Nonprofit aims to meet the community’s diverse and evolving needs
By Jillian Chandler
“The Greater Gig Harbor Foundation envisions an engaged community working together to enhance the lives of all residents in our greater peninsulas community and the environment that sustains us—today and for future generations.”
May 2021 marked the 15th year since the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation was incorporated, as its founding members realized the critical gap in the community’s nonprofit sector—specifically, there was no organization working directly to raise essential funding to provide perpetual resources to help meet the critical and changing needs of the community. Programs, funds and endeavors of the charitable 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization are overseen by a Board of Directors, with top officers Judson Morris, president, and Dr. Julie Ann Gustanski, CEO and president emeritus.
Since 2006, the work achieved through the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation (GGHF) is holistic, multifunctional, and cross-disciplinary. Over the past 15 years, GGHF has raised, distributed and re-invested more than $11.4 million in assets directly into the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula communities through grants, scholarships and programs across the organization’s five mission-focused areas: Arts & Culture, Education, Environment, Recreation and Social Capital—all vital in supporting a vibrant, healthy and sustainable community.
“We work collaboratively to build, bridge and enrich our great Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula region by raising funds, advocating for and providing support to help meet diverse and emerging community needs,” states Ariel Gustanski, the foundation’s COO. Unlike most of the more than 800 community foundations across the country, in addition to serving as catalyst for charitable giving to support community needs, the Foundation also has its “boots on the ground,” according to Gustanski. “So, in addition to working to improve our community's quality of life by connecting people who care with causes that matter, we realize our mission through our own programs, projects and events as well.”
As a community foundation, the GGHF exists to address the needs of the community—whatever that may look like. “For several years, we have focused on our various programs (Curious by Nature School, Gig Harbor Senior Center, EnviroCorps, Students of Distinction, Gig Harbor Basket Brigade, etc.), but when the pandemic hit, we quickly adjusted, realizing that at that moment we needed to serve our community differently,” shares Gustanski.
“In this realization, we were able to provide more than 10,000 delivered meals to area seniors, distribute over 3,800 bags of fresh produce, approximately 125,000 pounds of food with a value of $220,000 to local residents across our two peninsulas, and nearly $42,000 in grants and relief funding to local organizations, businesses and families.” Annually, more than 600 volunteers come together to help make everything the foundation does possible, and the staff provides hundreds of hours to support a variety of community efforts: road, park and trail clean-ups; invasive species removal and habitat restoration projects; and community events such as the Gig Harbor Farmers Market, Gig Harbor Basket Brigade, Donkey Creek Chum Festival, Maritime Gig Festival, Scarecrow Festival, Peninsula Early Learning Jamboree and Wings & Wheels.
“The most rewarding thing about the work that the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation does is seeing the direct impact our programs, services, grants and events have within our community,” smiles Morris.
To find out more about the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation, and what you can do to help ensure their mission and manifest their vision, visit GigHarborFoundation.org.
Greater Gig Harbor Foundation
7191 Wagner Way, Suite 102
Gig Harbor, Washington 98335