News

When Weyerhaeuser leaves, so does funding for Plateau charitable projects

By Brenda Sexton

The Courier-Herald

When Weyerhaeuser marches out of Enumclaw in April, not only will it leave 250 employees without jobs, it will leave many Plateau organizations without funds for special projects.

Weyerhaeuser gives money to programs in communities where Weyerhaeuser has a major facility and where company employees have a presence.

"It's always one of the difficulties with a business leaving a community," said Weyerhaeuser spokesperson Frank Mendizabal. There's a ripple effect, he said, not only with the trickle-down of the company no longer doing business with local vendors, stores and restaurants, but also in its philanthropic side in the community.

"It's always tough when these decisions are made," Mendizabal said.

Throughout the years, Plateau area senior and youth centers, food banks, school districts, arts organizations, veterans groups, fire districts and Boy Scout troops, just to name a spattering, have all been recipients of Weyerhaeuser's charitable donations.

When they mill closes, those donations, which this year between the Snoqualmie-North Bend and Enumclaw area will total close to $50,000, also go.

One Enumclaw program sure to miss Weyerhaeuser's presence is the community backpack program. For the past few years, before school starts in September, Weyerhaeuser and its employees have played a role in the collection of school supplies, backpacks and coupons for free shoes to get the Plateau's needy youth a fresh start.

"I'm sure they would be greatly missed," said Kimberly Fish, former director of Plateau Outreach Ministries. "I'm sure someone will step up to the plate in this community."

The Enumclaw Senior Activity Center and the Enumclaw Youth Center share a new intergenerational computer lab thanks to a $9,000 grant from Weyerhaeuser. The money bought six state-of-the-art computer stations, three scanners, printers, Internet access and software.

"I'm optimistic the community will not be abandoned," said Jobyna Nickum, manager of the Enumclaw Senior Activity Center.

The community may not be completely abandoned.

There is $50,000 in charitable donations in the 2003 budget for the Snoqualmie/Enumclaw areas to use before the mill closes in April. According to Mendizabal, the local board will be contacting past grantees and meeting soon to make donation decisions.

There are two other programs that are expected to continue as long as there are employees in the area.

Through its Matching Gifts Program, the Weyerhaeuser foundation matches qualifying donations made by employees to public schools, colleges or universities.

There is also the Weyerhaeuser Active Volunteer Employees (WAVE) program. The companywide program fosters volunteerism and supports employees' hard work by providing a framework for employees, retirees, families and friends who want to pledge time, energy and skills to their community. The Weyerhaeuser Foundation contributes cash awards of $1,000 to $5,000 to nonprofit organizations with active Weyerhaeuser volunteers.

The White River School District's Family Center was recently a recipient of a $1,000 WAVE donation. Weyerhaeuser employees volunteered their time and talents to fill backpacks in September and to handout coats to the needy in December. The group was presented a check on behalf of Weyerhaeuser and its employees on Monday.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com

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