Regional Grants Will Help Community Members Thrive  

 United Way of Central Oregon (UWCO) announces $225,000 in Community Impact investments to twenty-two nonprofits serving Deschutes, Crook, and Jefferson Counties, and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Each year, UWCO makes investments in a network of non-profit partners working to advance a set of shared priorities. This year, UWCO identified positive mental health and well-being, culturally specific services, and housing stability as the 2022 Community Impact priorities in response to current community needs.  

UWCO works, in part, through a network of non-profit and community-based programs called Community Impact Partners. In partnership with this network, UWCO is able to positively impact the lives of nearly 1 in 4 Central Oregonians across the tri-county region and Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.  

This year’s UWCO Community Impact Partners and investments are:  

Big Brothers Big Sisters Central Oregon ($5,000)  
Boys & Girls Clubs of Bend ($10,000)  
Clear Alliance-Crook County ($5,500) 
DAWNS House ($10,000) 
Diversability, Inc ($5,000) 
Every Child Central Oregon ($14,000) 
Family Access Network ($18,500) 
Friends of the Children – Central Oregon ($12,000)  
Furnish Hope ($5,000)  
Habitat for Humanity of La Pine Sunriver ($7,500)  
Heart of Oregon Corps ($18,500)  
J Bar J Youth Services ($12,000)  
Jefferson County Faith Based Network – LINC Program ($6,000) 
The Latino Community Association ($15,000) 
NeighborImpact Housing & Homeless Services ($10,000) 
Papalaxsimisha ($18,000) 
Prineville Senior Center ($5,000) 
Redemption House Ministries ($5,000)  
The 1017 Project-Crook County ($4,500)  
Thrive Central Oregon ($10,000) 
Volunteers in Medicine – Clinic of the Cascades ($8,000)  
Warm Springs Community Action Team ($20,000) 


The work of UWCO is funded by community philanthropy.  Investments in Community Impact Partners are made possible by the generosity of UWCO’s individual donors, workplace campaigns, and business and corporate sponsorships. We always welcome new donors, businesses, and foundations to join our mission of bringing people together to improve lives for better, more resilient, and equitable communities.    

Lisa Hurley, Board Member and Chair of UWCO’s Community Impact Committee shared: “Central Oregon is fortunate to have so many incredible nonprofits supporting our community. I’m honored that United Way of Central Oregon and our donors get to be a part of investing in these nonprofits and the impact they make in advancing positive mental health and wellbeing, culturally specific services, and housing stability for the people who benefit from their work. I’m proud of United Way’s continued focus on diversity and equity in our grantmaking and am excited to see how it impacts the lives of our friends and neighbors in Central Oregon.”        

We are proud to expand our partnership to five first-time recipients of United Way Community Impact Partner funds:  

  • Clear Alliance promotes community health and safety by providing substance abuse and impaired driving education. UWCO’s investment is supporting their work in Crook County. 
  • Furnish Hope partners to transform empty houses into furnished homes for families in need across the region. 
  • Papalaxsimisha is a multigenerational program that creates community among Indigenous youth and families from cradle to grave using culturally based teaching.  
  • Prineville Senior Center provides quality meals, recreation, and social services to foster independence and positive lifestyles for older residents and those with a disability in Crook County.    
  • The 1017 Project provides sustainable, high-quality beef to Crook County food banks.  

United Way Central Oregon Executive Director Ken Wilhelm retires

United Way Central Oregon Executive Director Ken Wilhelm retires
Whitney Swander accepts interim leadership role to guide transition

United Way Central Oregon’s Executive Director, Ken Wilhelm, is retiring after 34 years of service to the Region. Whitney Swander, who will serve as interim executive director, will lead the organization’s transition with a focus on reinventing United Way’s local business model and enhancing impact through an equity and social justice approach.

“United Way, which was founded on a workplace giving model during World War II, has played an influential role in our communities. There are a number of individual agencies that didn’t exist prior to United Way’s support and partnership,” said Wilhelm, whose retirement begins on July 15th. “I’m excited to watch our local organization evolve with the needs of our communities and adapt to new ideas for community engagement and charitable giving.”

Wilhelm said he’s looking forward to road trips, camping and hiking with his wife, visiting family, enjoying his three grown children and playing Opa and Nana to their first granddaughter.

With a focus on mobilizing communities around health, education, financial stability, and resilience, the United Way has been raising and allocating local funds to nonprofit causes in Central Oregon since 1953. The local branch primarily served Bend before merging with the Redmond and Sisters United Way branches in 2002. Within the last five years, the organization expanded to serve Crook County, Jefferson County, and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs as well.

Swander’s vision includes strengthening the organization’s regional impact through building relationships and understanding the current community needs for collective action.

“Central Oregon is a lot different today than it was even two or three years ago, and we have an opportunity to reimagine and reinvent who the United Way is in a way that’s responsive to what Central Oregon needs today. I think the future of the organization looks different than raising and distributing funds, and rather, will focus on raising awareness about issues, building capacity, and sparking region-wide efforts that connect community members and local agencies, and mobilizes donors and businesses to invest in new ways.” said Swander.

According to Swander, the region’s growth, along with economic changes over the last three years, has made it even more important to consider principles of equity and inclusion in the United Way’s transition. “The majority of issues that communities face in Central Oregon are longstanding and systemic. I believe that community building – getting to know the people doing the work, being in dialogue, and creating solutions collaboratively with people impacted by our systems is essential to the next phase of the United Way.”

“I look forward to getting out into the community in the months ahead as the interim executive director. It’s easy to be disconnected from one another given the pace of life and the challenges we face. The United Way, I hope, can help bring folks closer together, build understanding, and ignite energy and curiosity about new roles and ways of working in Central Oregon,” said Swander.

For more information, contact Whitney Swander at Whitney@unitedwaycentraloregon.org.

United for Ukraine

To our community:


The scale of civilian casualties in Ukraine is alarming and heartbreaking. In moments like these that the mission of United Way is most urgently needed.


United Way has established the United for Ukraine Fund to support the vital work on the ground to help more than a million people who have fled the violence, looking for safety and desperate for hope.


We know these are just the early days in this crisis, and that the humanitarian needs will continue to grow. Through United Way’s trusted partnerships on the ground in Romania, Hungary, and Poland, we are addressing the immediate needs for those escaping the violence and looking for safety and hope. You should know that we are also including local funds from those countries for those who wish to provide direct support for work in one of these countries.


Your generosity and support for the United for Ukraine Fund will make it possible for United Way and our partners to meet the escalating needs on the ground and provide life-changing aid and a bit of hope. As the crisis evolves United Way may identify additional partners on the ground to support the needs of refugees fleeing Ukraine.


In the meantime, I hope you will keep the millions of people in Ukraine and their families in your thoughts.


Thank you for making a difference in our global community!

Black History Month

At United Way of Central Oregon, we know that bringing together diverse individuals and viewpoints creates opportunities for a better life for all and we are committed to using our position to affect systemic, community-wide change in the areas of implicit and systemic racism.  We believe that Black History should be celebrated all year but February, designated as Black History Month, provides a special opportunity to spotlight challenges and achievements that we all benefit from knowing.  We encourage you to learn more and share with others. Below you will find suggested events in Central Oregon celebrating Black History Month.


The Father’s Group Film Series

A night out at the movies – A movie each weekend for Black History Month

Featuring the films I Am Not Your Negro, Hidden Figures, Whose Streets? and Red Tails.

Beginning February 4th 6:00-9:00pm at Open Space located at 220 NE Lafayette St.

Tickets:  $10

The Father’s Group Film Series



Central Oregon Community College –  Celebrating Black Stories

The Campus Color Line

Virtual Lecture and Discussion with Dr. Eddie Cole

Feb. 17th     4:00pm

Free and open to the public, registration required


Journey of the Drum – Celebration of the Griot

Feb. 23rd   12:00-1:30pm

Coats Campus Center – Wille Hall

Free and open to the public

COCC Black History Month


Nancy R. Chandler Lecture Series of the COCC Foundation

Examining Inequalities in Central Oregon – Virtual Panel Discussion

Feb. 22nd   5:30-6:30pm

Free and open to the public

COCC Season of Nonviolence

Chandler Lecture Series



Check out these movies and book recommendations:


13th, a Netflix documentary

The Long Walk Home, political drama inspired by Montgomery bus boycott

Marshall, true story drama about Thurgood Marshall, the 1st African American Supreme Court Justice



How to be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Decolonizing Wealth by Edgar Villanueva

Happy Lunar New Year

Happy Lunar New Year to all that celebrate this date which is intended to usher in a year of good fortune and prosperity.  Approximately 2 billion people across the world celebrate this holiday.  Lunar New Year is sometime referred to as Chinese New Year because it’s origins are in China, influenced by the Chinese lunisolar calendar.  From there it spread throughout east and southeast Asia.  Feb 1, 2022 marks the end of the year of the ox and ushers in the year of the tiger.

COCC Season of Nonviolence – The Green Path Ahead: Indigenous Teachings for the Next Economy

The Green Path Ahead: Indigenous Teachings for the Next Economy

Winona LaDuke – Native American Economist, Environmentalist, Writer, and Executive Director of Honor the Earth

Tuesday, February 1, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. PST – Virtual Presentation
FREE and OPEN to the public. Register here.
Live captioning will be available. One registration per viewing device please. 

Winona LaDuke is a global leader and an economist focused on issues of culturally based sustainable development strategies, renewable energy, water protection, and sustainable food systems. Drawing upon her work in these areas, LaDuke strongly believes there is a clear path forward towards our shared economic future. LaDuke will share her vision for this transition, one that is just and equitable for all, including Mother Earth.

Winona LaDuke

About Winona LaDuke
Winona LaDuke is a rural development economist and author working on issues of sustainable development, renewable energy, and food systems. She lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota, and is a two-time vice-presidential candidate with Ralph Nader for the Green Party.

As Executive Director of Honor the Earth, she works nationally and internationally on the issues of climate change, renewable energy, and environmental justice alongside Indigenous communities. In her own community, she is the founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, one of the largest reservation-based non-profit organizations in the country. She is also the co-founder (along with the Indigo Girls) of Honor the Earth, a grassroots environmental organization focused on Indigenous issues and environmental justice.

COCC Season of Nonviolence

Inspired by the work of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., César Chávez, and Chief Wilma Mankiller, the annual Season for Nonviolence honors these leaders’ visions for an empowered, nonviolent world. Colleges and universities throughout the country celebrate the Season of Nonviolence by bringing together community partners to educate and empower communities on how to use non-violent methods to create a more peaceful world.  

Central Oregon Community College has been hosting programming to honor the Season of Nonviolence since 2008. The programming is co-presented by The Nancy R. Chandler Lecture Series and the College’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Bend Chamber’s 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is Ken Wilhelm


The Bend Chamber has announced the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient of the 2022 Business Excellence Awards, sponsored by U.S. Bank and The Bulletin. The Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates the accomplishments of an individual who has had a substantial impact on our local industries and community. The recipient displays a profound level of leadership that has helped steer Bend to economic success while investing back into our community with their time and resources.

The 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is Ken Wilhelm. Ken has provided executive leadership for United Way of Central Oregon since 1988. He has had direct responsibility for all business affairs of the organization including strategic planning, fiscal accountability, resource development, community engagement, community impact, staffing and day-to-day operations.

He has been a pillar in the non-profit landscape in Central Oregon, connecting non-profits with needed resources and financial support. Most recently, he oversaw the organization’s expansion from the Greater Bend area to Tri-County, supporting all of Central Oregon. He’s led the effort to develop a collaborative initiative to address childhood trauma and build resilience: TRACEs.

“Ken has been a bedrock leader in our community for well over 30 years,” said Rebecca Berry, Bend Chamber Board Chair. “As the leader of United Way, he has built a culture of giving that has supported the important work of nonprofits throughout the region and improving the lives of so many in our community.”

In addition, Ken built successful fundraising models for United Way of Central Oregon, including leadership and planned giving programs, and the corporate cornerstone program. During his time as Executive Director, he’s led United Way as it raised approximately $30 million in community fundraising. From the 2-1-1 program to Tax Aid, VITA and Thrive have all benefited from Ken’s guidance and mentoring.

Ken recently announced his retirement and the Bend Chamber welcomes you to join us for heavy appetizers, drinks and celebration on Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the Riverhouse Convention Center. We will officially recognize and celebrate Ken for his accomplishments in our community and wish him well in his next journey.

Tickets can be purchased at bendchamber.org/bend-event/2022-business-excellence-awards.

It’s a credo. A mission. A goal. A constant reminder that when we reach out a hand to one, we influence the condition of all. We build the strength of our neighborhoods. We bolster the health of our communities. And we change the lives of those who walk by us every day.