The Orcas Island Community Foundation will mark our 25th anniversary this year. OICF was started in 1995 by a small team of committed community members who wanted a better way to facilitate philanthropic efforts on the island. Many had been involved in building the Medical Center, the Orcas Center and the Senior Center and they believed a Community Foundation would add structure and focus to their efforts.

For the first 12 years, the Foundation was an all-volunteer effort, relying on the board to supply both financial and human resources to grow the organization, with early grants being funded by passing the hat around the table. In 2007, the Board decided they either need to go big or go home. If the Foundation was going to thrive, it needed to be staffed. They decided to secure an office space and hire a (part time) executive director. I was so fortunate to be selected for the job. The first few years were very exciting. We received a fabulous gift to bring the balance of our Community Endowment to $1,000,000, only to watch the stock market tumble in 2008/9. What seemed like a total bummer turned into a great realization that a Community Foundation was most needed when the chips were down. We came out of the crisis stronger and determined to build our capacity to better serve all of Orcas. Our rallying cry was “All Boats Rise” as demonstrated in these vintage photos from our 4th of July parade entry.

Fast forward to 2020 and OICF is staffed by four (one full-time and three part-time), our donor base has grown from 20 (or so) to over 1300, and in keeping with “All Boats Rise,” distributions totaled $3,191,000 in 2019. Huzzah!

Together, we have the opportunity to set the course for the next 25 years. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and to celebrating with you this coming year.