Local leader receives national award for community contributions

Submitted by the San Juan Island Community Foundation.

Long-time island resident Charles Anderson is the 2022 recipient of the national Distinguished Service Award for his many decades of community and philanthropic work to improve the quality of life on San Juan Island.

Distinguished Service Award winners are chosen by the Council of Foundations – a national organization representing public and private charitable organizations – based on demonstrated leadership, innovation, courage, integrity, trust, and impact on their community.

Charles serves as Board Chair Emeritus for the San Juan Island Community Foundation, an organization with which he has volunteered his time as a board member for nearly 20 years. During his tenure on the SJICF board, Charles has led major initiatives related to healthcare, education, and human services on the island, while also increasing the scope and impact of philanthropic dollars within the community.

Having experienced the personal tragedy of losing his wife to cancer and knowing the difficulty of accessing health care from their island home, in 2009 Charles took a leading role in the development of PeaceHealth’s Peace Island Medical Center. Always respectful of the island’s needs and interests, Charles called on the community to become a full and equal partner in the process, meeting with families, nonprofits, and government agencies, and hosting many public meetings to ensure that islanders had a voice in the creation of the new facility. He also assembled a group of dedicated project leaders, co-led the effort to raise $10 million of the facility’s $30 million budget, helped find a healthcare partner in PeaceHealth, and advocated for structuring the project such that no new taxes would be enacted to support its construction.

The six-year effort culminated in the creation of a first-class rural healthcare facility that has provided more than 130,000 clinic visits, 36,000 emergency visits, 18,000

chemotherapy infusions, and 380,000 lab tests since opening its doors to the San Juan Island community in 2012.

Charles was also instrumental in the crafting the island’s response to the economic recession of 2008, bringing together island service agencies to form a Critical Needs Task Force that developed sustainable, long-term solutions to emerging community needs. More than 160 community leaders took part in the efforts, which developed the processes and funding sources for 15 new projects that supported children and families in need and closed gaps in education, healthcare, and human services on San Juan Island.

Charles drew on his community organizing experience again during the COVID pandemic in 2020, springing into action to mitigate hardships affecting the island community. He initiated the creation of SJICF’s Emergency Response Fund, which gave the Foundation the ability to rapidly fund critical community services and programs for individuals and families needing assistance because of job losses, isolation, and a slowing economy. Charles also led the creation of a grant program that works to help remove obstacles related to the increasing lack of preschool and early childcare programs on San Juan Island.

In addition to working to address important community needs, Charles has dedicated himself to the long-term financial growth, impact, and sustainability of the San Juan Island Community Foundation. Under his leadership, the Foundation has seen a nine-fold increase in donations ($2.3 million in 2021) and overall asset growth ($10 million), along with a 400 percent increase in the amount of grant funding distributed annually to the San Juan Island community ($870,000).

“In the 12 years Charles has served as board chair, he has helped the organization grow into a well-respected pillar of the community – one that will continue to make an impact on San Juan Island for generations to come,” says SJICF Executive Director Carrie Unpingco. “Because of his vision and leadership, the Foundation is able to help improve and enrich the quality of life in our community by encouraging philanthropy, growing an endowment for purposeful grants to community charitable organizations, and building long-term relationships with our partners.”

“Charles’ never-ending passion for social justice, coupled with his pragmatic and well-informed views, have served the Foundation and our community well over many years,” explains SJICF Board Chair Maude Cumming. “He is a one-of-a-kind, broad thinker who brings action to words and leads with love for his fellow human beings.”

Charles joins the ranks of Stephen Heintz (President, Rockefeller Brothers Fund), Ronald B. Richard (President and CEO, The Cleveland Foundation), Robert K. Ross, M.D. (President and CEO, The California Endowment), and Vartan Gregorian (President, Carnegie Corporation of New York) in having received the Distinguished Service Award.

Established in 1994, SJICF grants funds to local nonprofits and provides scholarships to local students through the generosity of donors who wish to improve the quality of life on San Juan Island. SJICF’s mission is to help the San Juan Island community thrive through inspired and informed generosity and the Foundation’s trusted stewardship. To learn more, visit www.sjicf.org.