Bartholomew Fund supports Columbia HS students seeking education in the trades

Bartholomew Fund supports Columbia HS students seeking education in the trades

The new Bartholomew Family Scholarship Fund was created to provide scholarships for seniors at Columbia High School in White Salmon to pursue highly skilled vocational training after high school.  Says donor advisor Basil Bartholomew, “These jobs are key to our future but there are too few scholarships available for students to pursue vocational education and training.  Our family is pleased to offer this opportunity to Columbia High School students.”  Vocational education is available at a wide variety of institutions in Washington and Oregon including Perry Trade School (Yakima), Portland Community College, Lane Co. CC, Mt. Hood CC, Clark College, OIT (Klamath Falls), and of course Columbia Gorge CC.

This is GCF’s first scholarship for Columbia High School students.  Scholarships will be available for students starting with the class of 2022.

National Scenic Area fund supports environmental programs and education

National Scenic Area fund supports environmental programs and education

The Columbia River Gorge Commission is one of GCF’s newest designated fundholders.  The Commission’s mission is to establish policies and programs that protect and enhance the scenic, natural, recreational and cultural resources of the Columbia River Gorge, and to support economic vitality programs consistent with resource protections.  Says Executive Director Krystyna U. Wolniakowski, “As our new National Scenic Area Fund at GCF grows with donations, it will support our work with Gorge partners to create a new climate change action program,  engage historically underrepresented and marginalized communities, and monitor the health of the National Scenic Area to ensure protection of all Gorge resources for future generations.” 
Literacy and Library Programs Enhance Life in Gorge Communities

Literacy and Library Programs Enhance Life in Gorge Communities

As COVID-19 kept schoolchildren home and reduced their access to books and local libraries, a number of literacy programs throughout the Gorge have jumped in to help, supported in part by generous grants from Gorge Community Foundation donor advisors.  Through collaborations with the Hood River County School District and FISH Food Bank, the Hood River County Library supported by the Library Foundation has been donating books and providing funds for teachers to purchase books for their students.  First Book of Wasco and Hood River Counties has also purchased and distributed books for young readers.

The Hood River County Library has risen to the challenge of serving rural communities by committing to the purchase of a new bookmobile, with over 75% of the funds raised for the purchase of the bookmobile.  In addition to bringing materials patrons have requested, it will offer free mobile technology services for those needing to use a computer. The bookmobile will be stocked with Spanish and English reading material for youth and adults, an onboard internet connection and computers and printers.  It will offer free mobile technology services for those needing to use a computer, conduct a job search, print forms and documents, and conduct other business.  The bookmobile will visit senior centers and central community locations throughout the county and the bookmobile librarians will be bilingual and ready to recommend a book to a young reader or senior.  Hood River Library Foundation president Jen Bayer says, “The bookmobile will enable us to reach all of our communities and ensure that everyone has access to the library.”

If any of our donor advisors wish to support the bookmobile campaign, please let Jill Burnette know by the March board meeting on 3/29.  Grants of $2,500 or more will be recognized on the side of the bookmobile as sponsors.

Annual Fundholder Meeting

Annual Fundholder Meeting

The Gorge Community Foundation held its annual “state of the foundation” meeting via Zoom on Thursday, Nov. 8 with over 30 donor advisors and representatives of designated fundholder organizations in attendance.  Participants received an update on the Foundation’s funds and investment strategy from Ferguson Wellman fund manager Jim Coats as well as news from board chair Gil Sharp and executive director Jill Burnette on GCF activities and grantmaking. Coats’s presentation described Ferguson Wellman’s approach to developing a strategic investment policy during the pandemic, managing risk in a changing environment, and best practices for socially responsible investing.  Thanks to all who participated as we navigated a new online format for convening and sharing information.

Burchell grants target food insecurity in Gorge communities

Burchell grants target food insecurity in Gorge communities

The Gorge Community Foundation Board of Directors has announced the following nine grant recipients from the Joan Burchell Fund.  This year’s grants are dedicated to addressing food insecurity throughout the counties that comprise the Gorge, exacerbated by the necessary response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The organizations selected to receive grants will use the funds to increase access to safe, healthy food for children, families and seniors affected by coronavirus measures.

The Dalles Farmers Market: To implement a revamped SNAP program for families to shop for produce and healthy food at the market.

Hood River Farmers Market: To supplement a matching incentive program.

FISH Food Bank: To supplement additional food purchases owing to increased need.

Oregon Food Bank: For food acquisition, storage & distribution specifically for the Columbia Gorge Food Banks.

White Salmon Valley Education Foundation: To provide food to families in the White Salmon area.

The Food Bridge Project: To purchase greenhouse supplies for two farms providing produce for families in need.

Back Packs 4 Kids: To provide meals in Klickikat County to children when not in school.

Stevenson-Carson Educational Foundation: To supplement meals to school age children.

Washington Gorge Action Programs: For of area food banks throughout Klickitat County.

Burchell grant recipients are located in Wasco, Skamania, Klickitat and Hood River Counties and represent a diverse group of applicants. As always, those applications not funded through the Burchell program will be made available to our Donor Advisors.


Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) at GCF

Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) at GCF

On April 22, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, GCF’s financial advisors at Ferguson Wellman commented on trends in socially responsible investing and new business practices resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  If you are interested in GCF’s socially responsible investment portfolio option, please contact Jill at for more information.
A NEW OUTLOOK ON EARTH DAY by Peter Jones, CFA, Vice President, Equity Research and Analysis
Wednesday, April 22, was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In 1970, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson and activist Denis Hayes launched a nationwide environmental “teach-in” that later became Earth Day. Although the pandemic disrupted some plans for this milestone anniversary, if Senator Nelson were alive today, he would find emerging business practices of interest.

That is, companies are having to change their business models to adapt to the new normal, and in most cases, are using the downturn as an opportunity to address inefficiencies across corporate functions when the economy begins to recover.  As investors sift through data regarding the impact of the global economic shutdown, corporate updates are likely to include strategies for survival in the near term and plans for positioning themselves in the future, including permanent changes in business practices.

Socially responsible investing (SRI) originally came onto the scene with a goal of using ethical and moral criteria to screen “bad actors” out of client portfolios. From SRI evolved the notion that environmental, social and governance factors (ESG) could have financial relevance. The thesis is that better corporate behavior enables companies to position themselves to face long-term opportunities and threats instead of a myopic focus on near-term profits. By and large, the “E”, or environmental pillar of this discipline gets the most airtime. Nonetheless, the “S” and “G” pillars of social and governance are taking a critical role as we navigate the current pandemic.

As we ponder how sustainability in corporate behavior will evolve during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, several areas stand out, including:

1.      Corporate travel and events

Stay-at-home mandates have shut off all corporate travel, events and entertainment. Yet, employees and their customers still manage to stay connected through programs like Microsoft Teams, WebEx and of course, Zoom. Many companies are finding that these tools are effective in carrying out the tasks typically assigned to in-person meetings or larger events. Of course, in many cases, face-to-face meetings, events and travel are invaluable. But at the very least, the required shutdown is forcing companies to reconsider the cost-benefit of excessive travel and events that can be replicated at a lower cost in terms of time, money and in the use of fossil fuels. It is a reasonable to expect that corporate travel and events will not revert to the old norms any time soon.

2.      Stakeholders beyond shareholders

The primary objective for publicly traded companies is to provide value for its shareholders. However, the nature of the current downturn is requiring companies to consider stakeholders aside from the owners of the company, most importantly their employees. Instead of laying off as many employees as possible in order to protect near-term profits, we are witnessing many companies taking alternative actions, such as eliminating CEO and other C-suite pay. Companies are also using government-assisted furloughs and committing to pay for health benefits for employees who no longer have working hours. In addition, several firms, including Ferguson Wellman, have all but guaranteed that every employee will keep their job. Again, the nature of this crisis has changed the playbook for typical corporate behavior in a recession.

3.      Collapse in oil prices

One of the major side effects of the pandemic has been a dramatic decline in human and industrial mobility. This has caused demand for oil, gasoline and other fossil fuels to collapse. At the same time, “OPEC+” members Russia and Saudi Arabia failed in their negotiations to curtail the supply of oil. The combination of these factors has caused a drop in oil prices to levels not seen in 20 years. The structural movement toward renewables is in large part dependent on the economics. In other words, the incentive to switch to renewables or forego the use of fossil fuels is much stronger when the cost of gasoline is higher. This crisis has eliminated that incentive in some industries, as substitution is no longer a wise economic decision.

4.      Mortality rates and pollution

While there is still a great deal of uncertainty, early studies are beginning to show that communities with high levels of pollution display higher COVID-19 mortality rates. While highly speculative, this discovery could make corporations and voting constituencies more open to behavior, cultural norms and even regulations enacted to reduce the levels of pollution.

5.      Flexible business models

Large corporations are only known to operate in one product type, service offering or customer set are shifting their capabilities to benefit society in these challenging times. Companies such as General Motors have rapidly shifted automotive production facilities to produce key components for ventilators. Nike has shifted some of their facilities that make footwear to produce face shields that are critical for the healthcare workers on the front lines. And of course, healthcare companies, such as Abbott Labs, are rapidly scaling-up production for diagnostics to test antibodies in order to determine COVID immunity. In many cases, there is a natural overlap between acting for the benefit of society and adding to profitability, but this crisis has displayed the tremendous ability of large corporations to do their part.

As always, the past can provide perspective for things to come. After 9/11, we did go back to feeling comfortable with flying, but we continue to take off our shoes when entering airport security. This simple analogy reinforces that as investors and consumers, we most certainly will one day go back to normal, but some practices from recent months will endure. As we evolve into our new normal … we will also find new opportunities to analyze and invest in companies.

Peter Jones, CFA, is vice president of equity research and analysis for Ferguson Wellman Capital Management and lead portfolio manager for our Global Sustainable Investing (GSI) strategy. Launched in 2018 as an ESG solution for individuals and nonprofits that overlays MSCI data on our investment principles, GSI has become the fastest growing investment strategy in the history of our firm.