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Olympia Tumwater Foundation set to embark on fundraising campaign

VIDEO: "It's the Water" and Olympia brewery history preserved by Olympia-Tumwater Foundation

Olympia-Tumwater Foundation executive director John Freedman gives a short tour May 16 of one of the foundation's crown jewels, the historic Schmidt Mansion, while the foundation's curator, Karen Johnson, offers the history relating to the company
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Olympia-Tumwater Foundation executive director John Freedman gives a short tour May 16 of one of the foundation's crown jewels, the historic Schmidt Mansion, while the foundation's curator, Karen Johnson, offers the history relating to the company

The Olympia Tumwater Foundation began innocently enough: Peter Gustav Schmidt Sr., the son of Olympia Brewing Co. founder Leopold Schmidt, gifted the Tivoli Fountain — which can now be found on the Capitol Campus — to the state.

But the foundation has become much more than that act of generosity in 1950.

The foundation now has about $10.5 million in assets and since 1967 has awarded $1.8 million in early learning, high school and transitional scholarships for adults returning to school.

It also owns and operates Tumwater Falls park — 250,000 people visit annually — and the Schmidt mansion, the family home and grounds that were built in 1904 north of Custer Way in Tumwater. The house is known for its tours, as well as history lectures that run from October to June. Volunteers give brewery-themed tours along the Deschutes River in the summer.

Until 2009, the foundation was largely a private, family-run affair. Since then it has evolved into more of a civic organization, Executive Director John Freedman said. It has expanded the scholarship program, hired a curator for the Olympia Brewing Co. archives, which are in a climate-controlled area of the Schmidt house, and also hired a public history manager.

Both positions were added with the help of a city of Tumwater contract, Freedman said.

And this fall the foundation is set to launch a fundraising campaign. But some might ask: With assets of more than $10 million, why the need to raise money?

Of the $10.5 million assets, $9 million of that represents investments, which need to generate a 5 percent return to cover a chunk of the foundation budget and still operate in perpetuity, Freedman said.

Freedman said the money has been invested in safe, regimented investments, but volatile stock markets don’t help.

“In a nutshell, if net investment return is less than 5 percent, the foundation eats into the principal balance, and it is not sustaining,” he said.

Details of the campaign are still being developed, Freedman said, but he’d like to raise $200,000 a year to primarily fund scholarships and Tumwater Falls park.

Another goal of the foundation is to digitize its archives. Among them: the first stock certificate signed by founder Leopold Schmidt, and an annual report from 1976 that shows Olympia beer generated $130 million in sales.

The golden years for Olympia beer were in the 1950s and 1960s, Freedman said, a time when the brewery was well known on the West Coast, including in California, its biggest market.

Anheuser-Busch began to expand its marketing effort about that time, and by the late 1960s, sales began to fall for Olympia beer.

Olympia Tumwater Foundation

Office location: Tumwater Falls Park.

Executive director: John Freedman. Freedman previously was vice president for finance and administration at Science Applications International Corp.

Type of foundation: Formerly a private foundation, the organization is moving to more of a civic organization, Freedman said.

Staff: Freedman; Don Trosper, public history manager; Karen Johnson, curator. The foundation also has a number of volunteers, including one who is the descendant of Louis Schmidt, Leopold Schmidt’s brother. Leopold founded the Olympia Brewing Co.

Board of trustees: 12 members, including Saint Martin’s University President Roy Heynderickx.

Online: olytumfoundation.org.

Did you know? Freedman, who has a background in finance, became executive director in 2011. Before that, he discovered accounting irregularities at the foundation, leading him to former director Jacalyn Tobosa. Tobosa eventually pleaded guilty to 10 counts of second-degree theft and was ordered to pay restitution of about $100,000. She also was sentenced to two years in prison.

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