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Birkenfeld bequest gives $750,000 to Bainbridge Island groups

Four island nonprofits receive funding from Birkenfeld estate

More than $1.5 million will be doled out to island and regional nonprofits this year from the estate of C. Keith Birkenfeld, a Bainbridge resident and schoolteacher who amassed a $16 million fortune before his death in 2005.

Bainbridge Community Foundation has announced that Bainbridge Island Land Trust, Elder and Adult Day Services, IslandWood and Kids Discovery Museum as recipients of the $750,000 Birkenfeld bequest earmarked for capital projects.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Foundation is awarding $770,000 from the Birkenfeld Trust to regional nonprofits, including KiDiMu and the Battle Point Astronomical Association. Birkenfeld left roughly $12 million of his estate to be distributed by Seattle Foundation over a span of 20 years.

KiDiMu was awarded the largest slice of Birkenfeld funding this year. It will receive $325,000 from both the Bainbridge Community Foundation and the Seattle Foundation for a total of $650,000.

The money will buoy the interactive children’s museum’s fund for purchasing space in a new building behind its current digs on Madison Avenue.

The new building will bear Birkenfeld’s name – one of the stipulations included with the funds. KiDiMu capital campaign director Cheryl Dale said the museum is pleased to name its new facility after a longtime educator.

“One of the things we are really excited about when it comes to Birkenfeld is that his whole life was dedicated to children, and he was also a philanthropist,” Dale said. “Our board said, ‘How often do you see a building named after a teacher?’”

Since beginning its capital campaign in January, KiDiMu has raised $1.6 million toward its goal of $2.5 million for the new building, Dale said.

Bellevue-based Elder and Adult Day Services was also chosen for joint funding. It will receive a total of $437,000 to move its Kitsap branch from Bremerton to a newly leased facility on Sportsman Club Road. EADS provides non-resident care to adults with physical or mental impairments.

The new building will more than double EADS care capacity in Kitsap, and give Bainbridge residents who use their services a facility close to home. EADS Executive Director Jan Nestler said the organization is in the process of customizing the new building to meet the groups needs and give it a welcoming feel.

“This is not a residential facility, but it is where our participants spend their day, so it’s their home,” Nestler said.

EADS plans to open the new building in October.

Bainbridge Community Foundation tabbed $100,000 for a new housing facility for instructors at IslandWood. The outdoor education center is in the midst of an $8 million capital campaign.

Bainbridge Island Land Trust will receive $150,000 to help offset the purchase of the “Heart of the Forest” property, which will eventually connect portions of Grand Forest park.

The Seattle Foundation selected Battle Point Astronomical Association for a $50,000 matching grant. The money will help the association erect a remote telescope in another state, linked to the island’s Ritchie Observatory.

BPAA launched a $1.6 million campaign this spring to overhaul the observatory and expand the association’s offerings.

“We really appreciate (the Seattle Foundation) helping us kick it off,” BPAA Vice President Mike Bookey said. “It gives us a great rallying point.”

Seattle Foundation will also allocate Birkenfeld funds to Girl Scouts of Western Washington and the Chuck Semancik Memorial Foundation of Bremerton, Horse Harbor Foundation of Poulsbo, and the Bellevue Youth Symphony.

The Seattle Foundation began distributing grants from the Birkenfeld Trust in 2007, with the guidance of an advisory panel made up of Birkenfeld’s family members, friends and colleagues. Birkenfeld directed that most of the funds be used in Kitsap County.

Island organizations chosen for funding in 2007 were West Sound Wildlife Shelter ($108,000), Bainbridge Historical Society ($30,000) Bainbridge Performing Arts ($25,000) and Bainbridge Chorale ($3,000).

Birkenfeld was born in Bremerton in 1939. He worked in the Bellevue School District for 20 years before poor health forced him to retire. He wrote in his will that he had never earned more than a $21,500-a-year salary.

In retirement, Birkenfeld grew wealthy through frugal living and judicious investment in real estate.

He lived his final 25 years on Bainbridge, but spent much of his time traveling. Birkenfeld wrote in his will he hoped “my example will cause others to save, invest and give.”

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Find more information about the Birkenfeld Trust at www.seattlefoundation.org.

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