As the chair of the Board of Directors for Friends of the Columbia Gorge, I wanted to take a moment to reach out to you during this challenging time that is affecting all of us in difficult and varied ways. Now, one year into my tenure as board chair, I had been looking forward to connecting with our membership at our annual meeting this month and beginning the celebration of our 40th anniversary, but alas, that will have to wait for better times.
Still, it is said that “No winter lasts forever, No spring skips its turn.” Yes, if the COVID-19 pandemic is our global winter, spring will come. Spring is my favorite time of the year. Forty years ago, I moved to the Northwest from rural western New York (yes, rural and New York can be in the same sentence). My childhood memory of spring was the snow finally melting in mid-April, trees leafing out shortly thereafter, and summer arriving in mid-May. Spring had its turn but it was fleeting at best.
In the Gorge, we are blessed with a spring that begins in mid-February when the first grass widows begin blooming, and the progression of nature and color marches on and on and on, often lasting into early July. This year, while most of us won’t have the opportunity to experience the balsamroot blooms of the Mosier Plateau nor the explosion of color on Dog Mountain, there is much to enjoy in our own backyards if we the take the time to see what is unfolding in front of us.
Just as spring is a testament to Mother Nature’s resilience, Friends’ 40-year history is one of resilience. Whether it was the social and economic aftermath of 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, or the 2017 Eagle Creek fire, Friends showed its resolve and its enduring raison d’etre. Today, we are a bit battered but will come out of this a stronger, albeit changed organization.
Crises pull people together to confront a common purpose and Friends' thousands of members lay the groundwork for organizational resilience. Because of you, our staff is still working hard protecting and stewarding the Columbia Gorge for future generations, whether it is on the lands, in the courts, or in our homes. And despite the isolation, through this crisis our staff is connecting and supporting each other on deeper levels than when working together in common offices.
Looking ahead over the next several months, we know this pandemic is creating difficult circumstances for many of you. Given that our mission is heavily reliant on average people, I want to outline what we are thinking about for the coming months as it relates to asking people to continue their memberships with us. Our top priority is keeping as many of you connected to our work as possible. With that mind, if you see a membership renewal request from us in the coming months, you will also see these four options to continue your membership:
- If you are in a place to renew your membership, please consider doing so. Your donation means that the work of protecting the Gorge continues.
- If you can’t give what you have typically given, we get it. Please give what you can and take care of your priorities.
- If you’ve lost a job or are in financial crisis and can’t afford to renew your membership, we see you as a valuable friend. Just write “COMP” on your return card and we will provide you with a complimentary one-year membership to Friends of the Columbia Gorge. It is our way to thank you and ensure that we have as many voices as possible participating in our work.
- Finally, if you are one of the lucky ones in a place who can support us at or above your usual level, please consider making an additional gift to support those who can’t right now.
In closing, I would like to thank you for your support and express my gratitude to our staff and board for their continued focus on Gorge protection as we all work our way through this crisis. Stay safe and stay healthy.