In the fall of 2010, teachers Chris Pendleton and Dale Fisher of Hidden Valley High School (HVHS) were introduced to a Community 101 Program developed by the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF). This Program was introduced by the current JCF Chairman Frank Ault who has continued to work closely with the teachers and students at HVHS, a high school located just outside of Grants Pass Oregon. The Community 101 Program is a hands-on program where high school students learn about non-profit organizations by receiving $5,000; select a topic of concern to them in the community; seek grant applications from non-profits; evaluate the proposals; and grant out the $5,000 to help solve the issue of concern. The students successfully completed Community 101 that year and again in the fall of 2011.

The problem…
However, in 2011 they were introduced to the following statistics from OCF about how poorly Josephine County ranked in a number of key economic and social areas compared to the State of Oregon and the United States. These numbers helped the students recognize the areas of need in their community.

“Living all my life in Grants Pass, I thought things were normal here. These statistics about our County compared to elsewhere woke me up to the reality that things could be much better here if we all tried to make a difference.”

~ Jacob Pendleton, JCF founding student.

  • Unemployment rate 30% higher than Oregon’s and 44% higher than the National average.
  • Children living in poverty 59% higher than the Oregon state average.
  • Homeless Student population is 89% higher than the Oregon state average.
  • High school graduation rate 9% lower than the Oregon average and 14% lower than the National average.
  • Population with a Bachelor’s Degree 43% lower than Oregon and the Nation.

The solution…JCF is born
In November 2011, the Hidden Valley students decided two things: they wanted to use their energy and creativity to address these economic and social issues; and that they did not just want to give out money to others, they wanted to actually do community service projects to improve their community. That was when the concept of the Josephine County Foundation (JCF) was born. Under the direction of Ault, Pendleton, Fisher and Joan Jones, students Cedar Wilkening and Jacob Pendleton created a business plan for JCF. JCF was then incorporated as an Oregon non-profit.

“The creation of JCF is significant and impactful and that it has been undertaken by high school students makes it even more compelling. OCF and I stand ready to help JCF succeed.”

~ Max Williams, President, Oregon Community Foundation

Our first project…making a difference in the community
Several months later, the first JCF project was held: a free vision clinic in Grants Pass for those needing eye examinations and eye glasses. The project was a great success; 150 needy individuals had their eyes examined and received a free pair of glasses, if needed. After this hands-on project, the students were hooked on serving their community. They were so proud to serve the members of their community and to have the hands on experience of learning new skills. This became the model for JCF – Students Serving the Community.

“Having worked with my father in developing countries conducting vision clinics, I thought why can’t we do the same thing here in Josephine County to help those who cannot afford eye examinations and eye glasses.”

~ Cedar Wilkening, first JCF Student President.

From 2010 to 2013 JCF raised about $160,000 to fund scholarships, stage a vision clinic for low–income residents, put on a “care fair” in Wolf Creek that offered medical and dental checkups for students at the Sunny Wolf Charter School, and other projects. A freshman at the time, Sylvia Marr was the driving force behind the Convening. “These kids ain’t messin’ around.” said Kevin Widdison, Editor of the Daily Courier. “What were you doing when you were 15?” he asked.

Watch JCF grow!
Next, the students realized that to serve the entire community, they needed students involved from all four county public high schools. First to join Hidden Valley in JCF was students from Illinois Valley, followed shortly afterwards by students at North Valley and Grants Pass High School. Today, students from each of those schools conduct JCF projects that are unique to their own community (such as vision clinics, health/dental clinics), as well as County-wide projects (such as Fire Needs Program and Student Enrichment Programs). See Projects section of this website for details of all projects.

In the spring of 2014, the students held a Community Convening with 60 business, political and civic leaders in Josephine County to explain JCF and to have an open discussion of community needs and projects which the students could perform to address those needs. The students, in addition to learning about non-profits, are learning how to run a business and how to do fundraising and grant writing to obtain the needed funds to perform their community service work. They are also learning how to make community service a part of their lives – JCF is creating the next generation of philanthropists.

501c3 status is received in record time!
JCF applied to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in January 2015 to be a 501c3 non-profit, rather than a fund of the high schools. That approval came back from the IRS in a record time of just two months. The IRS also made the 501c3 status retroactive to JCF’s founding in November 2011.

…and we have received prestigious awards.
JCF has been recognized for the success of its students by being selected number one in the nation at the Future Business Leaders of America competition in 2013; being named the State of Oregon Youth Volunteer Organization of the Year in 2014 and receiving the first ever Grants Pass Mayor’s Non-Profit of the Year Award in 2015.