I caught up with Lacey-based natural history author Ruth Kirk on Friday, thanks to a lunch invitation from our mutual friend, retired South Puget Sound Community College anthropology professor Dale Croes.
I’ve admired Kirk as a person and a writer for years. She’s high on my list of favorite people. Here she is: 89 years old, fighting a courageous battle with Parkinson’s Disease and about to celebrate the release this spring of her 12th book: “Ozette:Excavating a Makah Whaling Village,” published by the University of Washington Press
Who better than Kirk to write the decades-long history of the excavation of this prehistoric Makah whaling village on the remote northwest coast of the Olympic Peninsula? “No writer is more qualified, nor more dedicated, to the telling of this enticing archeological tale,” Seattle author Ivan Doig, said in a blurb he happily wrote for the upcoming book. Kirk interviewed tribal elders, explored the back roads and trails along the wilderness coast and wrote three books about Olympic Peninsula ecology. And that was all before the dig.
As a writer and photographer, Ruth chronicled much of the dig as it unfolded in a co-equal, friendly partnership between the Makah Tribe and Washington State University archeology students working under the direction of WSU Professor Richard Daugherty. The legendary archeologist was a loyal and trusted friend of the Makahs, first during two preliminary summer digs in 1966-67, followed by 11 years of work from 1970 to 1981 and through the ensuing years.
Widowed and longtime friends, Kirk and Daugherty married in 2007 in Neah Bay in a historical replica of Ozette-era longhouse. The Ozette book is dedicated to Daughterty, who died in February 2014 at the age of 91.
At met Kirk at an Olympia dinner party many years ago. I showed my naivete by asking her: “Are you still writing?”
“Well, John, a writer never stops writing,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes.
Ruth Kirk is living proof of that.
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Talk about flying under the radar. The Olympia-based Community Sustaining Fund has been around for more than 25 years, doling out a few micro grants each spring and fall to a South Sound non-profits and individuals engaged in social justice and environmental projects.
The loose knit group of community activists has awarded grants of a few hundred dollars to more than 200 grantees over the years. It’s added up to about an $80,000 investment in community-based social change.
“We’re trying to create a sense of community and we’re drawn to the passion of our applicants’ stories,” said Tim Nogler, a state employee who serves on the fund’s leadership group, an eight-member group that reviews grant applications and awards the grants.
Here’s a sampling of who has received funding support over the years: Bread and Roses received $100 in 1996 to purchase bus passes for homeless people to attend job interviews. Avanti High school secured $380 in 2000 to buy two cameras for students to use. Art Across Borders landed a $600 grant in 2003 to prepare an exhibit of Middle Eastern art.
This is not a well known local institution. It’s sometimes confused with the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound, a non-profit philanthropic group that also awards grants to community groups, or the Combined Fund Drive, a state workplace giving program for past and present state employees.
The Community Sustaining Fund is supported by cottage industries, businesses and individuals in many different ways. For instance, the Olympia Food Co-Op has been a loyal partner for years. When food co-op members make a purchase, they can ask the cashier to “round-up” to the next dollar. The extra money is donated to the Community Sustaining Fund. Rounding up at the co-op accounts for about 80 percent of the CSF donations each year.
CSF donations are tax-exempt, but not tax-deductible. The CSF let their non-profit tax status lapse years ago and are debating whether to renew it, Nogler said.
Another longtime supporter is Dick Meyer, owner of Traditions Cafe in downtown Olympia. The leadership group meets their monthly and on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. 10 percent of the proceeds from purchases at the Traditions Fair Trade retail store will be donated to CFS.
For more about on how to get involved with CSF grants, donations and volunteer opportunities, visit www.oly-wa.us/CSF.