Sustaining Small Town Charity

They are among us, and that is good. The things that are closest to us are easiest to overlook. Where I live the economy continues along uncertainly. Some businesses are thriving. Others are shuttering. Many live on a knife edge. The same is true of the people, with one particular twist. Young people tend to leave this rural community, just like in every small town. They hunt for opportunities or even just work, and realize it is easier to find it in town, in the city, away from home. In the meantime, the very character of small towns is defined by the very people who must find successors if the character will be maintained. But who will help with that? You’ve probably already realized where I’m going. Let’s go there.

The economy is growing, oops, except for last quarter’s hiccup. Corporate profits are up. The total wealth of the US continues to grow. Yet wages aren’t growing. Long term unemployment continues, and encourages people to relocate to job centers or to jump into entrepreneurship; both of which are risky options.

Small towns, or isolated communities like Whidbey, have a tough time holding onto young people. The jobs tend to be in the cities. With every young person that leaves, a small town’s social scene becomes noticeably less appealing. I bought my house from a young woman who realized that as long as she was on Whidbey she’d have to stay single. Commuting to an urban social life becomes even less appealing when it costs $30 which is added to higher urban prices while being paid from a rural wage. It works for me, but then, I am older, somewhat gregarious, enjoy throwing parties, and have a social network that is similarly ensconced.

Small towns can quickly trend to an aging population. In Whidbey’s case that is very nicely balanced by substantial discretionary income, impressive artistic talent, a sense of style, and a long list of good local food and wine.Callahan's Firehouse A lot of the people are also actively advocating for their causes, sometimes even in conflict, but definitely equally passionate. That may be a characteristic of the Boomers because, at least on Whidbey, they’ve created a long list of charities.

Click. If the young people are hunting for jobs, but not finding them; and if the community needs young people to continue; and if there is a lot of passionate work to be done; and if the non-profits want to continue beyond another decade; and if the resources are here to fund the non-profits; then maybe the young people and the Boomers can get together as a model of what may be necessary across the continent – a succession plan that spans generations.

The local folklore has claimed that South Whidbey has the highest concentration of non-profits per person in the US. If so, then maybe this is a great place to start such a societal succession.

Folklore is not enough. I wanted data.

Look for the library under the rainbow

Look for the library under the rainbow

Trust your local librarian. Do you realize that librarians look forward to people coming in and asking them to help with research? Librarians went to school for that very reason. Watch them light up with the right question. I asked around at my local branch, where most of us know each other because it is a small town and because I give talks there frequently. Within a couple of days I had a list of every non-profit on the island. They knew just which database to query.

For the entire island, there is about one non-profit for every 280 people. Ah, but the northern end is dominated by the Naval Air Station, which has an impressive supply of non-profit services delivered by the non-profit service that is the Navy. The rest of the island has about one non-profit for every 150 people. Drop into the trendiest and most stylish center of Langley and that drops to one for every 102. If, on average, a non-profit could sustain two people (and yes, many can’t sustain one; but many can sustain several) that’s two more people living on the island and helping to maintain its character. In real numbers, that is 156 non-profits from a population of 23,957 (221 from 61,780 if we include the northern end). Two people per non-profit is 312 jobs, which therefore employs more than one percent of the population.

Of course some of those young people already have those jobs. Many of the non-profits can’t sustain their web sites, so a staff person won’t fit in the budget. But many of the remaining jobs are handled by volunteers, frequently by founders, and usually by people who prefer having someone else do the work within the next decade.

If it remains even remotely true that the Boomer generation will pass along $41,000,000,000,000 in wealth within the next decade or so, then there is a remarkable opportunity to also pass along passions for causes, transfer hope to youth, and continue or even accelerate good works that remain undone.

On Whidbey the numbers may be small, but the percentages are large and will be noticeable. I know that I’d like to see my community maintain its style, and continue doing good work. But I also worry. Saturday night I went to my favorite concert of the year: The Rural Characters playing at Mayfest, a fundraiser for the local community hall. The music was fun and excellent as ever, especially if you like ferry jokes. (It’s an island thing.) Sitting in the back it was also apparent that I wasn’t the youngest, but I was far younger than the average. The thought of generational succession was already in mind, but the event placed it in front of my eyes too.

Will it work? I don’t know. I’m not a millennial. I’m so close to the edge of the Boomer generation that I’ve never felt a part of it. I admit that one motivation is that I want to stay on the island too, and if I have a thirty year mortgage I have to think thirty years ahead, not just three. If nothing else though, I realized I could provide the list (thanks again to Sno-Isle Libraries), make the suggestion, and see what happens. Besides, do you realize how much fun a party would be if an extra 312 happy people showed up? Gotta get a bigger dance floor.

For those who want the details, here’s the list, and a few factoids.
Which ones do you want to help maintain and sustain?
Total (non-profits = 221) population = 61780

Clinton (18) 5635
Animal People Inc.              
Tune in to Nature Org              
Chinook Learning Community              
Kids First – Island County              
Washington Assistance Dog Education Center              
Whidbey Institute              
Whidbey Island Youth Soccer Association              
Coming Alongside              
Citizens in Support of Useless Bay Community              
Lakeside Bible Camp Association              
Whidbey Island Waldorf School              
South Whidbey Youth Soccer Club              
Friends of the Clinton Library              
La Bella Coro              
Adoption Network A Charitable Trust              
Shoes for Kids Foundation              
Progressive Association              
North American Motor Officers Association              

Langley (52) 5278
Heartbeat Serving Wounded Warriors              
Giraffe Project Inc.              
Whidbey Childrens Theater              
Sister Island Project              
Langley Community Club              
South Whidbey Good Cheer Inc.              
Oasis for Animals              
Saratoga Chamber Orchestra              
Island Christian Academy              
Experience Food Project Cascadia              
Ryans House              
Outcast Productions              
Langley Main Street Association              
Whidbey Island Nourishes              
Elizabeth George Foundation              
South Whidbey Commons              
Mother Mentors of Whidbey Island              
Power of Hope              
Hub – Youth Central              
Matanho Project              
Young Skandia Dansers              
Wild Works Conservation Foundation Inc.              
Northwest Language Academy              
Pye Global              
Hope- Horsemanship Opportunities for Potential Equestrians              
Parent Child Cooperative of South Whidbey              
Context Institute              
South Whidbey Childrens Center              
Island Arts Council              
South Whidbey Historical Society              
Baby Island-Saratoga Club              
Helping Hand of South Whidbey              
Whidby Community Hall Association              
South Whidbey Elementary PTA Island Co 7 7 15              
South Whidbey High School Performing Arts Boosters              
Hearts & Hammers              
Whidbey Island Center for the Arts              
Whidbey Environmental Action Network              
Whidbey Watershed Stewards              
Whidbey Dance Theatre              
Langley Middle School Ptsa              
Readiness to Learn Whidbey Foundation              
Keepers of the Game              
Goosefoot Community Fund A Not for Profit Corporation              
Friends of Friends              
Island County Fair Association Inc.              
Friends of the Langley Library              
New Road Map Foundation              
Morris Family Foundation              

Freeland (41) 4561
Zoe Foundation              
Island Affordable Housing Tr              
Association for Veterinary Family Practice              
Brothers of Saint John the Evangelist Osb              
Whidbey Orchestras              
Living Success Center              
Fund for Personal Liberty              
South Whidbey Parks and Aquatics Foundation              
Veterans Resource Center              
Mellison Family Foundation              
Calling the Circle Foundation              
Island Rowing Association              
Friends of Holmes Harbor              
Rotary Foundation of Whidbey Westside              
South Whidbey Bible Chapel              
Senior Services of Island County              
Christian Life Ctr of Whidbey Island              
Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens              
Enso House              
Service Education & Adventure              
Otherworld Media Inc.              
Foundation of Senior Services of Island County              
Friends of the Freeland Library              
The Arise Charitable Trust              
One Drop Zendo Association              
South Whidbey Church of Christ              
South Whidbey Rotary Club Foundation              
South Whidbey Schools Foundation              
Mano Con Mano Health Beach              
Whidbey Island Garden Tour Inc.              
Cru Institute              
Northwest Institute of Literary Arts              
Genealogical Society of South Whidbey Island              
Northwest Venture Drum and Bugle Corps Inc.              
New Stories              
Victor B Sheffer Foundation              
Whidbey Island Land & Shore Trust              
Friends of Freeland              
Orca Network              
Destination Paradise              
Impact Teams International              

Greenbank (9) 1837
International Association of Home Staging Professionals              
Native Plant Stewards              
Dg Foundation              
Washington Association of Land Trusts              
Romainia League in Defense of Animals              
Whidbey-Camano Land Trust              
Greenbank Farm Management Group              
Ulmschneider Educational Foundation              
Tinyblue Foundation              

Coupeville (36) 6646
Capt Dans Farmstead              
Gifts From the Heart Food Bank              
Globan Ent Outreach              
Small Miracles Coupeville Medical Support Fund              
Auxiliary of Whidbey General Hospital              
Coupeville Booster Club              
Pacific Rim Institute for Environmental Stewardship              
Central Whidbey Hearts & Hammers              
Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association              
Magic Macintosh Appreciation Group of Island County              
Kwpa Whidbey Public Radio              
Penn Cove Water Festival Association              
Citizen Corps Council of Island County              
Alcohol 24-Hour Help Line              
Island Ministries              
Whidbey Island Hospital Foundation              
Central Whidbey Cooperative Preschool              
Friends of the Coupeville Library              
Quilters on the Rock C/O Joanne Van Patten              
Coupeville Lions Foundation              
Concerts on the Cove              
Island County Amateur Radio Club              
Coupeville Arts Center              
Island County Master Gardeners              
Whidbey Animals Improvement Foundation              
Coupeville Elementary PTA 777 C/O Washington State PTA         
Lighthouse Environmental Programs              
Washington Imagination Network              
Community Foundation for Coupeville Public Schools              
Whidbey Weavers Guild              
Western Education & Stewardship Trust              
Broken Arrow Memorial Fund              
Stellar Arts Foundation              
The Wildlands Restoration Society              
Island County Historical Society              
Coupeville Community Bible Church              

Oak Harbor (65) 37823
Medical Safety Net of North Whidbey              
Animals in Need              
Anglican Fellowship of Whidbey Island              
Oak Harbor Youth Sailing Inc.              
Deception Pass Park Foundation              
North Puget Sound Dragon Boat Club              
North Whidbey Christian High School              
Whidbey Playhouse Association              
Whidbey Community Chorus              
Oak Harbor Musical Youth Boosters              
Beeksma Family Foundation              
North Whidbey Caregivers Cove              
Molly Bears              
The Valley Calvary Chapel              
Swan Lake Watershed Preservation Group              
Caleb-Joshua Education and Humanitarian Project              
Mighty to Save Ministries              
Pit Stops Here              
Ballet Slipper Conservatory of Oak Harbor              
Oak Harbor Music Festival              
Word of Everlasting Life and Faith Ministries              
Discipleship Ministries              
Keelworks Foundation              
Rural American Scholarship Fund              
Periwinkle Press              
Interfaith Coalition of Whidbey Island              
Oak Harbor Christian School Society              
New Leaf Inc.              
United Way of Island County              
Bible Baptist Church of Oak Harbor              
Lutheran Outdoor Ministry Assn Inc.              
Family Bible Church of Oak Harbor              
Island Thrift               
North Whidbey Help              
Grace by the Sea              
Citizens Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse              
Oak Harbor Church of Christ              
Oak Harbor Firemens Association    
Toddler Learning Center Association              
Pregnancy Care Clinic              
Suzuki Association of Washington State              
The Lords Garden Association              
Friends of the Oakj Harbor Library              
Calvary Chapel of Oak Harbor              
Oak Harbor Wildcat Booster Club              
Development Companions International              
Oak Harbor Educational Foundation              
Impart Ministries              
Olympic View Orca Parent-Teacher Organization              
Whidbey Island Genealogical Searchers              
Oak Harbor Rotary Foundation              
Oak Harbor Senior Center Foundation              
Heritage Valley Foundation              
Prowler Memorial Park Association              
Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Island County              
Hillcrest Elementary PTA              
Pby Memorial Foundation              
Cascade Warbird Eaa Chapter              
Oak Harbor Elementary PTA              
Soroptimist International of Oak Harbor Foundation              
Impaired Driving Impact Panel of Island County              
North Whidbey Middle School PTA              
International Association of Lions Clubs              
Friends of Home Health Care of Whidbey General Hospital              
Oak Harbor Christian School Foundation              

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: and at my amazon author page:
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3 Responses to Sustaining Small Town Charity

  1. Phil says:


    In Clinton, there also exists a non-profit called The Ndoto Project.
    We focus on education in Kenya.

  2. Hey, hey! Anyone else want to list their Whidbey non-profits that were on the list? I just used what the IRS provided. There are undoubtedly others. The more we grow the list, the more useful it becomes. Thanks, Phil.

  3. Lucas says:

    Island Alternative Medicine in Freeland!

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