Community foundation looks forward to what the future holds
By Jillian Chandler | Photo by In-Gear Media
Now in its 15th year, the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation (GGHF) has much to celebrate!
Since forming in 2006, the organization’s work across its five mission-focused areas—Arts & Culture, Education, Environment, Recreation and Social Capital—has resulted in the distribution and reinvestment of more than $12 million in assets into the greater Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula communities. And, unlike many of the more than 800 community foundations across the nation, GGHF actually provides direct mission-aligned programs and services through its Curious by Nature Preschool, Gig Harbor Senior Center, EnviroCorps, Gig Harbor Basket Brigade, and others—in addition to providing grants to other area nonprofit organizations, various scholarships supporting higher education as well as early learning, and helping to raise critical capital to provide perpetual resources to help meet the critical and changing needs of the community.
For the past 10 years, the foundation has carried out its work and nature-based early learning programs from a rented location. Early on, the site provided access to more than 18 acres of surrounding undeveloped lands, and, in addition, the nearby Adam Tallman Park provided a rich and diverse environment for the school. It was always known that use of the neighboring lands would be temporary.
“The writing was on the wall, as the foundation began an active search in 2017 for a site with sufficient acreage to support its educational programs, space for learning gardens, and place that would both enable the creation of a model sustainable ‘community campus’ to connect people and resources,” says Dr. Julie Ann Gustanski, CEO and president emeritus.
Soon after the search began, much of the land was converted to housing, while simultaneously the community’s demand for the school’s outdoor early learning programs exploded. All while GGHF, its other programs, and community needs, grew and changed as well.
In late 2017, quite by accident and fortune, the vision for a community campus was given a breath of life—and in July 2021, after three years of work to attain the essential conditional use permit for required site improvements, the foundation received the green light!
“The munificence of John and Kathy Allen has afforded our community a matchless opportunity to develop a much-needed forever home for the foundation that will serve as headquarters to its administrative office, the school and other programs,” affirms Julie.
Situated on 6 acres of a larger 32-acre property in the Artondale area of the Gig Harbor peninsula—known locally as the “Graham Ranch” after the family that resided there for more than 60 years—the Community Campus opens an array of possibilities that will enable the GGHF to better meet community needs and deliver services across its diverse programs, and offer the community an exceptional outdoor learning space.
This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the Community Campus will provide the vital space needed to assure the GGHF’s continued ability to offer the quality programs and services our community needs.
GGHF is excited and eager for the coming months as they work forward to raise the essential funding to bring the Community Campus to life.
“The foundation works collaboratively to build, bridge and enrich our great Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula region by raising funds, advocating for and providing support to help meet diverse and emerging community needs, and the Community Campus will enable us to continue to do so and grow our programs to meet community needs,” states Ariel Gustanski, the foundation’s COO.
The foundation would not be where they are today with the support of the community, local organizations and businesses, community members, GGHF staff, Board of Directors, and most importantly, volunteers—all visionaries.
“The most rewarding thing about the work that the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation does is seeing the direct impact our programs, services, grants and events have within our community, and the Community Campus will enable the growth of such work,” smiles Judson Morris, GGHF president.
To find out more about the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation, and what you can do to help ensure their mission and manifest their vision, visit GigHarborFoundation.org.
Greater Gig Harbor Foundation
7191 Wagner Way, Suite 102
Gig Harbor, Washington 98335