The Greater Gig Harbor Foundation is a boots-on-the-ground, hands-in-the dirt sort of community foundation. This is both a literal statement (the foundation donates a large majority of its funds toward parks and environment) and a figurative one. Along with being a foundation that writes checks (provides community grants), the community foundation implements programs according to community need. The everyday people who make up the greater Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula communities are represented face to face; actively involved with the people who make up the foundation and its board of trustees.
Community Spirit Grants are a wonderful example of the foundation’s commitment to directly engage with their community. The grants were started four years ago by an anonymous donor, who hoped to bring people-powered ideas to life, sparking positive community initiatives and involvement. The parameters for recreational events that receive the grants are simple: community partnerships, volunteer involvement and fun. With parameters as broad as this, you can imagine the variety of events that have been sponsored over the past four years!
Applicants for this year’s spirit grants applied with the aim to fulfill one of the five core values held by the foundation: arts and culture, education, parks and environment, recreation, and social capital. These five cores are the guiding principles behind the different grant programs to which the foundation allots yearly donations. The Community Spirit Grants are just one of seven such programs and, as large as these grants may seem, are only a small portion of the yearly donations.
The greater portion of the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation’s funds are allocated into programs that continue to illustrate their core values. Under education there are four grant programs: Students of Distinction grants, Stewardship grants, Gateway grants, and the Coach Joel Wingard grants. These grants are awarded to students showing exemplary scholarship, experiencing a lack of access to programs due to finances, adults who need further training to enter the workforce, or showing aptitude in certain sports. Fulfilling the parks and environment core value is the Lu Winsor grant. Funds from these grants are given to local programs that support parks and environmental care in the memory of Lu Winsor (a former park ranger and community leader). There’s also the Community Recreation Fund that fulfills the core value of recreation; funds are given to community organizations that facilitate positive change in recreation catering to youth. Lastly there is Community Harvest, which fulfills the social capital core value of the foundation. Community Harvest is focused squarely on addressing hunger across the community. Food and funds are raised to provide wholesome healthy meals to low-income families in need around the holidays and throughout the year.
The Greater Gig Harbor Foundation gives and gives, its umbrella for grants covering a vast portion of community activities. Because the foundation is an organization that hears its people with its “boots on the ground,” the community allotments and grants continue to grow to encompass community need. Activities like bike rides, Fourth of July events, the purchase of large pieces of land for the park district, and boundless playgrounds (the first in all of the PNW). Contributions over the years have been, and continue to be, allocated toward programs like the YMCA’s Camp Seymour, the Humane Society’s Scoop the Poop project, Basket Brigade, and Harbor WildWatch’s Get Your Feet Wet. More recently the foundation accepted the community’s new senior center under its umbrella and is working to increase activities available to our aging citizens.
The width and breadth of the foundation is felt by our disabled children to those in school. From our youngest to our oldest. From our hungry to our full. From all over the community, the contributions of the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation are personal. Kept alive and vital by its volunteers and many community engagements. However, I don’t think it is an exaggeration to pinpoint the Community Spirit Grants as the recognizable face of all eight of the grant programs. Perhaps it’s because the grant sponsors activities that bring us together, or maybe it’s because it’s fun. Whatever the reason, this year’s activities are sure to be a blast!
This year's winners, announced at the end of December, are the Key Peninsula Historical Society, Key Peninsula Parks, Peninsula Early Learning Coalition, and the Rattle Dem Bones community event. The Key Peninsula Historical Society plans to hold its annual STREAM night, where students are taught the history behind the valentine and given an opportunity to make a vintage one of their own. Key Peninsula Parks will use its funds for its annual Fourth of July hot dog social, which is held on July 4 from 11am to 2pm and is free to the community. Peninsula Early Learning Coalition will host an Early Learning Jamboree and Kindergarten Fair this January. Lastly, the Rattle Dem Bones community event is vastly becoming a favorite around Halloween, where the whole community is invited to ride their bikes from one side of the peninsula to the other. Awards are given to the best costume!
However you decide to get out into the community this year, there’s enough going on that I’m sure we can’t help but run into each other soon! See you there, Gig Harbor!