Bainbridge Community Foundation honors island philanthropists

Sarah Berschinski - Photo courtesy of the Bainbridge Community Foundation
Sarah Berschinski
— image credit: Photo courtesy of the Bainbridge Community Foundation

Three island residents and one family business were recognized by the Bainbridge Community Foundation for their continued acts of generosity and tireless efforts to improve the general welfare of the community during the foundation’s fifth annual philanthropy celebration Saturday, Sept. 14.

Larry Nakata and Kate Webster were selected as this year’s outstanding Bainbridge philanthropists, Sara Berschinski as outstanding young philanthropist and Hill Moving Services as outstanding philanthropic company.

Nakata and Webster were recognized for the financial support and fundraising assistance each have given to various area nonprofits. In 2010 they served together as honorary co-chairmen of the Community Foundation’s “Invest in Bainbridge Initiative,” a multi-year program created to raise money to increase community grant-making.

Kate Webster has been a leader in Seattle’s philanthropic community for more than 50 years. She has served as president of the Seattle Children’s Hospital and the memorial fund she established in memory of her late husband, Holt, supports at-risk youth. A native New Yorker, she and her husband moved to Bainbridge in 1972. The main focus of their community work has always been helping children.

While accepting the award, Webster credited her parents with first introducing her to service work.

“They were both doctors in Manhattan and would spend Saturdays volunteering at the local hospital,” she said. “As a small child, it never occurred to me that they weren’t just doing their job, until one day I asked my father about it. He told me that giving back was just what you do to show your appreciation for those who have helped you in the past and to help others in the future.”

Larry Nakata, president of the five-store Town & Country Market company and a Bainbridge native, also credits his parents with passing on their love of community service.

“It was a more informal time,” he said of the island during his childhood. “You just helped people then. Bainbridge Island has a huge history in this kind work … taking care of neighbors in our community.”

Nakata said the first organization he supported on the island was Helpline House.

“My history has roots in the Japanese community where you don’t create identity, but pass it on,” he said. “Helpline does that.”

In addition to his work with the Community Foundation, Nakata has worked extensively with Gretchen Schodde at Harmony Hill Retreat Center in Hood Canal, which offers free support to those affected by cancer and those who want to make healthy changes in their lives.

Sarah Berschinski, 18, was recognized for her work with the Housing Resources Board, whose mission is to preserve the diversity and vitality of Bainbridge Island by providing and maintaining affordable housing opportunities.

In 2011, as a BHS junior, she spearheaded a fundraising effort to build a playground at the Ferncliff Village housing development by making and selling birdhouses.

“I first went to HRB to ask them if they would consider putting a student on their board,” she said. “They said ‘No,’ so I went home and brainstormed with my friends about what else we could do for the organization.”

Since her original fundraiser, Berschinski’s birdhouse project has become the signature HRB fundraising event and has raised more than $30,000. She credits her mother as her inspiration.

“My mother is my role model,” she said. “She is always giving to other people and organizations.”

Now a freshman at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., Berschinski has a serious interest in politics and human relations and hopes to be a human rights attorney for the United Nations.

Hill Moving services, established by husband and wife Steve and Debbie Hill, was recognized for its substantial local contributions including donating truckloads of unclaimed furnishings to the annual Bainbridge Rotary Auction as well as providing moving services for several island nonprofits. They also make considerable financial contributions to community-wide island activities such as the Grand Old Fourth of July celebration and community organizations such as the Kids Discover Museum, Bainbridge Youth Services, the Boys & Girls Club and the Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center.

“We believe that a business cannot be successful unless it is involved in the community,” Debbie Hill said.

Mike Hill said that food banks were the companies current priority and that they transport food from Food Lifeline in Auburn, to Kitsap food banks on a weekly basis.

The Bainbridge Community Foundation was founded in 2001 by a group of community members and is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for all Bainbridge residents by ensuring support for a strong and healthy nonprofit sector.

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