MRG Foundation, once known as the McKenzie River Gathering, began on the banks on the river for which the foundation was named, says the group’s communications manager Alison Wandschneider.
Founders Leslie Brocklebank and her husband Charles Gray came into an inheritance of about $500,000, Wandschneider says, and brought a group of activists and philanthropists together to figure out how the money could have the deepest impact on the root causes of social inequity and environmental degradation.
Forty years later, MRG Foundation has “rethought the way foundations could be built and act, and allows those most affected to figure out how to best solve the tricky problems of the day,” she says.
While MRG now makes grants all over Oregon, it originally had a Eugene focus, Wandschneider says, and on Sunday, June 26, the group will host its annual Social Justice Summer Party here in Eugene at the Campbell Senior Center.
The gathering brings together grantees, folks on the ground, donors and more, Wandschneider tells EW. It’s open to the public and leads to community building as people can come and connect to others in the social justice movement. MRG has gained board members and key volunteers from people coming to the summer party, she says.
MRG still has an activist-led grant-making model, Wandschneider says, former grantees and activists on the ground work to decide who should get grants — “people who understand the movement and stay rooted,” she says.
Locally, groups such as Beyond Toxics, Eugene-Springfield NAACP and CALC (Community Alliance of Lane County) have received funding from MRG, and Wandschneider says that CALC was one of the original 1976 grants.
Statewide, MRG has funded empowering LGBTQ youth, the Rural Organizing Project and Lakota Oyate Ki, which engages incarcerated Native Americans in traditional cultural and spiritual practices inside the Oregon State Penitentiary, to name a few.
The foundation has two grant cycles a year giving out a total 17 of general fund grants per cycle with a total of $225,000 awarded per cycle.
The Social Justice Summer Party celebrates the MRG’s 40 years of work and the work of its grantees
The MRG Social Justice Summer Party is 1 to 4 pm Sunday, June 26, at the Campbell Senior Center, 155 High Street in Eugene. The cost is a sliding scale of $5-$20 with children under 5 free. Call 541-682-5318 or go to mrgfoundation.org for more info.