Founded in 1964 as the Josephine County Educational Fund, Inc. (JCEF), in 2022, after more than five decades of growth, JCEF changed its name to the Redwood Foundation for Education to recognize its expanded service area and scope.
Prior to 1964, there existed no formal organization to handle scholarship donations for Grants Pass High School’s graduating seniors. District 7 Business Manager George Buck and the District’s attorney, Louis Schultz, deposited and dispersed these funds.
A major donation of $10,000 came in a trust fund from Don Belding, Class of 1914. He had been Business Manager of the TOKA yearbook and instructed that the annual interest support the yearbook. When the District 7 School Board was advised that accepting a perpetual fund was not legal, the non-profit Josephine County Educational Fund, Inc. was formed.
JCEF had seven original board members: Jesse Calvert, Bob Busch, Ed Malone, Chris Hanson, W.E. Schoenleber, Allan Hichens and Dr. Ray Johnson. Their purpose was to “receive, hold, care for, invest in and operate real and personal property by providing education and vocational scholarships, grants, travel expenses… which will tend to further the educational and cultural achievements of Josephine County, Oregon.”
Although donations continued to come in and be available, by 1982 it had become clear that students and parents were not aware of JCEF. Grants Pass High faculty member Jim Savard and original JCEF board Secretary Bob Busch recruited a new board of directors and the ‘Foundation’ was reborn.
In 1976, when Three Rivers School District opened Hidden Valley High, Illinois Valley High and North Valley High, the Foundation was able to handle funds for these schools as well, as permitted by its charter. More recently, JCEF’s service area was amended to include the entire State of Oregon.
Over the past 50 years, the Foundation has been involved in many school projects, as well as being a conduit for the community to raise funds for needed infrastructure projects such as rebuilding the GPHS grandstand, lost by fire. JCEF’s funding also enhanced the construction of the Performing Arts Center at Grants Pass High School. In 2005, the Foundation became a conduit for receiving revolving interest-free loans from Evergreen Federal Bank and Home Valley Bank, for community projects totaling $866,590.
In 2008, JCEF began to administer the funds of College Dreams (now Project Youth+), a local nonprofit that helps high-achieving, at-risk students finish high school and achieve their dream of higher education.
In 2012, a formal merger with the Three Rivers Schools Foundation increased the resources available for students in the county’s schools.
New scholarships and grant programs continue to be funded by the area’s generous philanthropic community, and momentum continues to build, which resulted in JCEF’s ability to award $535,000 to students in Spring 2020. By August of 2020, 56 years after its inception, thanks to careful stewardship and our caring community, JCEF’s assets totaled more than $7.8 million.