Funds will support valley nonprofits
Methow Valley nonprofit organizations will benefit from a $1.7 million bequest by the late Ken Westman, a longtime community activist and benefactor, the Community Foundation of NCW announced in a press release.
The bequest will be managed by the Community Foundation, which will transfer funds to the Methow Valley Fund each year for distribution to the valley’s nonprofits. “It will provide additional funding available for the grants, so greater awards for the nonprofits that apply,” said Community Foundation Executive Director Beth Stipe. “This will begin in the next grant cycle that opens in December 2021.”
Westman, who died in July 2019 after a long illness, “was an active participant with many local organizations that served to enhance the quality of life in the Methow Valley,” according to the Community Foundation press release. “In addition to financial support, Ken devoted much of his time to serving on committees, as a volunteer on boards and in leadership positions. His lifetime of service and legacy in this community is legendary.”
Currently, the Methow Valley Fund, which has been operating since 2006, awards more than $60,000 in grants each year to local nonprofits.
“This bequest will have a significant impact on the quality of life for the Methow Valley for generations,” said Stipe. “Ken was always so kind and generous. We knew he was planning to leave a gift to benefit the valley he loved, but we were stunned at the magnitude. I can only imagine his delight and much-loved laugh, knowing the surprise he pulled on all of us! We are honored to be able to continue Ken’s generosity and to support the valley and the many causes that make it such a special place, forever!”
A 2019 Methow Valley News story noted that Westman’s legacy “can be found in the many Methow Valley community organizations and residents that are stronger for having known him.”
Westman’s career path included working, at different times, as a commercial fisherman in the North Pacific and the Bering Sea; a tavern owner; and a tugboat crew member. After visiting the valley in the late 1960s, he began to buy property here. He met and in 1972 married neighbor Elaine Button. They were involved in numerous commercial ventures in the Methow Valley: the Westar Retreat Center, the Farmer’s Exchange Building, and the Winthrop U.S. Forest Service complex. In 2000, they were instrumental in developing The Country Clinic (now Confluence Health’s Winthrop Clinic) with Dr. Ann Diamond.
Westman’s volunteer service to the Methow Valley community included the Winthrop Westernization and Architecture Committee, the Winthrop Auditorium Association board, a term as an Okanogan County District 6 Fire commissioner, five years on the Okanogan County Development Council, 17 years on the Okanogan County Electric Co-op board, and four years on the board of Room One. He was appointed to the Mazama Advisory Committee and chaired the Communications District Board for years. In 2014, he served as Grand Marshal for the Winthrop ’49er Days along with Grand Lady Lois McLean.
Westman was a member of Kiwanis, an early booster of the future Winthrop River Walk, and supported valley nonprofit organizations that elevated social services, the arts, recreation, women’s rights, the environment, literacy and education. He was a founding member of Methow At Home and up until his final weeks provided weekly respite for a caregiver for a client with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Westman was the first adviser to Friends of the Winthrop Library (FOWL), the nonprofit group that is building a new library in Winthrop. He was an advocate for Classroom in Bloom and was honored at the ribbon-cutting for the school garden’s newly-built greenhouse, although he could not attend in person. Westman’s investment in children is most apparent at Little Star Montessori School, whose capital campaign and school expansion were made possible only through his sale of the property at an extremely favorable rate.