Tribal Government & News

Community Fund clears $87 million mark in giving

09.14.2021 Danielle Harrison Spirit Mountain Community Fund


By Danielle Harrison

Smoke Signals staff writer 

Spirit Mountain Community Fund awarded more than $1.5 million in grants on Wednesday, Sept. 8, during its virtual check presentation event, bringing the Grand Ronde Tribe’s philanthropic giving since 1995 to more than $87 million.

The Community Fund receives 6 percent of proceeds from Spirit Mountain Casino and awards that money to nonprofits in 11 northwest Oregon counties to fund efforts in the areas of arts and culture, environmental preservation, education, health, historic preservation and public safety, and to the nine federally recognized Tribes in Oregon under a Tribal Grants program.

The Community Fund was created as part of the Tribe’s gaming compact with the state of Oregon. It is supervised by a Board of Trustees that includes Tribal Council members Denise Harvey, Jack Giffen Jr. and Kathleen George.

The event was the third virtual check presentation held by the Community Fund. It opened with a prayer from Tribal Council Secretary Jon A. George and video of Cultural Resources employees Jordan Mercier and Greg Archuleta performing a gathering song at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers.

Executive Director Michael Cherry and Board of Trustees Chairman Chip Lazenby welcomed virtual attendees.

Cherry said she hopes the next quarterly check distribution will be conducted in-person, something that has not occurred since March 2020.

“We wish you could be here in person, but we understand and recognize this is not possible now,” Cherry said. “We yearn for normalcy and have you to thank for continuing to provide much-needed care and services for those most in need.”

She also introduced Community Fund Coordinator Angela Sears, Grants Coordinator Jim Holmes and Administrative Assistant Marissa Leno.

Lazenby, who has served on the Board of Trustees for more than 13 years, said the Community Fund makes its dollars go to “where the rubber meets the road.”

“You help our children and our Elders, and I’m so glad you’re here today and so happy to be a part of this process to help out,” he said.

Holmes showed the approximately 58 people who attended a video on the history of the Tribe.

Sears announced the grant awards and third-quarter grantee featured speaker Boys & Girls Clubs of Emerald Valley CEO Matt Sorensen.

Sorensen discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected children who attend the club in Lane County, particularly those in underserved communities. This led to the development of the “Resetting for Resilience” mental health project to assist children coping with adverse experiences. It is administered by Looking Glass Community Services and the University of Oregon Family Services.

“Youth were manifesting anger, stress and trauma when they would come into the club,” Sorensen said. “Now, 150 kids are having the experience of getting one-on-one mental health support.”

The next step is providing specialized training for staff members, as well as academic support and mentorship to youth.   

Due to the virtual format, Sears allowed other organization representatives to briefly speak about their programs as well.

During the check distribution portion, the Community Fund awarded seven small grants, 18 large grants and eight Tribal grants.

Small grant recipients were:

  • Family and Community Together of Multnomah County, $7,500, for supporting families of youth with disabilities to engage in special education;
  • Next Step Strategies Inc. of Clackamas County, $5,000, for staff training and a sensory play area;
  • Assistance League of Salem-Keizer, $7,000, for Operation School Bell: Providing Tangible Needs to Youth;
  • Enlightened Theatrics of Marion County, $4,500, for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and summer camps;
  • Maurice Lucas Foundation of Multnomah County, $7,500, for support of student success during COVID-19;
  • Parenting With Intent of Multnomah County, $7,000, for next level programming;
  • Albany Public Schools Foundation, $7,500, for the Sources of Strength suicide prevention program for youth.

Large grant recipients were:

  • Willamette Riverkeepers of Linn County, $18,000, for its Protecting the Gems of our Rivers program;
  • Lines for Life of Marion County, $50,000, for administration of suicide prevention mini grants;
  • March of Dimes Greater Oregon of Multnomah County, $50,000, for expanding family support in Oregon;
  • A Smile for Kids of Marion County, $50,000, to fund orthodontic treatment for youth from underserved communities;
  • McMinnville School District, $22,105, for its Ready for Kindergarten program;
  • REACH Northwest of Yamhill County, $25,000, for its foster placement stability initiative;
  • The Freshwater Trust of Clackamas County, $40,891, for its upper Sandy River Basin restoration project;
  • Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center Foundation, $49,740, for expanding behavioral health services in Clackamas County;
  • Neighbors for Kids of Lincoln County, $47,500, for its Weathering the Storm program;
  • CASA of Multnomah County, $50,000, for its Fostering Futures program;
  • Family Funding Blocks of Polk County, $50,000, to support Polk County families through relief nursery services;
  • The Jim Pepper Native Arts Council of Multnomah County, $35,000, for its Since Time Immemorial: Drum, Singer, Song, Storyteller program;
  • CASA of Clackamas County, $25,000, for its A CASA for Every Child program;
  • Voz Workers Rights Education Project of Multnomah County, $50,000, for its campaign for safety and justice;
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area, $50,000, for its Building Great Futures program;
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Emerald Valley in Lane County, $21,750, for its Resetting for Resilience mental health project;
  • SPOON of Multnomah County, $30,000, for its nutrition program;
  • Tucker Maxon School of Multnomah County, $50,000, for its speech language therapy for deaf and hard-of-hearing program.

Oregon Tribal Grant awards were:

  • Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians, $100,000, for its campaign for A Place for the People;
  • The Klamath Tribes, $92,500, for its water preservation efforts;
  • Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, $100,000, for its Nixyaawii Home Lease fund;
  • The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs; $100,000, to repair and refresh its Tribal museum;
  • Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua & Siuslaw Indians; $100,000, for its Native language enhancement program;
  • Burns Paiute Tribe, $98,955, for building its economic development department;
  • Coquille Indian Tribe, $100,000, for the Coquille River Native Fisheries restoration project;
  • Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, $100,000, for its language education building.

The virtual event closed with Leno raffling off three beaded necklaces to The Jim Pepper Native Arts Council, Boys & Girls Clubs of Emerald Valley and the Burns Paiute Tribe. The Ikanum saddle blanket went to Parenting With Intent.

“Thank you all,” Harvey said. “You guys do amazing work in a broad area of services to all the people of Oregon, to rivers and streams and our wildlife. Oregon is a great place to be because of you.”