Coquille Tribal Community Fund

Tribal fund tackles community needs 


NORTH BEND – Fifty-seven deserving community organizations have received grants from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund, serving causes as diverse as feeding the hungry, disposing of unused prescription drugs, and performing Shakespeare in a city park.

Supported by revenue from The Mill Casino-Hotel, the fund distributed $291,164 in grants at a luncheon on Friday, March 2. With this year’s total included, the fund has awarded more than $6.1 million since its launch in 2001. During that time it has been Coos County’s largest consistent supporter of community organizations.

Founded in the Pacific Northwest Indian spirit of potlatch, the Coquille Tribal Community Fund seeks to strengthen the community by improving opportunities and lives throughout the region.

Here are links to stories about some great examples of 2018 grantees:

Fresh Alliance




Myrtle Point Fire Department






Egyptian Theatre





Coos Watershed Association




Clambake Music Festival




Click here for more about the community fund.


Clambake Music Festival

Members of Marshfield High School’s Swing Club practice their moves in preparation for “Music in the Schools.”

When school


Clambake Festival brings diverse music to local students

(Published March 1, 2018)

Most local kids have heard rock music. Also hip-hop. And country, of course.

Zydeco? Not so likely.

Next week, students from throughout Coos County will sample this Louisiana-born confection of Cajun, French Creole, blues and Afro-Caribbean influences, courtesy of the South Coast Clambake Music Festival.  It promises to be tasty.

“I think what the kids will really think is cool is the washboard,” said Janet Saint, a retired teacher and Clambake board member. “They don’t even know what a washboard is.”

For three decades, Clambake has celebrated jazz, swing and other genres of “America’s original music.” A key element is Clambake’s “Music in the Schools” program, which is backed this year by a $3,000 grant from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund.

“This is an important music program that also brings out a little bit of history to our kids and our community,” said Jackie Chambers, a Coquille Tribal member who coordinates the tribal fund. She recalled attending a Music in the Schools event last year:

“Seeing kids of every age get up out of their seats and dance to music they may have never even heard was a sight to see,” she said. “The program was very interactive, exciting, and fun all around.”

Saint said experiencing a live show not only inspires appreciation for music, it also shows that playing in a band is “cool,” and it teaches the value of mastering a craft.

Visiting bands often invite the kids to sing along or dance. Teachers might even be pulled onto the dance floor.

“Oh my gosh, the kids love it,” Saint said. “Most of the kids will say it’s their favorite assembly of the year.”

This year, the kids will hear Gator Nation, a California band whose music encompasses zydeco, Cajun, and New Orleans rhythm and blues.

“A lot of these kids where we live – they’ve never gotten to see that, and maybe they never will,” Saint said.

Another attraction will be the presence of Marshfield High School’s Swing Club. The teen dancers (coached by Saint) will show the younger kids an extra reason to relish music.

Clambake is one of five artistic and cultural organizations receiving grants from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund this year.  The five grants account for $16,200 of the more than $290,000 being awarded for 2018.

2018 Arts and Culture Grants

South Coast Clambake Jazz Festival  $3,000
Little Theatre on the Bay  $5,000
The Logos Players  $3,200
Coos Art Museum  $3,000
North Bend School District

Indian Education Program



Coos Watershed Alliance

Marshfield High School students Gracie Schlager, left, and Archal Devi slide a mesh screen around a newly planted seedling to ward off hungry wildlife.

Youthful stewards

Tribal grant supports urban habitat project

COOS BAY – On a sunny February afternoon, a group of local high school students is giving nature a helping hand.

Working on swampy ground near the Eastside Boat Ramp, teens are planting trees to promote a native wetland habitat. Others are uprooting invasive Scotch broom.

This is the Coos Watershed Association’s youth stewardship program, an initiative that promotes native plant species while teaching youngsters to advocate for responsible landscape practices. It’s one of 57 organizations and projects receiving grants this week from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund.

“Teaching youth about the environment is something that the Coquille Tribe is very passionate about,” said Tribal member Jackie Chambers, who coordinates the Tribal Fund. “Any time we can get our youth outside is a good day to me!”

The program will receive $3,000 from the Tribal Fund, part of more than $290,000 being distributed during this year’s “Grant Week.” A second environmental grant, for $5,000, will help Friends of Coos County Animals pay for neutering cats whose owners can’t afford the service.

Alexa Carleton, the watershed association’s education program director, said the youth stewardship program is six years old. During the school year, the program draws high schoolers from Coos Bay. In the summer, it offers paid internships to teens from throughout the Bay Area.

The teens perform hands-on labor while learning environmental leadership. One project was a gravel area at the Coos History Museum, which the teens turned into a native dunes habitat. Coming soon will be a planter box in downtown Coos Bay, which they likewise will sow with native grasses. Interpretive signs will explain the unconventional landscaping.

Why native plants?

“Native plants are low-maintenance, because they’re used to our climate,” Carleton said. “These are plants that have co-evolved with other things in the area, such as insects and birds.”

Native plants help filter pollution, prevent erosion and provide wildlife habitat. But not everything that grows wild is a native plant. Many are invaders, such as ivy, purple loosestrife, and that thorny juggernaut, Himalayan blackberry. These thrive and spread because species that control them in their home territory are not present in their new surroundings.

Gracie Schlager, a Marshfield High School junior, explained her reasons for taking part in the program:

“Not only are we helping the environment, but we’re helping people in the community, and that’s something everyone should do in their life.”

 What you can do

  • If you’d like to exercise watershed stewardship on their own property, you’re invited to contact the Coos Watershed Association at The group can advise you on planting native species and connect you with resources to help with problems such as drainage and invasive species.
  • The association also welcomes tax-deductible donations. While the group gets much of its support from grants, most grants are for specific projects. Direct donations help cover basic operating expenses.
  • The association will host its second annual Mayfly Festival on May 19 at Mingus Park. It’s a hands-on celebration of youth, science, water and community connection. Learn more at

 About these grants

Supported by proceeds from The Mill Casino in North Bend, the Coquille Tribal Community Fund distributes grants each year to nonprofit organizations and public agencies. This year’s grants total $291,164. Since 2001, the fund has distributed more than $6.1 million. Learn more at

MP Fire Department

Assistant Fire Chief Willy Burris demonstrates a “self-contained breathing apparatus” used by Myrtle Point firefighters. The equipment shows evidence of hard use, and it is increasingly unreliable.

A breath of relief

Grant helps keep firefighters safe


 MYRTLE POINT – Fighting fires is dangerous twice.

Obviously, plunging into a burning building is risky. But as it turns out, the danger doesn’t stop when firefighters return to the station.


s are at super high risk for cancer,” said Willy Burris, Myrtle Point’s assistant fire chief.

Burris, Chief Daniel Gardner and the volunteers on Myrtle Point’s fire crew can breathe a little easier – literally – with help from a $6,000 grant from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund.  The grant will help replace the department’s aging protective gear.

A “self-contained breathing apparatus” – a backpack-mounted air tank and mask – protects a firefighter’s life on the job, while reducing long-term effects of toxic smoke. But Myrtle Point’s battered equipment no longer inspires confidence.

“It’s in the back of your mind: I hope this thing doesn’t fail,” Burris said.

The department’s 15-year-old air tanks are hitting their legal expiration dates, and the accompanying gear is increasingly temperamental. A tiny malfunction can make exhaling difficult, and replacement parts are hard to find. Some volunteers are reluctant to wear the gear, despite its life-saving importance.

“Any time you’re breathing smoke, you need to wear your mask,” Burris said.

In a study completed in 2015, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found increased incidence of cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths among firefighters.  Digestive, oral, respiratory and urinary cancers were the most common. Firefighters also were susceptible to malignant mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

Burris notes that today’s buildings are full of synthetic materials that produce toxic substances when burned, including cyanide. Fire departments nationwide have been advised to clean their turnout gear after each fire to remove hazardous residue.

Myrtle Point’s new breathing apparatus will feature straps that can be removed easily for laundering. It also features a more comfortable design than the old gear. Burris said the department studied what’s on the market and chose a relatively basic model rather than a more deluxe setup.

“There’s less stuff to go wrong,” he explained.

Myrtle Point’s $6,000 public safety grant is one of six awarded by the Coquille Tribal Community Fund this year. Public safety accounts for $37,000 of the tribe’s more than $290,000 in 2018 grants.

Tribal member Jackie Chambers, who coordinates the Community Fund, said the Coquille Tribe is pleased to be able to help Myrtle Point’s volunteer heroes.

“Not only will this new gear help them provide services to the local community, but in neighboring communities as well,” she said. “We thank the Myrtle Point Fire Department for over 100 years of service.”


Coquille Tribal Community Fund

2018 Public Safety Grants

Coos Bay Fire Department $5,000
Myrtle Point Fire Department $6,000
Kids’ HOPE Center $15,000
Department of Human Services Child Welfare $1,500
Charleston Fishing Families $7,500
Charleston Community Enhancement Corp. $2,000

Egyptian Theatre

Kara Long, the Egyptian Theatre’s executive director, displays the frayed rope that sent a vintage backdrop plummeting to the stage.

Vintage theater copes with ropes

Tribe’s grant will help replace aged rigging

COOS BAY – The terrace fell on a Wednesday in August.

Paul Quarino knows it was a Wednesday, because the Egyptian Theatre had been open for Farmers Market. A visiting couple asked to see the Wurlitzer organ, and Quarino, the theater’s organist, took the pair backstage for a personal tour.

Eager to display the Egyptian’s historic charms, he began lowering part of a hand-painted backdrop – one depicting a Mediterranean terrace and forest scene. That was when a decades-old hemp rope snapped.

Quarino remembers thinking, “That thing is coming down, and I don’t have control of it.”

Quarino insists the next few moments were not dramatic, though they sound dramatic enough. When the rope gave way, so did a wooden support known as a batten. The heavy canvas mural, now hanging by a single rope, “slithered” to the floor.

No one was hurt, but the ancient hemp could be trusted no longer. The Egyptian’s famed backdrops would be out of commission until further notice.

A year and a half later, Quarino and other members of the Egyptian’s board are looking forward to putting those historic scenes in the public eye once again. A $5,000 grant from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund provides key funding for a project to rejuvenate the theater’s overhead rigging.

“The Egyptian Theatre Preservation Association is keeping a piece of history alive, and we are thrilled to help with that,” said Tribal member Jackie Chambers, who coordinates the Tribal Fund. “I remember going to the theater as a little kid. I was always in awe. When I take my  children there, they have that same look on their faces that I did when I was their age.”



Most of the Egyptian’s backdrops date to 1925, when they were painted in Portland and shipped to what was then Marshfield. Along with the terrace scene, they show a Nile River scene, a temple and a forest. A fifth backdrop, depicting Mount Hood, is newer.

Kara Long, the theater’s executive director, calls the canvases iconic.

No one was hurt when a broken rope released this canvas backdrop. Long expects volunteers will need about three months to replace the theater’s elderly rigging.

“Nobody in the world has these backdrops,” she said. “Nobody. They’re in original shape, too. They’re gorgeous.”

Restoring the backdrops to working order means replacing the old hemp ropes with durable nylon. Safety-rated materials will replace some dubious hardware. Steel cables of unknown vintage will make their exit as well.

The labor will be donated. An Egyptian board member, formally trained in technical theater, will lead a gang of volunteers. Long estimates the job will take three months.

The Tribe is awarding a total of 57 grants for 2018 in six categories: arts and culture, education, environment, historic preservation, health, and public safety. This year’s $291,000 in grants raises the fund’s total to more than $6.1 million since 2001, all supported by revenue from The Mill Casino.

Once the backdrops are in place, Long and her board have a busy agenda of additional improvements.  They plan to level the sagging stage and rewire the sound system. They also want to relocate the mechanical controls to an overhead platform, freeing the stage’s “wings” for performers to come and go safely.

Fundraising for restoration is ongoing.

Want to help?

Coos Bay’s Egyptian Theater Preservation Association is always looking for grants, private donations and volunteers. Contact Executive Director Kara Long at

More about the Community Fund


Coquille Tribal Community Fund 

2018 Historic Preservation Grants

Egyptian Theatre Preservation Association  $5,000
Bandon Historical Society Museum  $2,250
Curry Historical Society  $3,000
Coquille Tribal Community Fund 

2018 Education Grants

Coos County Historical Society $5,000
Coos County S.T.E.P. Commission $10,000
Madison Elementary School $5,828
SWOCC/TS/UB $5,000
Boys & Girls Club of Southwestern Oregon $2,500
South Coast Family Harbor $20,000
S.A.F.E. Haven Recovery $6,000
Coos Bay Area Zonta Service Foundation $5,000
North Bend School Foundation $5,000
Oregon Children’s Foundation dba SMART $5,000
Women’s Safety and Resource Center $5,000
Powers Friends of the Library Foundation $3,000
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry $2,500
Bandon School District $2,000
Friends Inspiring Reading Success Together $2,000
Youth Movement $2,000