Meet Gordon and Dodie King, Heroic Philanthropists for Trillium Family Services

A light wind is brushing through the trees under a brilliant late-summer sky as we arrive at our destination, a stately retirement complex in SW Portland. Minutes later, a door opens and Gordon King invites us into the comfortable suite he shares with wife Dodie.

Now 90 years old and nearly three decades removed from his remarkable tenure as Board Chair of the Parry Center for Children, a precursor agency to Trillium, it is immediately clear that Gordon’s passion for the welfare of children burns just as brightly now as then.

“We see many needs in this world,” says Gordon, with a nod to Dodie, 88. “But kids come to the forefront, they’re the future of this country. Emotionally, I find myself wanting to help kids.”

It was this very commitment to youth that turned to action while Gordon was nearing retirement as the longtime President of Hampton Lumber Sales in the early 1990s. During a doctor’s visit, his physician, a Parry Center board member, suggested he too should consider board service.

Soon after Gordon’s election to the Parry Center board, the organization’s leader unexpectedly resigned and Gordon found himself chairing the search committee for a replacement.

“Almost as soon as I got involved,” recalls Gordon, “the director left. The company was going broke, not getting paid (for its services by the State of Oregon). I led the search for a new director, I knew we needed structure, needed a ‘sergeant,’ someone who could let people go, change things, make sure we got paid.”

That led to the hiring of Marie Avery as executive director, who “fit the bill” and helped stabilize the organization. By the time Gordon had ascended to the role of Board Chair, however, another major challenge presented itself – the residential buildings that housed children on the Parry Center campus were outdated and crumbling, which threatened the agency’s national accreditation, its financial lifeblood.

“We put together a committee, which found that we needed about $6.5 million (for new facilities). No one stepped forward to chair the campaign. I didn’t want to do it, but I had to take it on. I interviewed fundraising firms, but they were too expensive.”

Rather than hire a consulting firm to conduct a capital campaign, Gordon retained the services of a Seattle-area fundraising professional, to act as an advisor. “He helped me,” smiles Gordon. “I paid him by the hour. It worked out great.”

With the risk of losing the organization’s national accreditation at any moment hanging over them, what happened next was nothing short of miraculous – Gordon and his committee raised the $6.5 million in just nine months.

The first chip to fall was the commitment of a critical $2.2 million lead gift from Bob and Marilyn Pamplin. Then Gordon went to the full Parry Center board and issued a challenge.

“I announced I was making a personal lead gift, and I’d give another $20,000 if as a board we reached $1 million. We did.”

The amount of the Kings’ initial pledge was $80,000, which made their total gift $100,000 and no doubt provided encouragement and incentive to fellow board members to stretch their own resources.

One by one, the commitments came in, from local foundations such as the Meyer Memorial Trust, MJ Murdock Charitable Trust, Collins Foundation and others. From his old friend and colleague, Bill Swindells, and the Swindells Charitable Trust. From a national funder, the Kresge Foundation, which required a quick trip to Michigan to secure a major grant.

With the campaign concluded, the buildings built and the organization’s national accreditation no longer in jeopardy, Gordon had one last order of business before his term as a Parry Center board member came to an end. “I wanted to meet with our competitors to see if there was anything we could do together. So much duplication, so much competition, not enough collaboration. We met at the MAC, invited board chairs and executive directors of other organizations. What can we do together? It was difficult, the directors didn’t want to lose their jobs,” Gordon laughs. “But we got the conversation started.”

Gordon’s term expired soon after, but he acknowledges those who carried the discussions (and negotiations) forward, community leaders such as Jim Williams, Joe Weston, Rick Hawkins and Robert Roy – all focused on strengthening the system of care for struggling and underserved children in Oregon.

Finally, in 1998, Trillium Family Services was formed when the Parry Center merged with the Children’s Farm Home in Corvallis and Waverly Children’s Home in Portland. Today, Trillium is Oregon’s leading provider of mental health services for children and families, effectively serving as our state’s safety net for youth in crisis.

As we were preparing to leave, Gordon made a final point. “Mrs. King really deserves as much credit, she allowed me the space to participate, to give money to the cause. It was hers too. We became very wedded to the idea of the need for kids who are battered, abused. You want to help them.”

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While the Kings’ legacy of exceptional support for Oregon’s youth is unquestioned, they have ensured their commitment will impact future generations by naming Trillium in their estate plan. Trillium’s new partnership with the U.S. Bank Charitable Services Group is a means through which our valued donors, like Gordon and Dodie, can be sure the needs of our community’s most vulnerable children will be met now and in the years to come. The Charitable Services Group is a team of nonprofit specialists based here in Portland who not only provide the highest level of fiduciary oversight of our donors’ assets, but also allow us to offer our donors additional resources for their charitable giving.

Due to this partnership Trillium is able to broaden the types of gifts we can facilitate for our donors, such as certain types of charitable trusts, gifts of real estate and business interests, and other sophisticated tax planning vehicles.

For information on how your legacy gift can impact Oregon’s youth of today and tomorrow, please contact Robin Beavers at 503.205.4347 or click here.