Spirit Mountain Community Fund tops $73 million in charitable giving

New Spirit Mountain Community Fund Director Mychal Cherry presided over her first quarterly check distribution on Wednesday, March 15, which saw the Tribe’s charitable arm surpass the $73 million mark in giving.

“I am so honored to be here,” Cherry said. “It’s a privilege to meet you. I am just excited to see so many people here. I just really appreciate the wonderful work you do in the community.”

Beach Pace, left, chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest, talks with Mychal Cherry, middle, Spirit Mountain Community Fund director, and Tribal Council member and Community Fund Board of Trustees member Denise Harvey, during the Fund’s quarterly check presentation held in the Governance Center Atrium on Wednesday, March 15. (Photo by Michelle Alaimo)

The Community Fund distributed 22 large grants that totaled $751,344.50 and 18 small grants that totaled $79,560. Small grants are $5,000 or less.

Combined, the Community Fund gave out 40 grants totaling $830,904.50, which catapulted the Tribe’s charitable giving since the fund was established 1997 to $73.4 million. In that time span, the fund has awarded 2,440 grants.

The Community Fund, as part of the Tribe’s compact with the state of Oregon, receives 6 percent of Spirit Mountain Casino proceeds and then distributes those funds to nonprofit organizations in 11 northwestern Oregon counties. In addition, the Community Fund annually awards grants to Oregon’s nine federally recognized Tribes, which are regularly underfunded by charities.

Cherry started as the new Community Fund director on Feb. 15, succeeding Kathleen George, who resigned upon being elected to Tribal Council in September 2016.

George was not absent, however. She received a bouquet of flowers from Community Fund Board of Trustees Chairman Sho Dozono and a Pendleton blanket from Cherry and Community Fund Grants Coordinator Julia Willis.

“You get to work with the heroes of Oregon who are out there creating solutions in our communities,” George said. “Thank you for the honor of getting to work with you, your communities, your organizations. … It has been a tremendous honor.”

The check distribution opened with cultural drumming and singing performed by Tribal Council Secretary Jon A. George and Cultural Resources Department employees David Harrelson, Jordan Mercier and Brian Krehbiel.

Other Tribal Council members in attendance included Chairman Reyn Leno, Brenda Tuomi, Denise Harvey, Jack Giffen Jr. and Tonya Gleason-Shepek. Leno, Harvey and Giffen also serve on the Community Fund’s Board of Trustees.

Joining Dozono from the Board of Trustees were Ron Reibach, Facilities director at Spirit Mountain Casino, and Portland attorney Chip Lazenby.

After showing attendees a revamped 12-minute video that explained the history of the Tribe and the effects of Community Fund grants on nonprofit agencies, Cherry read off the recipients while Dozono handed out the checks.

The large grant recipients were:

  • All Hands Raised of Portland, $25,000, for its Strengthening the Kindergarten Transition program;

  • Beaverton Education Foundation, $25,000, for its Camp Achieve 2016-17;

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest of Portland, $40,000, to launch its “Bigs in Blue” program in Multnomah and Washington counties;

  • Boys & Girls Club of Albany, $26,000, to its STEAM Ahead program;

  • Boys & Girls Club of Marion & Polk Counties Inc. of Salem, $40,000, for expanding access to dental care for low-income youth in those two counties;

  • Bridgeway House of Eugene, $15,000, to create social groups for children with autism;

  • Call to Safety of Portland, $20,000, to provide self-determination and support for survivors with developmental disabilities;

  • Child Advocates Inc. of Oregon City, $40,000, for its A CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for Every Child effort;

  • Children’s Center of Oregon City, $30,000, to protect children from abuse through focused prevention initiatives;

  • Clackamas Women’s Services of Oregon City, $50,000, for its Village of Hope;

  • Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, $80,642.50, for its 24/7 Community Tribal Police Services Prevention and Enforcement program;

  • Friends of Saturday Academy of Portland, $20,000, for an academic summer camp for low-income youth;

  • Head Start in Lincoln County of Lincoln City, $47,622, for health services to improve learning;

  • Impact Northwest of Portland, $40,000, for parent-child development services;

  • Long Tom Watershed Council of Eugene, $15,000, for improving its watershed land stewardship through Tribal engagement;

  • National Indian Child Welfare Association of Portland, $40,000, for its Indian Child Welfare Act crisis response and family support project;

  • Oregon Children’s Foundation of Portland, $40,000, for its SMART program for pre-kindergarteners in eight counties;

  • Oregon State University Foundation of Corvallis, $45,962, for its “Where do wood restoration efforts increase fish habitat?” research;

  • Parrott Creek Child & Family Services of Oregon City, $25,000, to help fund a youth therapist and certified alcohol-drug counselor;

  • Portland State University Foundation, $23,118, to improve digital literacy in underserved schools;

  • Providence Milwaukie Foundation of Milwaukie, $25,000, for its community teaching kitchen/food pharmacy;

  • Shadow Project of Portland, $38,000, for advancing equity for children with learning challenges.

Small grant recipients were:

  • Children’s Repertory of Oregon Workshops Inc. of Florence, $5,000, for operational support for its Blossoming Youth Theatre organization;

  • Circle of Children of Blachly, $5,000, for facility repairs to expand outdoor education for children and youth;

  • Junction City Local Aid, $4,000, for social and community services;

  • Lane Senior Support Coalition Corp. of Eugene, $3,600, for operational support for its emergency support fund;

  • MediaRites of Portland, $5,000, for “Theatre Diaspora: Family Ties That Bind”;

  • Metropolitan Youth Symphony of Portland, $2,500, for its Beginning Strings and School Outreach programs;

  • North End Senior Solutions and Adult Day Services of Otis, $5,000, to support adult day service, transportation and nursing services;

  • Open Hearts Open Minds of Portland, $2,500, for its Theatre at Coffee Creek;

  • Paradise of Samoa of Keizer, $4,000, for its Pacific cultural exchange program;

  • Portland Actors Conservatory of Portland, $5,000, for its 2017 diversity initiative;

  • Peace Village Inc. of Portland, $5,000, for its school-based programming;
  • RideAble of Springfield, $5,000, for its tuition assistance program for children with disabilities;

  • Salem Public Library Foundation, $3,000, for “Salem Reads: One Book, One Community”;

  • Siletz Bay Music Festival of Lincoln City, $5,000, for its “Music Is Instrumental” program;

  • Spect Actors Collective of Gresham, $5,000, for its “LADO, Doulas Latinas” effort;

  • Tillamook Serenity Club, $5,000, for expansion of its Recovery Outreach program;

  • Trash for Peace of Portland, $4,960, for its sustainability education program;

  • Yamhill County CERT Association Inc. of Dundee, $5,000, to purchase 20 UHF radios.

The Community Fund also raffled off three door prizes and the winning organizations were the Oregon Children’s Foundation, Portland State University Foundation and Paradise of Samoa.

Then the Community Fund and Leno honored important Restoration-era figure and former Tribal Council Chairwoman Kathryn Harrison, who will celebrate her 93rd birthday on March 28, and former Tribal Council Vice Chair Ed Larsen, who was in the audience.

Leno said that he was elected to Tribal Council in 1996, the same year that Harrison became Tribal Council chairwoman.

“They are the ones who actually came up with the idea of the 6 percent fund,” Leno said. “Kathryn said, ‘The community took care of us, so we want to take care of that community.’ We have lived up to that now (with) over $73 million. … It was people like Kathryn and a lot of past figures who made all of this the success it is today. We are just the maintainers of their ideals and their thoughts.”

Attendees gave Harrison a standing ovation.

The event closed with Tribal Lands Manager Jan Looking Wolf Reibach, a multiple Native American Music Awards recipient, playing “Happy Birthday” on a Native flute.