Cowlitz Tribal Foundation gives out $2.5 million in grant funding


The Cowlitz Indian Tribe celebrated its start to the holiday season with a tree lighting ceremony at ilani on Nov. 23 as they announced roughly $2.5 million of grants the tribe handed out through its charitable foundation.

During an event featuring singers from the Ridgefield High School choir, the Cowlitz tribal drummers and a massive Christmas tree, the tribe celebrated nine of the 31 organizations it gave funds to through its Cowlitz Tribal Foundation.

“Each year the Cowlitz Indian Tribe is honored to support not-for-profit organizations dedicated to lifting up and strengthening our communities,” Cowlitz General Council Chair Patty Kinswa-Gaiser said. “Today we are proud to partner with these nine recipients who demonstrate the true meaning of giving.”

One of the larger donations went to Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue. They received $700,000 to fund the purchase of two ambulances, which are intended to help the fire department’s medical response. 

The partnership between the department and the tribe began more than 20 years ago. John Barnett, the tribal chairman at that time, and then fire chief and current fire commissioner Larry Bartel, discussed what fire protection would look like on the future reservation, current CCFR Chief John Nohr said. He noted the department responded to more than 1,200 incidents at the reservation since April of 2017.

The grant wasn’t the first gift from the tribe to the department. CCFR was presented a new fire engine by the tribe earlier this year, which is currently at the department’s La Center station.

Woodland Action Center, the food bank in Woodland, received $15,000 through the grants. That money will go toward a new forklift to replace one that broke just days before the center learned they would receive the funds, Gayle Singleton, with the center, said.

Singleton said the new forklift has been ordered. She said the grant allows Woodland Action Center to avoid dipping into its savings for a replacement.

“It’s a relief,” Singleton said.

La Center School District also received a grant of $100,000 which will continue work on technology upgrades. Last year the district applied for a grant and received $90,000 which was used to provide teacher laptops and audio systems in classrooms.

The focus from the latest grant will be on visual systems, LCSD Director of Teaching and Learning Michelle O’Neil said. Current projectors can be difficult for students to see, and upgrading that equipment will help with the issue.

Members of the tribe came out to the district’s schools to see how they utilize technology, she said. 

“They were so involved in the community tour,” O’Neil said about the tribal representatives, who even provided ideas to further the district’s technology usage.

“They feel just as strongly as we do that the future of our community starts with our education,” O’Neil said.

Other donations given through the Cowlitz Tribal Foundation include:

  • The Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Washington received $1 million for youth development programs.
  • The Vancouver Housing Authority received $500,000 to purchase a 30-unit permanent housing structure for youths who transfer out of foster care or experience homelessness.
  • The Ridgefield Lions Club received $20,000 for general operating support.
  • Santa’s Posse, a partnership between the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the local business community, received $30,000 to provide food and gifts to families in need during the holiday season.

Two agencies outside of Clark County also received grants.

They included the Kalama-based Chai Rivers Recovery Cafè, which received $80,803 to support community-based recovery treatment, support and resources for individuals who deal with addiction.

Bonney Lake Food Bank was awarded $75,000 to help with its efforts.