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Thursday, September 28, 2023
Sept. 28, 2023

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Community Foundation for Southwest Washington celebrates nonprofits, community members with luncheon

Keynote speaker talks about her experience transforming her neighborhood

By , Columbian staff writer
7 Photos
Keynote speaker Majora Carter, a community revitalization strategist, speaks to the audience at the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington's annual luncheon.
Keynote speaker Majora Carter, a community revitalization strategist, speaks to the audience at the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington's annual luncheon. (Carlos Fuentes/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Urban revitalization strategist Majora Carter hasn’t spent much time in Southwest Washington, but the message she shared with a crowd of several hundred in Vancouver during her speech about the importance of community development was a universal one.

“I believe that talent retention, the same tools that are used to grow successful companies, can also be used to build great neighborhoods for the people who were born and raised there,” Carter said during her keynote speech at the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington’s annual luncheon Tuesday afternoon, which celebrated the work of nonprofits and community members in the last year.

Carter, who originates from the Bronx in New York City and recently published a book, “Reclaiming Your Community,” spoke to the audience of donors and community members about the need for nonprofits and of her own experience transforming her neighborhood from a poor area with few resources to a thriving cultural and community space.

“We realized we’re not going to be able to keep our people in our community if we’re not creating the kind of opportunities for them to see themselves growing and staying,” she said during her speech.

Carter was one of several speakers at the luncheon that drew members and community organizers for a lunch of grilled chicken salad and various pastries at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

“I’d like to thank all of this year’s honorees for showing us that we all have something to contribute,” Matt Morton, president of the Community Foundation, said. “Your strengths, ideas and resources are uniquely important to this community. The next step is putting those gifts into the world.”

Morton spoke about some of the foundation’s work and accomplishments, which include reaching $374 million in charitable assets at the end of last year. He also praised the organization’s various community grants and its Social Justice and Resiliency fund, which gave $2.2 million to nonprofits last year to serve historically marginalized communities.


The Community Foundation also recognized several community members with awards to honor their commitment to helping Southwest Washington grow and thrive.

Karen Morrison, founder and senior executive director of Washington-based nonprofit organization Odyssey World International Education Services, received the Community Champion award for her work supporting minority communities in the area.

“I want to thank Odyssey World International Education Services, better known as OWIES, for their commitment to ensure that all the work that we do will be sustainable for years to come,” Morrison said. “We are now in our 17th year, and there’s so much work to be done. With support and compassion we can do this, and our goal is to help to serve and assist the most marginalized people in our communities.”

Mark Matthias and Ali Novinger, founders and owners of Beaches Restaurant and Bar, received the Philanthropists of the Year award for their various fundraisers and Books and Bites program, which has served 6,000 meals across 54 schools in the area.

“The strength of our communities lies beneath the surface,” Novinger said. “It’s those individuals, families and businesses that helped make things in Vancouver different from any other community. What we do here is so unique.”

Matthias and Novinger frequently hold their own community fundraisers, including an annual Summertime Cruisin’ event and a Holiday Meals program. Their organization, the Beaches Charity Fund, has given more than $3.5 million to nonprofits.