Nonprofit spotlight: Vancouver Rotary Foundation

Putting money where the mission is

2013 Rotary Scholorship winners

Vancouver business leaders have been pulling together for the good of the community through the Rotary Club of Vancouver since 1921. Since 1973, the Vancouver Rotary Foundation, the fundraising and giving branch of the club, has been putting their money where their mission is.

“In the last forty years, the foundation has given more than $3 million in grants and other charitable donations, including more than $1 million in college scholarships,” said current foundation President Katlin Smith, owner of Urban Words Group public relations.

In 2012 alone, the foundation granted $52,000 in grants to community organizations, and $78,000 in scholarships to 23 local students.

The Children’s Center in Vancouver, a nonprofit children’s mental health services agency, has received three grants from the Foundation.

“The grants have provided much needed assistance,” said Kim Hash, Children’s Center director of development, providing “indispensable tools” to local low-income households.

Their most recent grant gave weighted blankets to children with severe sensory issues.

“For some children, the use of the weighted blanket provided the first good night of sleep that they’ve ever experienced,” said Hash.

Other organizations receiving the foundation’s grants in 2012 were Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest; Boy Scouts of America – Cascade Pacific Council; Celebrate Life; Community Mediation Services; Council for the Homeless WHO Shelter; Daybreak Youth Services; Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools; Free Clinic of Southwest Washington; Friends of the Children; Innovative Services NW; Lelooska Foundation; Lifeline Connections; Salmon Creek Hospital Foundation; Vancouver Symphony Orchestra; and 211info.

Bruce Ziegman, former executive director at Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, now retired and co-chairing the foundation’s scholarship committee, remembers the impact of one particular scholarship in 2010.

“Mauricio was the only one in his family who could drive, and breadwinner in his family as a busboy during his senior year of high school,” said Ziegman. “He was proud that he was helping support his family, translate for his parents, and drive them where they needed to go – all while maintaining a GPA above 3.0. He was the first in his family to go to college.”

The foundation holds almost $3 million in assets for endowed grants and scholarships. The remaining majority of funds over the last 15 years have come from the annual Festival of Trees, a weekend display of holiday trees contributed and elaborately decorated by local business and organizations.

In 2012 alone, more than 7,000 Festival of Trees visitors helped the foundation raise almost $70,000. This year, in addition to sponsored trees, performances and visitor donations, the foundation will host a raffle for each tree, adding to the amount of charitable giving available in 2014.

“We just budgeted $84,000 for scholarships next year,” said Smith.

New in 2013 was the Cycling for Scholars fundraiser, in which 12 foundation members raised nearly $4,500 in the Vancouver Bicycle Club’s annual Ride Around Clark County day. This event has raised funds for community organizations for the last 30 years, and drew more than 1,000 riders last year.

“While the Festival of Trees is our major fundraiser, we can accept contributions at any time, including funding for endowed scholarships,” said Smith.

Donations can be sent to Vancouver Rotary Foundation, P.O. Box 1000, Vancouver, WA 98666. For more information about contributing to the Foundation, Smith can be reached at 360.699.7234.

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