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Local leaders form summit for area nonprofits

A small committee made up of Lebanon and Sweet Home members pulled together their first annual Willamette Valley Nonprofit Summit, held in Lebanon on Feb. 19.

Ben Mattheisen said he came up with the idea late last year that the area needed something focused solely on “helping nonprofits be amazing, be the best they can be.”

Mattheisen, past chair of the Sweet Home Singing Christmas Tree, noted there are very few organizations nearby whose sole purpose is to make nonprofits better.

“Nonprofits are the foundation of our community,” he said. “They are what make our communities great.”

He pulled together a handful of leaders and convinced them to make the summit happen, with just three months to do so, he said. Title sponsor Walmart gave $5,000 for the summit and another $5,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of the Greater Santiam, where the event was held.

“I wholeheartedly believe that the event would not have been successful without the extreme collaboration between all of us,” Mattheisen said. “It might have been my crazy idea, but it was the group that made this a reality, and that just shows the strength of our community.”

Mattheisen, of Sweet Home, is a senior manager over Walmart academies across five states, training employees on leadership and process. The company donates funds on behalf of volunteer hours of its employees. Walmart will donate $10 for every hour an associate volunteers with a nonprofit, up to 100 hours. The company also offers community grants.

Peggy Curtis, event manager for SHEDG, speaks about volunteer management during a breakout session. Photo by Sarah Brown

Approximately 70 people attended, representing about 30 nonprofit organizations, said Firiel Severns, event committee member. The cost to attend was $20, which was pooled together and donated by random drawing to two nonprofits in attendance, $620 each to 211info and Lumina Hospice.

“Nonprofits run on a shoestring budget, so they often just don’t have the money to go to a leadership conference; It’s hard for them,” Severns said of the low cost to attend. “All of the registration fees went into a drawing thanks to a generous sponsorship by Walmart to cover the cost of the event.”

The summit included keynote speakers Heidi Glunz from Brain Squared Solutions, who spoke about leadership, and Will Garrett from Radiator Supply House, who spoke about technology. Mattheisen praised Glunz as a “phenomenal organic influencer” who helps people really understand their own impact.

“Her ability to inspire people is impressive,” he said.

Of Garrett, he pointed out the business owner’s “wealth of knowledge and passion for his community.” Breakout sessions included topics on financial stewardship, board empowerment, sponsorships, team building, advertising and volunteer management.

Deb Fell-Carlson, who attended the event on behalf of her nonprofit, Faith Community Health Network, said she found value in the summit through the information presented by the speakers, but she also valued the opportunity to network with other area nonprofits.

“Meeting other people with nonprofits that we can network with is really important,” Fell-Carlson said. “I think there’s value in connecting with others in the community, but there’s also value in learning new stuff.”

FCHN is less than two years old with a board comprised of primarily nurses.

“Nurses typically don’t have the business acumen to lead a nonprofit organization, so we’ve had to learn by the seat of our pants,” Fell-Carlson said.

Sasha Roebuck, of Umpqua Bank, speaks on the topic of financial stewardship. Photo by Sarah Brown

Peggy Curtis, who serves as event manager for Sweet Home Economic Development Group and is on the board for Lebanon Area Habitat for Humanity, said it’s important to forge connections in this day and age through face-to-face events.

“We live in a world that is very segregated now,” Curtis said. “We have a culture that’s based on Zoom meetings and virtual engagements and online everything. We can learn all the information, but what we cannot have without getting together in person is the actual interaction, learning from each other, being able to see what’s out there, who’s doing what and how they can participate. If we don’t get back to that, our communities do not come together.”

And that’s why she believes something such as the Willamette Valley Nonprofit Summit is important.

“I really feel like this is the key to bringing our communities together,” Curtis said. “We have to get back to getting together in person often.”

Mattheisen said they will form a foundation and make the summit a regular event.