Groups move into new philanthropy center in the Washington Federal building

Three nonprofit philanthropic organizations moved into a shared home on the second story of the Washington Federal Building, at 1500 Cornwall Ave., in late November.

A remodel at the space, which is now called the Whatcom Philanthropy Center, started in summer and should finish up in December.

The organizations — Whatcom Community Foundation, Chuckanut Health Foundation and United Way of Whatcom County — will remain separate entities, but their leaders expect the new space will make working together easier.

“We’ve all been working together virtually forever,” said Mauri Ingram, Whatcom Community Foundation CEO. “We’re interested in the same things.”

All three organizations focus on using fundraising and philanthropy to improve Whatcom County. They fund grants and connect donors with causes that matter to them, Ingram said.

“We definitely see the potential of broadcasting our message to a bigger audience now that we’re in some ways sharing our constituencises,” said Peter Thiesen, president of United Way of Whatcom County. “We’re collaborators, not competitors.”

The three groups are currently working together on several projects, including an initiative called the Whatcom County Community Health Improvement Plan. The City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, PeaceHealth and several other local organizations are also involved.

The plan has the following priorities, according to the Whatcom Community Foundation’s website: investing in lifelong physical and mental well-being in young children, creating communities that foster health-promoting activities and broadening health care to promote health outside of the medical system.

By moving into the Whatcom Philanthropy Center the three organizations will save money on rent and bills, allowing more of their finances to go towards their missions. They’re leasing the space from Washington Federal at a reduced rate, Ingram said. Most of the contractors involved in the remodel also made in-kind donations, she said.

He wouldn’t disclose the amount, but regional president at Washington Federal, Tom Kenney, said the bank’s contribution to the space is significant.

“I’ve known the three directors for some time now, and have tremendous respect for each of them, ” Kenney said in an email. “Besides being the right thing to do for the community, I expect the activity surrounding these three entities will generate considerable energy within this building and our immediate area of downtown Bellingham.”


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