In 1976, two activists with $500,000 of inherited wealth convened a gathering on the banks of the McKenzie River in the Cascade foothills east of Eugene, Oregon. They asked the folks present to decide how this money could have the deepest impact on the root causes of social inequity and environmental degradation. From this first meeting, the McKenzie River Gathering Foundation was created.
Leslie Brockelbank and Charles Gray, the co-founders of MRG, recognized that the best way to decide how to spend the money was to use the wisdom of people in the community. Rather than just make the decisions themselves, they brought in people with direct knowledge of the issues. Since that time, MRG Foundation's Board of Directors and Grantmaking Committees have been comprised of individuals directly involved in developing genuine solutions to the difficult issues facing their communities. Committee members come from all parts of the state and reflect the diversity of Oregon.
By the early 1980s, MRG Foundation had evolved into an energized public foundation supported by hundreds of donors from around the state and by out-of-state supporters committed to building the progressive movement in Oregon. By actively seeking contributions from individuals and distributing them to organizations throughout the state, MRG Foundation helped to keep activism and organizing alive at the community level.
In 1993, MRG Foundation launched an endowment campaign to ensure our future as a permanent resource for the progressive community. The income generated from the endowment helps cover administrative costs, allowing most of our annual donations to be distributed to social change groups throughout Oregon.
As political events unfold, MRG Foundation is often the first to provide immediate funding to groups. Within two weeks after 9/11, MRG was giving grants to groups that wanted to organize a progressive response.
When the United States was preparing to invade Iraq in 2003, MRG Foundation launched the Peace Action Fund with grants ranging from $500 to $10,000. More than $100,000 was designated for Oregon groups working to prevent war in Iraq and for other peace-related actions. This is just one example of how MRG Foundation is able to respond to events quickly in order to provide critical support to activists throughout Oregon.
In this new millennium, MRG Foundation plays a critical role in supporting Oregon’s progressive movement and funding emerging issues. Our General Fund is at its highest level ever, and we continue to discover new groups who are working on a local level on the tough issues of our time.