This annual event celebrates philanthropy in our community. RRCF awards almost $200,000 in grants, inducts new members to the League of Extraordinary Givers, and celebrates stories of personal success by those most affected by our grants. Tickets will become available in December. You can check back here for more information as the event date nears.
This year's celebration was one of the most inspirational yet. This wonderful evening of drinks and hors d'oeuvres was highlighted when guests were brought to tears with stories from several grantees. These personal narratives show the real life impact that the RRCF has on the community and its people. Take a look at some of their stories: Second Chance Ranch, Way Back Inn, the Budkis Fund and one of our scholarship winners.
Guests voted to award four transportation grants of $1,250 each to King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, Way Back Inn, REACH Center For Hope and Renton Area Youth & Family Services. There was additional $1000 grant awarded by the winner of our Foundation snap quiz.
One of the main events of the evening was the induction of new members to the League of Extraordinary Givers - those amazing individuals that have gone above and beyond to give back to the community of Renton. This year's winners are:
Lifetime of Giving Award winners:
- Barb Nilson - Barb has donated her creative talents, time and financial resources to this community for decades. Born in Seattle, she and her late husband traveled the globe, including every continent and the South Pole. Barb is an award-winning writer. She owned and operated the "Quincy Valley Post-Register" between 1949-59 and then taught English and Journalism at Franklin High from 1962-82. Today, Barb lives in a log cabin on five acres in Renton, and although she will turn ninety in August, she hasn't slowed down. She continues to volunteer, donate her financial resources, and write.
- Dr. Gary Kohlwes - Gary is a visionary - someone who can gaze into the future and determine now what may be needed then. He has done that on more than one occasion; making a lasting difference in our community today and creating a strong foundation for years to come. Through his visionary leadership, millions of dollars have been brought together for good through both the Renton Community Foundation and the First Financial Northwest Foundation. With an Ed.D in Psychology and 40 years in education, Dr. Kohlwes has been a leader in the Renton area in healthcare, education and community service. He and his wife, Betty, now live on Whidbey Island, and yet both still find ways to reach out and stay active in Renton.
- Norm and Carol Abrahamson - Norm and Carol don't give for any reason but the joy of doing it. They define the phrase, 'giants of the philanthropic world'. The extent of their volunteer and charitable work, here and abroad, would make your eyes blurry if we listed it all here. Their commitment to making life better for the disadvantaged and the under-served is in their DNA, and they have been truly tireless in their community service. Norm and Carol came to Washington in 1958 so that Norm could work for Boeing. Their love of volunteering grew as their three kids moved through the Renton Highlands schools, although back then, it was mostly Carol doing the volunteering. Finally, in 1989, Norm retired to join in the fun, and he hasn't stopped since.
Public Spirit Award winners:
- Pam Teal - Pam may not hold down a full-time paid job, but she works full-time nonetheless. She is a tireless advocate on behalf of education and has made an enormous difference in the quality of education in our community, while helping to give all students the opportunity at a bright future. Not only has she been a member of the Renton School Board since 2009, she continues to work her magic to bring new resources to the table to support teachers and students in the classroom. A friend once described her earlier work with the PTA as their "Energizer bunny" - she just never quit.
- Trina Westerlund - Trina has not only faced the challenge of caring for a special needs child of her own, she decided that available resources were insufficient for children like her son, forcing many to fall through the cracks or fall behind. So, she took action. In 1977, she created a courageous new solution in response to the number of young children being suspended from or failing in our schools due to their special needs and the huge disconnect between the fields of special education and mental health. Convinced that a new model was needed, Trina had the courage to start CHILD (Children's Institute for Learning Differences) with just four students in a church basement. But she didn't stop there. Her personal philanthropy and volunteer work expands across over a dozen organizations.
Patrons of the Year Award winner:
- Charlie Conner and Anne Simpson - Charlie is owner/president of Conner Homes, which believes in supporting the communities where they build and, when possible, using the company's building skills for a charitable benefit. As a result, Charlie acted as Builder Captain for the HomeAid Master Builders Care Foundation project for Vision House, Children's Village Phase II. For over a year, company resources were dedicated to the job working with over 120 subcontractors to bring the building to completion for one-half the estimated construction costs. This new facility combined four housing units for transitional families with a full childcare center. Charlie is also past president of the Issaquah Schools Foundation and served nine years on the Renton Community Foundation board.
Rising Star Award winner:
- Dr. Quinton Morris - Quinton is a concert violinist, educator, entrepreneur, and filmmaker, who now weaves that magic for the benefit of disadvantaged children. A native of Renton, Washington, he earned his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He joined the faculty of Seattle University in 2007 as Director of Chamber and Instrumental Music and Associate Professor of Violin and Chamber Music. He is the first tenured music professor at Seattle University in 30 years and the second living African-American violinist in United States history to receive such a distinction. In 2015, Quinton founded Key to Change, a nonprofit with the mission of igniting positive change through music and education. Key to Change has two violin studios in South King County, which provide violin lessons below market rate to middle and high school students of color and students of economically disadvantaged backgrounds in Renton, Kent, Auburn, Maple Valley, and Federal Way neighborhoods.
Luminary Award winner:
- Dr. Dolores Gibbons - Dolores was destined to shape young minds and advocate on behalf of lifelong learning. She was born in Spokane, WA, one of eight children (seven girls and one boy). As second eldest, she spent many summer afternoons playing "school" and thinks that probably sparked her interest in education and teaching. She went on to earn a Masters' Degree from UW in 1976 and her doctorate in Educational Administration from WSU in 1984. Dr. Gibbons spent her entire professional career in the trenches of education. She has been a teacher, Elementary Principal, High School Assistant Principal, an Assistant Superintendent, and Superintendent. Dolores has served as a guiding light in the Renton community. She was a founding board member and past president of the Renton Community Foundation, long-time donor to the Circle of Giving and Cornerstone, and has a charitable fund with the Foundation, awarding an annual scholarship to a student pursuing a career in teaching.
Lifetime of Giving Award - Given to those who have spent decades leading by example - volunteering on community boards, initiating new ideas, serving on committees, making financial donations, inspiring others to engage and participate, building partnerships, and finding resources to get the job done.
2015 Winners: Alex & Norma Cugini; King Parker; Marcie Maxwell; Pat Auten
2016 Winners: Jim & Char Baker; Don & Pearl Jacobson; Judy Schroeder
2017 Winner: Jim & Joanne Medzegian; Harry & Janet Blencoe; Linda Middlebrooks;
Patron of the Year Award - Honors someone who has made a splash recently, perhaps by chairing a campaign, initiating a creative solution, or publicly championing a cause.
2015 Winner: Dale Walker
2016 Winner: The Reverend Dr. Linda Smith
Rising Star Award - Meant to recognize the next-generation of community leaders.
2015 Winner: Meegan Prince
2016 Winner: Kevin Poole
2017 Winner: Doug Baldwin
Public Spirit Award - Given to recognize organizations and individuals who have successfully brought multiple resources together to meet a variety of needs.
2015 Winners: Karen Bergsvik; Renton Rotary RotaCare: (Valley Medical Center, Renton Rotary, Renton Salvation Army, Bob McBeth, Jim Sullivan and Dr. Bob Thompson).
2016 Winners: Chris Spahn & Shannon Avery
2017 Winners: Elizabeth Stewart; Geri Carlson
Luminary Award - Honors an individual who by their very nature, serves as a light of inspiration for others as they strive to make a positive impact in the community.
2017 Winner: Terry Higashiyama