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Catalyst for change: Foundation continues enrichment of community

Since 1998, the Estacada Community Foundation has grown to enhance Estacada's unique culture and its quality of life by providing a strong structure in financial support to existing nonprofit organizations as well as develop new opportunities.

And with new programs on the horizon, the Estacada community stands to be enriched even more.

Every year, the foundation awards a minimum of 10 percent of its earnings to community projects through a grant review process. It's the only umbrella organization that looks at local needs exclusively.

'That's our number one thing,' Foundation Executive Director Lisa Brookshier said. 'We grant awards to local organizations. People are already doing great programs and projects that make our community great, and we help support those financially.'

The foundation got its start in 1998 when the local Watch Our Waves organization, which was formed to raise money to build a community swimming pool, received approval from the Oregon Department of Justice to transfer its remaining $140,000 to the foundation. Since that time, the foundation has been able to grow that amount to $296,500 through contributions, events and investments, with an eye to building an endowment fund sufficient enough to provide a host of community grants.

'We started out as a really small granting organization,' Brookshier said. 'We have slowly done better and better, and because we have strong polices and procedures in place, we are able to do our mission. It's working really well, but we need to keep growing so we are able to take on new projects.'

With its nonprofit granting structure in place, an integral part of the foundation's mission includes continuing the growth of its permanent endowment so it can expand its reach to even more community projects in the future.

'We assist other organizations in reaching their goals,' she said. In 2010 the foundation joined with the Estacada Arts Commission to support the Summer Celebration and partnered to collect donations on behalf of the Estacada School District, along with a host of other initiatives.

Last year, it partnered with Drug Free Estacada Families and Youth to support DEFY's effort in reducing drug and alcohol abuse. The foundation became DEFY's fiscal agent for a federal Drug Free Communities grant that will give more than $625,000 over the next five years for community-level drug/alcohol prevention throughout the Estacada area.

The official Estacada Alumni Association was formed last year under the foundation's umbrella and was sanctioned by the Estacada School District, with the purpose of establishing ongoing alumni interest and financial support for the pursuit of excellence in Estacada's schools. Along with organizing the Alumni Association, the foundation has created a database for Estacada alumni to enter their information and search for classmates.

Because last year's Estacada High School Centennial celebration was so well attended, the foundation will hold an alumni celebration on the fourth Saturday in June every year, starting on June 23, 2012.

'We saw it as a need to bring people that love and care about this community together and give them a place they can support and be enthusiastic about this community,' Brookshier said. 'This is real evident in how many people showed up at last year's event.'

On top of organizing an alumni celebration every year, she said, the foundation is actively looking for a building to house an Estacada school museum where the community's rich education history and school memorabilia can be put on display.

While the Alumni Association deals with past students, the foundation also joined with SEED to team up with the school district and farmers to promote nutrition, education and sustainability through creating school gardens.

The foundation's reach goes even further. It hosts a bi-annual city summit to network and share plans for the coming two years. The foundation has also been awarded a Ford Institute Leadership Program through the Ford Family Foundation to assist local organizations to reach their goals in a series of training programs to be held over five years; it will start this September.

'This leadership program will help us be sustainable,' she said. 'As a small community, we have unique difficulties and restraints. We need help in learning how to be efficient in a rural setting with the resources we have available to us.'

Brookshier said the foundation will continue to grow with its endowment partnership with the Oregon Community Foundation, which manages more than 1,700 permanent funds with assets over $930 million.

'We want to grow and continue to partner with others,' Brookshier said. 'Our goal is to be a catalyst for change in assisting other community-minded organizations.'

For more information on how to donate or its community programs, call 503-630-4483. Or visit ecf1.org.