Pandemic and Wildfires Prompt Family Fund to Step Up Giving
After building Portland-based PECO Manufacturing into a major vendor for the aerospace industry, Dean Schamp wanted to use his success to help others. On the advice of a friend, Dean and his wife, Shirley, launched the Schamp Family Fund at OCF. From the outset, Dean had a clear vision of the fund’s purpose: “Roof over head, food on table and book in hand.”
“It was geared primarily toward families with kids that needed help,” his son Eric explains. “Children learning, studying, and not falling behind because of their economic situation.”
For the past 21 years, the fund has continued to focus on that mission while also supporting environmental causes. Its grantmaking totals about $400,000 annually; typical grantees include Angels in the Outfield, Albertina Kerr, Oregon 4-H Hispanic Youth Program, Oregon Food Bank, Western Rivers Conservancy, and OCF’s Ready to Learn Fund.
In a normal year, Eric and his brother Alan make their funding decisions in the fall after receiving recommendations from staff at OCF’s Portland office. But 2020 was anything but normal. As Oregon reeled under the combined crises of COVID-19 and raging wildfires, Eric and Alan were moved to increase their total giving to almost $1 million.
“When times are really hard, you need to step up to the plate.”
Schamp Family Fund
“The way my brother Alan and I looked at it was, if not now, when?” Eric recalls. “The need was so immediate. We had the ability—because of the way our fund is structured—to step up. And we felt like the money’s just sitting there, so why not give it out to the people that really need it in these extraordinary times?”
In April 2020, and again in June 2020, the Schamp Family Fund made a $100,000 donation to OCF’s COVID-19 Response Fund. But as Oregon businesses and communities continued to struggle, they realized they needed to do more. “We had further conversations through the summer,” Eric says. “When we came into our normal decision-making process, the wildfires were flaring, so we decided to step up again because of that immediate need.”
In September 2020, the fund provided $100,000 each to OCF’s 2020 Community Rebuilding Fund and Oregon Community Recovery Fund. Further grants totaling more than $200,000 supported COVID-19 and wildfire response by the American Red Cross, Klamath Tribal Health & Family Services, the Burns Paiute Tribe, Unete Center for Farmworker Advocacy, Warm Springs Boys & Girls Club, and many other organizations working to help devastated families and communities across our state.
“The challenge is always to get the money to where it needs to go,” Eric points out. “OCF has done a great job of figuring out how to get the money out there. If we’d tried to do something on our own, that would’ve been very challenging. But OCF mobilized and made it easy. They had the connections and researched how to go about all of this. They came to us with recommendations, and we followed their lead.”
The Schamp Family Fund also made a $75,000 leadership gift to the Pacific Northwest Resilient Landscapes Initiative, which brings expertise, resources and donor communities together to support land trusts that are conserving climate-resilient lands across Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The purpose is not only to preserve habitat for plants, fish and wildlife but also to improve access to clean water, reduce flooding risks, preserve farmland and offer spaces for recreation.
Launched in 2019 with seed funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, this initiative is a collaboration of OCF, the Land Trust Alliance, Seattle Foundation and Idaho Community Foundation.
Eric explains the relevance of this grant to the seasonal wildfires that are increasingly ravaging our state: “I believe climate change is real and so does my brother, so we felt like that was something we could do on a local basis.” He’s hopeful that the Schamp Family Fund’s embrace of this initiative will inspire other donors to get involved. “I love the outdoors,” he says. “I love to try to do what we can, even if it’s on the minimal scale of just the Northwest. I’m concerned about what’s going to happen in the long run, but whatever we can do in the short term makes sense.”
“Our goal is to conserve the places we love and need so that nature and communities thrive as our climate changes,” adds Carlos Garcia, OCF’s environmental resource officer. “Because donors like the Schamp Family Fund are stepping forward, these remarkable natural areas will be here for future generations.”
Eric believes that Oregonians can take some important lessons from the tragedy and turmoil of 2020: “One thing I’ve learned is to count my blessings on a regular basis, because there’s so many people that have been hurt. I also think what we’ve learned is you need to help your neighbors and your community out as much as you possibly can. There’s a lot of people who haven’t been hurt hardly at all, and some people have actually benefited. So this is the time to step up and try to help people out.”
“The biggest thing is, OCF makes it easy to do this,” he concludes. “They run a good operation. If you have the money and you’re looking to help, this is a good way to do it.”