In a community of outstanding philanthropists, when a few are called out for being the most outstanding, you know they have to be quite special. At the Bainbridge Community Foundation’s Inspiring People Celebration held at IslandWood on September 18, five very special people got the spotlight: Paul and Debbi Brainerd, Ian O’Keefe, and Steve and Becky Mikami.
Paul and Debbi Brainerd were recognized as the 2015 Outstanding Bainbridge Philanthropists. It’s been almost 20 years since the Brainerds founded IslandWood, which provides nearly 10,000 children and adults with stewardship experiences each year and is now considered a national leader in environmental education. Standing on the grounds of the organization they started, the couple was touted for their support of educational opportunities and wildlife and environmental conservation over the last two decades, specifically for their passion in engaging others in environmental stewardship and for financially supporting environment-preserving organizations including The Student Conservation Corps, The Bainbridge Island Land Trust, and The Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation.
The Brainerds also share their business experience and expertise with nonprofit organizations such as the Bloedel Reserve, Island Volunteer Caregivers, and the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. They created Social Venture Partners, which encourages professionals to give back to their communities through engaged philanthropy and now also connects nonprofits with donor and volunteers on a global scale.
About their work, Debbi said, “When you find something that touches your heart, it is easy to give.”
Ian O’Keefe, named 2015 Outstanding Young Philanthropist, serves as a board member and student delegate for the Bainbridge Ometepe Sister Islands Association. He played a central role in planning and hosting two student-led dinner auctions, which together raised more than $51,000 for community projects. During his two terms as a student delegate, O’Keefe joined community members to work on construction projects and helped create and host a day of activities for children with special needs.
He also mentored Island fourth graders in outdoor education programs for three years and served as an advisor to Mayor Anne Blair on issues relating to youth. At his recent high school graduation in June, O’Keefe was recognized for academic excellence and leadership and received the most prestigious award at Bainbridge High School, The Faculty Honors Award.
Steve and Becky Mikami’s Bainbridge Island ACE Hardware was recognized as 2015 Outstanding Philanthropic Organization. For more than two decades ACE has supported many causes in the community through gifts and sponsorships. The business’s support of The Bainbridge Historical Museum and The Bainbridge Island WWII Japanese American Memorial reflects the Mikamis’ interest in and love of the rich history of Bainbridge Island.
The couple is especially passionate about improving lives for local youth through support of educational and sports organizations including The Kids Discovery Museum, The Bainbridge Public Library, Bainbridge Youth Services, and Bainbridge Performing Arts.
But the Mikamis don’t just give money; they also immerse themselves in causes as volunteers, give time off to employees for their volunteer engagement, and donate funds to any causes that employees volunteer to support. In addition to offering gifts and sponsorships, ACE supports organizations such as Helpline House and the BHS Spartronics Robotics Team through in-kind donations and sharing physical space.
Regina Bellody, Community Relations Administrator for BCF, explained the impetus behind the celebration: “Our hope in recognizing these honorees is to inspire others to get more involved in volunteering and contributing to local nonprofits—every gift counts and everyone can make a difference.” Since 2001, BCF has been providing financial support, educational programming, and leadership to the nonprofits that serve the community. BCF has more than $12 million in assets and has so far contributed $6.4 million to fund causes that matter to Islanders.
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Photo courtesy of BCF.