Almost exactly 9 years ago, a group of locally owned, community and environmentally minded businesses provided me with the inspiration and confidence to launch Gorge Owned (GO!)—a program of the Columbia Gorge Earth Center dedicated to raising awareness about the ways in which our individual decisions impact the local economy, environment and community.
On a rainy evening at Doppio in downtown Hood River, GO! made its debut and within a few weeks had signed up 40 member-supporters. In the ensuing few years, we brought community members and business owners together through programs like Green Drinks, the GO! Local Challenge, the Gorge Local Economies Summit, Cash Mobs and more. Meanwhile, the Columbia Gorge Earth Center, which provided GO! with fiscal sponsorship and administrative support, was wrapping up a full year of producing the Sense of Place lecture series (now in its 10th season), the Tod J. LeFevre Sustainability Awards, the Gorge Green Home Tour, and Weatherize Oregon Now.
In the ensuing years, the Columbia Gorge Earth Center and Gorge Owned (today known simply as GO!) spurred countless connections and individual actions that have strengthened communities and boosted social, economic and environmental resilience. Whether you purchased one extra gift from a Main Street business, biked one more day to work, installed one more energy-efficient light bulb, or engaged a neighbor in one more conversation about a complex community challenge, you were impacted by the work of this small but mighty organization.
As I reflect back on a decade of programming dedicated to building a resilient community, it’s with a heavy heart that I’m sharing with you, our longtime supporters and neighbors, that the board of directors recently voted to dissolve the organization in early 2020. While our programs have been largely successful, changes in leadership and staffing, difficulty recruiting new volunteers, and a growing landscape of similarly-focused Gorge-based nonprofits and programs led the current board to conclude that it’s time to close our doors. This decision took a great deal of careful thought and consideration.
That said, we can’t think of a better way to wrap up nearly 20 years of community-building work than with an amazing line-up of Sense of Place lectures. The four lectures remaining in the series, all held at the Columbia Center for the Arts, include stories of our past and present while making us think about the future. If you haven’t already, please go here to read about upcoming lectures and online ticket sales.
I am excited to announce that the show will go on: This beloved program will continue into the future with Mt. Adams Institute proudly taking it over next year. This Gorge-based nonprofit with a mission to strengthen the connection between people and the natural world through education, service learning, career development and research is a perfect home for Sense of Place.
In closing, I want to thank the many individuals, businesses and organizations who have invested their time, talents and financial resources in the organization over the years—especially all former employees. Thanks to all of you, the many seeds we have sown together will far outlive our organization, and that’s something for which we can all be proud.”
Founder and President of the Board
Columbia Gorge Earth Center / Gorge Owned
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”