Journal of the San Juan Islands


It’s your Community Foundation | Guest Column

June 24, 2014 · Updated 2:29 PM

Above, Susan Matthews, executive director of San Juan Island Community Foundation. / Tim Dustrude photo: www.dustrude.com

By Susan Matthews

Special to the Journal

Twenty years ago a Community Foundation was born.

It was a dedicated and visionary group of caring islanders who created the San Juan Island Community Foundation in July 1994. That founding board, comprised of Cathy Cavanagh, Bill Weissinger, Dan Selak, Verne Howard, Carol Marble and Rob McGregor, accepted the initial matching donation of $100,000 from David Skinner and Catherine Skinner set the stage for all that the Foundation was to be – and what it has since become.

In those 20 years the foundation has:

Helped to design and build our new hospital.

Procured major funding for the school district when it experienced a critical budget shortfall.

Helped over 60 local non-profits — like the Food Bank, Family Resource Center, EMT Association, Hospice of San Juan, etc. — create and maintain critical community programs.

Assisted hundreds local donors in evaluating community projects and provide ongoing management of their gifts.

Grown from its initial $100,000 to over $7,000,000 in philanthropic resources.

Built a scholarship program with annual awards now exceeding $140,000.

Grown from annual grants of $10,000 to over $3,500,000.

Built a legacy program that helps local citizens plan and manage their charitable estate gifts which have already topped $5,000,000.

• • • •

Then… one year ago an executive director was born.

After serving the foundation in various capacities, depending on the need of the moment, I was honored to be named the foundation’s first executive director in July 2013.

In reflecting back over what this past year has meant to me, I borrow the words of a recently retired nonprofit executive director when she answered the question: “What did you love about your job?”

“There is so much to love. If you give it everything, your work will matter. You will work with passionate defenders of social justice and human dignity. The people you spend each day with will be the people who care about creating a better world with others. On the good days, you will pause a moment before you walk out the door, and a voice will whisper to you, ‘Your work here mattered today.’

“If you are doing it right, sometimes it will terrify you. You will feel that you have fallen short and let people down; you will feel this many days. This is the unspoken part of your job description: the mission is greater than you, and you cannot hold it all in your arms. And that is when you will feel gratitude for volunteers, partners, and board members. They are your true bosses, second only to the mission.”

Yes, that is exactly why I love this place.

In the coming weeks and months you will be seeing a lot more of your community foundation—in the newspaper, on your computer, at the Farmers’ Market, at the County Fair, at gatherings where we will be seeking your input on community needs and services. You will find us providing assistance to major community projects like Islands Museum of Art and the Animal Protection Society, raising ongoing financial support for Peace Island Medical Center… and we’re always available to meet with you personally (640 Mullis St. No. 104) or by phone (378-1001), or by email (info@sjicf.org). You can also find us online at our website (sjicf.org).

Our goal is to make your community foundation a place where dreams matter, where we help create solutions, where supporters are matched with community needs and causes that matter — where the door is open to all.

Please come see us.


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