by Mark Hurtubise & r & There are millions of penguins in the Southern Hemisphere -- in fact, there are 18 species of them. Standing almost four feet tall and weighing up to 90 pounds is the emperor penguin. Because they can dive 1,200 feet down to hunt fish, they are the supreme submarines among penguins. For contrast, consider the indigo-blue fairy penguin -- just 16 inches tall and weighing in at just two pounds. This diminutive penguin stays very close to shore in shallow waters when searching for a meal.

Whether small or almost tall, penguins are social creatures, living in communities for mutual protection, role modeling and social satisfaction. In frigid waters, they are gold medal swimmers. Nevertheless, although they are birds, penguins cannot fly.

Most people know more about penguins than they do about community foundations. There are more than 650 species of community foundations across America with combined assets of more than $30 billion. As with our penguin friends, there are a variety of different foundations. One giant, much like the emperor penguin, is the Cleveland Foundation. With startling assets of more than $1.6 billion, last year it distributed $86 million to nonprofit organizations in the greater Cleveland area. Just imagine grants totaling $86 million to nonprofit organizations in the Inland Northwest.

Your community foundation, Foundation Northwest, is a 30-year-old, mid-size penguin that wants to fly. It was designed to provide a means for small and very large financial donors to pool their resources to have a greater impact in their communities.

Currently, Foundation Northwest has more than 200 funds with assets of approximately $41 million. Last year, we awarded $3.2 million in grants to nonprofit organizations throughout Eastern Washington and North Idaho. Through wise investments and responsible policies overseen by a community volunteer board of directors, Foundation Northwest is the steward of this mid-size nest egg for the community.

Many of the funds at Foundation Northwest have been established by community members who wanted to leave a legacy about their values and dreams. They also may want to be role models. They definitely want to make a difference, and, in many cases, to give back to the community from which they benefited so greatly. These generous individuals, through cash, stock, real-estate, a will, or planned donations that permit lifetime income for the donor or another individual, have found satisfaction by discovering the emotional and spiritual joy from giving that helps others.

Since its inception, Foundation Northwest has distributed more than $27 million in grants to very worthy nonprofit organizations. These grants have produced a myriad of positive results for communities within Eastern Washington and North Idaho. Nevertheless, Foundation Northwest still has not developed wings for flight. Although our region has numerous positive attributes, our community, in many ways, is still adrift. For example, family ties are tenuous. Addiction, crime, debt, hunger, unemployment and ambiguous values seem to indicate a rising tide threatening our well-being and peace of mind.

Foundation Northwest, with the assistance of a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant, has launched a strategic planning process to engineer wings for the Foundation that hopefully will assist the region to improve in the areas of human services, including education, arts and culture, and civic and community development. Specifically, we want to address the following through the strategic planning process:

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& lt;li & The services we provide individuals and organizations with regard to their charitable plans;

& lt;li & Our grant making process and goals;

& lt;li & The formation of specific alliances that leverage talent and resources for greater community improvement;

& lt;li & Our educational role as partners with regional organizations.

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While we go through our engineering, you can begin designing your own wings by donating to Foundation Northwest or the other worthy nonprofits identified in this edition of The Inlander. They are important organizations whose services directly impact the vibrancy of our community.

With appropriate planning, your support and timely implementation of a creatively engineered strategic plan, the wings of Foundation Northwest can eventually spread beyond its current size to assist with lifting our community to heights that visibly and measurably foster greater local philanthropy, civic engagement and community improvement.

If we want to be a community on a trajectory toward mutual improvement and support, perhaps we should follow the sage advice of an ancient emperor penguin:

If you want contentment for an hour - take a nap.

If you want happiness for an afternoon - go fishing.

If you want security for a year - inherit your own iceberg.

If you want joy for a lifetime - help someone else.

Mark Hurtubise is the President & amp; CEO of Foundation Northwest at 221 N. Wall St. in the Old City Hall Building. To reach Foundation Northwest, visit or call 624-2606.

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