Born and Raised to Volunteer
Curt Burrill, 50, Medford
Walker Fund committee, Burrill Family Scholarship committee, Robert J. and Leona DeArmond Public Foundation board, Southern Oregon Leadership Council (past)
It’s not exaggerating to say that Curt Burrill’s volunteer service for Oregon Community Foundation is improving the lives and opportunities of low-income children every day.
Burrill serves on a committee of Jackson County residents who recommend how to distribute roughly $2 million annually to nonprofits that work to break the cycle of poverty for local kids and families. The money comes from investment earnings from the Reed and Carolee Walker Fund, a permanent endowment created through the Ashland couple’s bequest to OCF in 2003.
A graduate of South Medford High and Southern Oregon University, Burrill owns a commercial real estate company in Medford and has volunteered for many years for OCF.
Opportunities in Jackson County aren’t what they used to be when he was younger, Burrill says. More families are in crisis, and kids are paying the price. That’s why OCF funding for local organizations that are working to strengthen families — with mental health services, parent training and other support — are so important.
“Being born and raised and choosing to raise your family in the same community, you have a love of that community. And you don't want to see it take steps backwards,” he says. “I just want my community to be a better place. Volunteering is what I can do to have a small part in trying to help it succeed.”
Burrill says it’s not as widely known as it should be that local people have a big say in how OCF grants are distributed in Jackson County, especially when it comes to the annual Walker Fund awards.
“I don’t think the story is told well enough, that there are local people making these recommendations,” he says.
Burrill’s family and OCF’s founder, William Swindells Sr., share a similar story. Both thrived in Oregon’s timber industry and invested significant earnings and volunteer time to improve the lives of their neighbors and fellow Oregonians.
Burrill’s grandfather founded the Eugene F. Burrill Lumber Company, which operated until 1998. Each year, Burrill interviews Jackson County students for the Burrill Family scholarship, one of hundreds of scholarship funds administered by OCF. It’s available to recent high school graduates from Prospect, where Burrill’s grandparents and parents lived, as well as Butte Falls and Eagle Point.
“My grandfather helped with the fundraising when the Rogue Valley Medical Center was trying to build their big campus. My dad was involved in Mercy Flights, our air ambulance operation here in Southern Oregon, for 40 years. I grew up watching my dad and my grandfather being involved in the community. When I finished college and started working, volunteering was just a natural thing,” he says.
“I don't know any other way. Because I saw it with my dad and my grandfather. It was instilled in me from an early age: You just get involved.”
Curt Burrill is a volunteer featured in the story is a volunteer featured in the story “A Gift Beyond Measure: OCF Volunteer Impact.”