said. “For two years in a row, my grandsons brought the La Center high school basketball team down to the WHO to volunteer for a night. It was fun. And the guys enjoyed it, too. I believe that if we can bring our kids in on the ground floor and help them understand what life is all about, I think there’s a chance to make the world a better place.”

Since 2020, Hiller has had to cut back on her volunteer hours, but she still visits the shelter weekly to help.

“It isn’t just one person who makes these things happen,” she said. “I am surrounded by people who have caught the vision and who are excited about being involved. Together we learn, and together we make it happen.”

Philanthropists of Year

Ron and Terry Prill were recognized as the 2022 Philanthropists of the Year for their two decades of charitable leadership around youth development and health care-related causes.

Ron and Terry spent the first few decades of their marriage working for the Target Corp., which required them to move frequently. In a span of 20 years, the couple moved nearly 10 times, never spending more than a few years in one place.

“Because we moved that many times, we never really got involved with nonprofit agencies or other things in communities,” Ron said.

After retiring, the couple moved to Camas. Shortly after, Ron was invited to join the board of the Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Washington. The experience ignited a passion in him for community organizations, and since then, both Ron and Terry have supported numerous nonprofits across Clark County.

After Ron received life-saving care at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, the couple began supporting the hospital along with other health care-related nonprofits.

They attribute their philanthropic success to the strong giving community in Clark County.

“We have really just been amazed at the real generosity that so many people in this town and this community show and have shown,” Ron said. “It really is an inspiration.”

“Our nonprofits are an important part of what Southwest Washington is all about,” Terry said.

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Columbian staff writer