Tribal Government & News

Community Fund closing in on $98 million giving mark

06.13.2024 Danielle Harrison Spirit Mountain Community Fund
Youth play Super Smash Bros. at The Gate Youth Association in Independence on Friday, June 7. The nonprofit received a $46,410 grant from the Spirit Mountain Community Fund.


By Danielle Harrison

Smoke Signals editor

Spirit Mountain Community Fund awarded more than $656,000 in grants on Tuesday, June 11, during a check presentation held in the Governance Center Atrium.

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 the fund’s Tribal Grants program.

As of the second quarter of 2024, the Grand Ronde Tribe’s philanthropic giving is nearly at $98 million with 3,330 grants awarded since 1997.

The Community Fund was created as part of the Tribe’s gaming compact with the state of Oregon. It is supervised by an eight-member Board of Trustees that includes Tribal Council members Denise Harvey, Brenda Tuomi and Michael Cherry, who is also a former Community Fund director. Tuomi serves as board chair.

Tribal Council members who attended the check presentation included Tuomi and Jon A. George.

Program Coordinator Angela Schlappie welcomed the approximately 30 attendees to the event and thanked them for making the drive out to Grand Ronde.

“Thank you taking the time to be here,” she said. “It’s a chance for us to connect with grantees and the amazing work that you do.”   

The check presentation opened with a prayer and drum song by George.

Schlappie introduced Community Fund employees: Administrative Assistant Pamala Warren-Chase and Grants Coordinator Jesse Knight. 

The attendees then watched a video on the history of the Tribe. After the video, representatives from School Garden Project of Lane County and Future Generations Collaborative gave brief descriptions about what their organizations seek to do in the community.

This quarter, Smoke Signals interviewed The Gate Youth Association Executive Director Ben Bobeda to learn more about the organization.

The Gate Youth Association is a faith-based nonprofit with a focus on meeting out-of-school time needs of Monmouth and Independence sixth- through 12th grade students since 2005. The youth center was opened in 2020.

“The Gate not only provides a safe place for the teens to hang out during the hours between school and when their parents are home, we provide recreational activities, mentoring, food and tutoring,” Bobeda said. “Youth have the opportunity to have their real needs met, catch up on school work and connect with safe, caring adults. Providing the teens with a safe place to be with a positive environment gives them the opportunity to be mentally refreshed and be ready to re-engage at school the next day.”

Three programming goals are substance abuse prevention and health and wellness in partnership with Salem Health and Polk County, career exploration in collaboration with the Community Service Consortium and Central School District, and social- emotional learning in collaboration with Central School District.

Programming takes place year-round from 3-6 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Gate partners with Central School District, Polk County, Salem Health, Community Services Consortium, Acres of Hope, Liberty House and other community organizations to provide relevant youth development programming and essential resources.

According to Central School District Director of Student Growth and Achievement Brian Flannery, chronic absenteeism among low-income students is 54.31%. He also reported Central High School’s chronic absenteeism was 48.73% while the middle school is 36.86%.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing more that 10% of school days, leading to learning loss and challenges with staying current with academic work, which may lead to mental health issues and dropping out of school.

The $46,410 Community Fund grant will help the nonprofit with youth support services and activities throughout the year. These include social skills and friendship building through sports, clubs, games, music, activity centers, sharing a meal, and relationship-building with young adult mentors, as well as student-initiated learning mentoring clubs that meet weekly and one-on-one youth mentoring.

“Receiving the Spirit Mountain Community Fund grant means The Gate will be able to serve the teens of Monmouth and Independence with afterschool programing, mentoring and activities, by staff that are trained and equipped,” Bobeda said. “The administrative program director serves behind the scenes so that all the programs and staff scheduling run smoothly and that the offerings are based on student input and meeting real needs.”

During the check distribution portion, the Community Fund awarded eight small grants worth $56,000 and 13 large grants worth $600,488. Warren-Chase announced the small grant recipients and Knight announced the large grant recipients.

Small grant recipients were:

  • A Village for One of Oregon City, $6,000, for outpatient mental health group sessions;
  • ALS Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington, $5,000, for the ALS Independence Program;
  • Friends of Tryon Creek of Portland, $7,500, for its Indigenous Culture Day;
  • Wonderfolk of Portland, $7,500, for its leadership and mentor program for underserved BIPOC Portland youth;
  • Keizer Community Library Inc., $7,500, for its bilingual community outreach;
  • School Garden Project of Lane County, $7,500, for its science in the garden project;
  • South Lane Mental Health Services Inc. of Cottage Grove, $7,500, for its providing culturally specific food for Latinx and Guatemalan clients;
  • Wordcrafters in Eugene, $7,500, for its writers’ residencies.

Large grant recipients were:

  • Arts Action Alliance Foundation of Oregon City, $50,000, for cultural representation through public art;
  • Community Outreach Through Radical Empowerment of Eugene, $50,000, for its Zephyr House Programs;
  • Future Generations Collaborative of Portland, $$50,000, for Barbie’s Village;
  • The Gate Youth Association of Independence, $46,410, for nurturing resilience and school success in at-risk youth;
  • Juliette’s House of McMinnville, $49,998, for a circuit therapist;
  • Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oregon Inc., $50,000, for rush wishes for children with critical illnesses;
  • Our United Villages – The Rebuilding Center of Portland, $15,000, for youth tool and trades education;
  • Parenting With Intent of Portland, $50,000, for its Next Level program;
  • Transformative Justice Community, $50,000, for its program for the formerly incarcerated;
  • Western Oregon University Development Foundation of Monmouth, $50,000 for Abby’s House;
  • Wisdom of the Elders Inc. of Portland, $49,080, for its Tribal relationships and agreement systems for the archives initiative;
  • Yamhill Enrichment Society of McMinnville, $50,000, for Imagine the Possibilities When We Empower Children with Music & Books program;
  • Youth Villages Inc. of Portland, $40,000, for comprehensive transitional services for youth aging out of foster care.

Two beaded necklaces were raffled off after the grant recipients were announced. An Ikanum saddle blanket designed by Tribal member Travis Stewart went to Yamhill Enrichment Society.

Tuomi closed the event by thanking all of the nonprofits for their work.

“Serving on the Spirit Mountain Community Fund Board is my favorite thing to do,” she said. “There are no bad days. The Community Fund has given out 3,330 total grants. That’s a big number.”