The Russell Family Foundation Transitions Puyallup Watershed Initiative to Independent Nonprofit Issues $1.8M to Support Communities of Interest

The Russell Family Foundation (TRFF), a Washington State based grantmaker focused on local, regional, and global change through community investment, announced this week that, after five years of development, local action, and community guidance, its Puyallup Watershed Initiative (PWI) has transitioned into becoming its own free-standing non-profit organization. In the process of spinning off the project, TRFF issued $1,885,400 in grants to support PWI’s continued efforts in creating community-centered change on issues such as clean water, transportation, environmental education & stewardship, public health, natural resources, and food justice.

Puyallup Watershed

“This transition of the PWI into full independence upholds our belief that the people who live and work in a community understand its issues best, and when given the right resources have the greatest ability to make a lasting impact,” says Richard Woo, TRFF’s CEO.

To date, the PWI has helped bring together hundreds of leaders and nonprofit organizations; 17 cities; forests; rich agricultural lands and one of the busiest ports on the West Coast to collectively improve social and environmental conditions throughout the region. It has worked with local partners to leverage $34 million in funding and investments into the watershed, impacting its six focus areas or Communities of Interest (COI) which include: Active Transportation; Agriculture; Environmental Education; Forests; Industrial Stormwater; and Just and Healthy Food System.

Puyallup Watershed

“There is no greater measure of success than launching a program and watching it grow into a self-sufficient community-led initiative,” says Henry Izumizaki, Strategy Director at TRFF. “In a brief time, the PWI has built its reputation as a trusted ally in the watershed, and its new independence marks the beginning of long-lasting systems change for our region.”

The PWI’s new independence will bring a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, charitable status for the organization. All leadership and administrative duties will be directed by the new group’s Community Board made up of various constituencies from the watershed. Jennifer Chang, PWI Community Relations Manager, now serves as Acting Director.

“This is a milestone moment for the PWI and I am thrilled to be helping lead its efforts in 2018, as we continue to drive tangible solutions for the watershed and all those who are impacted by it,” says Chang.

The work of the PWI’s COI has contributed to meaningful change in the watershed, including:

  • Active Transportation: Advocating for pedestrian safety has led to the passage of a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Action Plan passed in the City of Tacoma with funding for SRTS projects through 2019. Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, schools will implement bike and pedestrian safety education standards. Additionally, the Active Transportation COI manager has been invited to sit on the statewide Cooper Jones Bicycle Safety Advisory Council.
  • Agriculture: Building awareness and participation in critical farmland conservation programs, such as Agricultural Resource Land Zoning and Transfer of Development Rights.
  • Environmental Education: Actively working with Fife, Federal Way, White River, Tacoma, and Puyallup School Districts as well as Annie Wright Schools to advance the SEARCH Project (Science Education through Authentic Research Collaboration with Higher-Education), which engages K-12 students in STEM through involvement in research and inquiry.
  • Forests: Expanding forest stewardship throughout the watershed, through education and outreach, landowner engagement, tree coupons, and other mechanisms.
  • Industrial Stormwater: Increasing engagement with businesses in the Tacoma Tideflats with both face-to-face and web-based learning and collaboration that promotes stronger coordination between local governments, industries and neighborhoods to address and prevent stormwater pollution into Commencement Bay and Puget Sound.
  • Just & Healthy Food System: Empowering community through Community Based Participatory Research in Orting, South Tacoma, and Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood in order to pinpoint and clarify key issues of food justice confronting their populations.