GCF Community Grants

For nearly two decades, the Gorge Community Foundation has made grants through its donor advised funds and grantmaking programs to strengthen the fabric of Gorge communities. In 2024, our Community Grants will continue to support our region with a sharpened focus on the most pressing challenges our region is facing today.  The purpose of the Community Grants program is to provide charitable funds as the Foundation board determines are most needed and not limited to a single focus or exclusively to the interests of a particular constituency. 

In the 2024 grant cycle the total available for granting is $17,000 and proposals will be accepted for any amount up to that total.  The 2024 Request for Proposal can be found here.  The range of grants in the past has been $650 to $4,000.  Grant recipients are expected to comply with reporting requirements in order to be eligible for any future grants.

The following proposals received funding in 2023:

  • Play Frontier: equipment and materials for an infant room
  • Columbia Gorge CASA: recruiting a more diverse group of volunteers
  • Wylde Wind & Water: books for use in conjunction with HRCSD Migrant Education
  • FISH: culturally familiar food products for the Hispanic clientele
  • Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing: support of the screening program in the Mid-Columbia
  • Immigration Counseling Service: legal services scholarships to immigrants/refuges
  • View Grange: folding chairs and a chair caddy
  • Mid-Columbia Health Foundation: wigs and cancer care bag supplies
  • Sally’s Cat fund: spay/neuter surgeries for homeless cats
  • One Community Health: a health fair/celebration of Hispanic culture in the Mid-Columbia
  • Central Gorge Master Gardener Association: a pollinator garden in the Learning Garden in Hood River

The following projects received funding in 2022:

  • Gorge Grown Food Network: Support for the SNAP matching program at Mid Valley Farmers Market Columbia Gorge Community College Foundation: To underwrite the Visiting Author Program
  • Stevenson Carson Education Foundation: Food pantry for students in the Forest Youth Success program
  • Columbia Gorge Food Bank: To finish and equip the new Learning Kitchen in The Dalles
  • First Book Hood River County: To provide books to 300 students
  • First Book Wasco County: To provide books to 420 students
  • Aging in the Gorge Alliance: To purchase books for the Community Reading Project
  • Mid Columbia Health Foundation: For supplies and resources to aid patient recovery and rehabilitation
  • Mid Columbia Senior Center: For replacement of obsolete fluorescent light fixtures
  • Radio Tierra: To increase capacity to diversify the volunteer base
  • Hood River County Heritage Council: For printing/promotion/costume cost for Cemetery Tales video
  • Columbia Gorge Habitat for Humanity: For materials to build and on-site storage shed at home build locations
  • Wylde Wind & Water: For waterproof storyboards on water safety to be displayed at the HR Event Site

The following projects received funding in 2021:

  • Backpacks for Kids: For the purchase of food items
  • FISH Food Bank:  For the purchase of personal care items
  • Columbia Gorge Cat Rescue:  For support of the spay and neuter program
  • Mid-Columbia Health Foundation:  For gas cards for key patient groups
  • First Book Wasco County:  For books for low-income kids in No. Wasco School District
  • First Book Hood River County:  For books for needs-based kids in Hood River County School District
  • Mt. View Grange:  For purchase of a refrigerator to serve Grange clientele
  • Columbia Arts:  For expansion of efforts towards inclusion and diversity
  • Mt. Adams Institute:  For support of the Hear in the Gorge podcast
  • Cascade Locks Historical Museum:  For relocation expenses
  • Washington Gorge Action Programs: For area food banks throughout Klickitat County.

GCF Community Grants Program

The program is comprised of the Joan Burchell Fund, the Riddell and Athalie Lage Fund, the Florence E. and Nobi Akiyama Fund, the Gorge Trust Fund and the Kate Leadbetter Mills Fund.

About Joan Burchell

Joan was born in New York City on April 25, 1923, and grew up in Chappaqua, N.Y.  As a young woman, she defied tradition by moving to Venezuela to work as a decorator and furniture designer. She traveled extensively in South and Central America before returning to New York to work for Reader’s Digest until retirement.

Joan was an avid swimmer and kayaker who traveled and camped alone in Europe.  After retirement, she traveled the country looking for a retirement home. The fact that she chose the community of Mt. Hood in the Columbia River Gorge attests to her good judgment. She lived there for 20 years.

Joan loved the community, and the community loved her. She was self-educated, mechanically clever, and artistic. Her spirit, humor, independence, and interest in all things endeared her to many people. Joan is a true example of living life on one’s own terms.  She passed away peacefully, with friends at her side, on December 14, 2008. 

About Riddell and Athalie Lage

 Edward (Riddell) Lage and Athalie Miller were married in the Pine Grove Church in 1935 and raised three children in Hood River.  Riddell, the son of 19 th century Oregon pioneers, ran and modernized his family’s farm, Lage Orchards Inc., which earned the Century Farm designation for 100 years of ownership by a single family.  Riddell passed away in 1975, and Athalie was 103 at the time of her passing in 2020.

Both Riddell and Athalie were lifelong residents of Hood River and active in the community through business, youth and social activities.  Their legacy fund commemorates their dedication to their community through service and philanthropy.

About Kate Leadbetter Mills 

Kate Mills was a fearless and untiring champion of Oregon’s natural beauty — most especially the Columbia River Gorge and Hood River Valley. Born on Sept. 22, 1932 in Portland and educated at Catlin Gabel School and Stanford University,

Kate and her husband Jack raised four sons and moved to the upper Hood River Valley in the mid-’70s, where in addition to family, they added seven horses, a burro, Bantam chickens, Muscovy ducks, barn cats and a dog to their household.

Along with her love of animals and the outdoors, Kate relished a soul-stirring play, whether in Hood River, Ashland or Broadway.

 Upon moving to the Gorge, Kate became active in her new community, helping found the Columbia Center for the Arts and start recycling programs in Hood River. She was a founding member of the Hood River Valley Residents Committee and Friends of Timberline. She recruited friends, raised money, wrote letters and lobbied to help enact the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Act. She served on boards of the Gorge Community Foundation, Thrive Hood River (formerly the Hood River Valley Residents Committee), the High Desert Museum, Maryhill Museum of Art, and the Hood River Classic Horse Show.

About Nobi and Florence Akiyama

Nobi was born in Hood River on May 20, 1922 to Tomeshichi and Itsu Ono Akiyama, the third of five children, and graduated from Hood River High School in 1941.  When he got out of the army he went to work in the asparagus fields his Dad had planted before the war.  Then he went to mechanics school for two years and from there was hired by Knoll Motors, the Chrysler-Dodge dealership in Hood River.

In 1955 a local service station proprietor named Don Stone asked Nobi to buy in to the business and become the mechanic. He was an excellent mechanic, good problem solver, and meticulous about never replacing any part unless absolutely necessary.  In 1957 Nobi bought out Don Stone’s share and it became Nobi’s, Atlantic Oil Company. Florence became his partner in 1964. In 1976 Nobi and Florence purchased the Douglas/Eagle station on highway 281 two miles south of Hood River, 1380 Tucker Road.

In Florence’s words, “Nobi was very creative and always made everything fun, too. Nobi contributed to our community in many ways. Nobi looked for the good in each person, thereby inspiring them to be their best. He was a kind, gentle, and wise person.”

About the Gorge Trust Fund

The Gorge Trust Fund was started by Jack Mills from The Gorge Trust and in conjunction with leaders from the Trust including Will Macht and Doug Crow.  The key tenets of The Gorge Trust were to preserve, enhance and conserve the natural and cultural heritage of the Columbia River Gorge.  After Jack Mills’ passing in 2011, the assets of the Fund passed to the Gorge Community Foundation and became part of its general fund, available to support regional organizations and causes.