It’s a successful formula that the Goosefoot Community Fund stumbled into in 2008. That year, the nonprofit had no choice but to take over ownership of a supermarket located on a piece of commercial property they owned on South Whidbey Island.
A strange notion? Maybe. But it’s proven to be an extremely lucrative one.
Named the Goose Community Grocer, it didn’t take long for Goosefoot to be able to help South Whidbey with donations of food and products and, subsequently, help the programs of local charitable organizations. Stocked with all sorts of food and home products as any other supermarket, the Goose is managed by the Myers Group—the owner and operator of grocery stores throughout Washington. Profits from the store go to Goosefoot to reinvest back into the community, not into a CEO’s pocket.
Since 2014, Goosefoot donated over $1 million in grants to a wide variety of South Whidbey nonprofits—all because of the Goose Grocer. See the list of recipients here. “Goosefoot was founded on the premise that eventually there would be profits from our community development projects to invest back into our community,” according to executive director Sandra Whiting. “It just took longer than we expected.”
Goosefoot puts out a call for grant proposals annually. Requirements to apply include being a 501(c)(3) organization that serves South Whidbey in Goosefoot’s priority areas. The program is somewhat unique because requests for general operating support—not popular among most foundations—are allowed. Nonprofits may apply for grants up to $15,000.
“If we believe in a project, we’ll fund what the organization needs most to accomplish their goals,” explains Whiting. “Nonprofits have enough to do without jumping through hoops that take up valuable time best used to help people.” A perfect example is when the walk-in freezer serving the Meals on Wheels program for all of Whidbey Island broke down for good. Goosefoot gave an emergency grant of $35,000 to Island Senior Resources so they could get the meals program running again as soon as possible.
Here’s a small sampling of how South Whidbey’s people and programs benefit from the sale of milk, bread, meat, wine and hundreds of other food items stuffed into thousands of brown paper bags stamped with the logo of a big, goofy goose.
South Whidbey Hearts & Hammers
($10,000 for home roof repairs)
Every year, a legion of volunteers carrying truckloads of tools gather on the first Saturday in May and get to work measuring, sawing, pruning and painting. They are the people power behind Hearts & Hammers, a nonprofit devoted to helping neighbors stay in their home by providing repairs and yard clean-ups while also tending to health and safety issues.
Replacing rotten stair railings, fixing leaky sinks and hauling off hundreds of pounds and years of accumulated junk are just some of the tasks tackled by teams of Hearts & Hammers volunteers every Work Day since 1993.
“Trying to keep our neighbors safe and in their homes is a crucial step in assuring community stability,” said Baz Stevens, a longtime organizer. “Low-income housing options are very limited on South Whidbey. Keeping folks safely in homes they own is our mission.”
“More South Whidbey residents now have safer roofs over their heads.”Baz Stevens, Hearts & Hammers Organizer
But there was one home fix-it job that Hearts & Hammers couldn’t safely address — roof repairs. Patching or replacing a roof is both dangerous and costly, Stevens noted. But it’s also a common need and often requires immediate attention.
So in 2017, Hearts & Hammers began a separate fund drive for roof repairs.
“We modestly began to assist low-income homeowners to obtain roof repair assistance from local professional roofing contractors,” Stevens said. “In some cases, minor repairs were made. In other instances, we considered paying for complete roof replacement.“
A typical roof replacement costs $10,000 to $20,000 while a complex replacement could add up to $50,000.
In 2019, Goosefoot awarded Hearts & Hammers of South Whidbey $10,000 for roof repairs, which was subsequently matched by an anonymous donor. “More South Whidbey residents now have safer roofs over their heads,” Stevens said.
Clinton Community Hall
($8,300 toward updating commercial kitchen)
When leaders of a historic town center needed help to continue safely serving as a community hub, they turned to Goosefoot.
Clinton Community Hall has been a gathering place for meetings, dances and political forums since 1960. Situated in Clinton on Highway 520, it’s one of the first large structures visitors pass by after getting off the ferry on Whidbey Island’s south end.
Decades of use strained the building’s ability to stay open for meetings and for use as a rental space for receptions and events. Its septic system needed a complete overhaul and its commercial kitchen needed updating. In 2017, Goosefoot awarded the Clinton Progressive Association that manages the hall $3,346. It purchased a new commercial refrigerator and repaired a backup generator needed because the space is also designated a Red Cross Warming Center during emergencies.
“The board of the Clinton Progressive Hall is very appreciative of the commitment Goosefoot has to its community. The experience working with Goosefoot has been a very supportive, inclusive experience.”Sue Mills, Vice President of Clinton Community Hall board
In 2019, another $5,000 grant from Goosefoot helped purchase a six-burner propane stove to replace two aging small electric stoves, install an exhaust fan and buy LED kitchen ceiling lights.
“These upgrades brought our kitchen into compliance with commercial kitchen codes and increased the functionality of our kitchen for our members and renters,” said Sue Mills, vice president of board that oversees the hall.
“The board of the Clinton Progressive Hall is very appreciative of the commitment Goosefoot has to its community. The experience working with Goosefoot has been a very supportive, inclusive experience.”
Friends of Friends
($34,000 over 3 years to establish and continue a dental health fund)
Assessing the wealth of an American isn’t difficult.
Just look at their teeth. Bright, straight, pearly white? Rich enough to afford regular dental care. Jagged, stained and missing? Poor enough to be caught in this country’s “dental divide.”
“Before Goosefoot awarded this grant, we did not have the funds to pay for dental requests except for the most dire cases.”MaryJane Lungren, Board President of Friends of Friends
Dental care is typically a supplemental cost on employer health insurance plans and it’s not covered by government health plans, Medicaid and Medicare. Ignoring dental problems is both dangerous and expensive, numerous studies show; an estimated 1 in 5 Americans have no dental health plans.
In 2017, Goosefoot joined forces with Friends of Friends, a South Whidbey nonprofit group that acts as a community medical safety net, to address this often overlooked need.
“As we all know, the mouth is part of the body and is an integral part of our health,” said MaryJane Lungren, president of Friends of Friends Medical Support Fund. “Goosefoot’s generous grant has paid for dental care for all who have requested it. We have paid for extractions, root canals, fillings, antibiotics, dentures, exams and x-rays. “One thank-you came from a grandmother who said she could smile at her grandchildren again.”
In 2017, using a $15,000 Goosefoot grant, Friends of Friends launched dental services to expand its mission of easing the burden of unexpected medical expenses. In 2019, grant funds assisted 37 people, contributing $19,587 toward a variety of much-needed dental work.
“Many people have used all their disposable income on living expenses while sick and had no money to pay for emergency or emergent dental care,” Lungren said. “I cannot tell you how much this means to each individual and to the board of Friends of Friends to be able to say ‘yes’ to dental requests as well as medical requests.”
Since 1997, the organization has helped pay medical bills of some 2,000 residents using $1 million raised from fundraisers and direct donations. Financial aid pays for prescriptions, doctor’s visits, hospital bills, lab fees, even the cost of ferry tickets to get healthcare off the island. “Before Goosefoot awarded this grant, we did not have the funds to pay for dental requests except for the most dire cases,” Lungren added.