Who We Are
The Gordon Elwood Foundation is a small ($10 million) private foundation that distributes $150,000 -$200,000 in grants annually for educational, human service, and other charitable purposes, with a geographic focus in Oregon's Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Curry counties.
The Foundation began with one man’s desire to leave a legacy of hope to the community. During his last year of life Gordon Elwood formed a foundation and instructed his financial advisor, Bob Hutchins, to select a group of trustees.
Hutchins brought together a group who had a clear appreciation and respect for each other as well as the flexibility to learn a new way of working with others. Shortly before his death on October 8, 1999, Gordon met with those trustees. He knew that things were always evolving and he had the faith and respect in the people creating the foundation to let them make decisions about the future. His philosophy was “things change and you have to go with that.” His expectation was simple, “do good.”
As the Gordon Elwood Foundation evolves, the trustees remain committed to that single request by keeping the Foundation’s core values front-and-center at all times and require that their executive director challenge them to grow. They have formed a unique leadership group that uses a blend of compassion, humor, tenacity and demonstrated ability to successfully bring people and communities together for the common good.
A year after Gordon Elwood’s death, the Board hired Kathy Bryon. As part-time manager of the Foundation she was charged with establishing procedures and guiding the development of the board. Bryon had a strong academic and experiential background in public education and public health, with an emphasis on cultural diversity and organizational change. She brought twenty-five years of experience in non-profit leadership to the foundation. From the beginning, Bryon guided board meetings and committee meetings to focus on developing an atmosphere of trust and inquiry, allowing for possibilities to be openly discussed.
In the interest of learning about the communities served by the Gordon Elwood Foundation, trustees met each year in a different county. Interaction with grantees and community leaders brought the mission to life. The trustees also focused on community partnerships with the goal of leveraging resources and creating positive change and empowerment within the community.
Remarkably, from the life savings of a man who in 1999, no one suspected would become a philanthropist, the foundation has been instrumental in bringing large groups of leaders together in Jackson and Josephine Counties to address addressing complex community issues.
The legacy of a man so eccentric and scorned that he could not find adequate medical care or the respect of fellow citizens to look him in the eye is perhaps a legacy of broadening awareness and understanding of those different from ourselves. It serves to inspire southern Oregonians to look deeper and to do good things for each other.
We envision the community we want to live in.