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Donor Appreciation Spotlight: William Ahmanson

Posted by | Vanessa Briseño, Chief Development & Communications Officer

We are fortunate to have extremely generous donors and volunteers who give their time, energy, support, and resources to Catholic Charities. As part of our donor and volunteer appreciation campaign, we are recognizing individuals and organizations who partner with Catholic Charities. Because of them, we can bring vital, lifesaving services to our neighbors in greatest need. Here’s William Ahmanson’s story:

One of the worst, if not the worst, heat waves on record impacted the Pacific Northwest in late June 2021, breaking records over a blazing four-day period. Portland’s average high temperature was 112 degrees.

Catholic Charities of Oregon’s Director of Disaster Services, Jen Masotja, visited Kenton Women’s Village (KWV) the week of the expected heat wave to conduct a heat safety assessment for the upcoming extreme temperatures. She and the KWV team came up with several recommendations to reduce heat-related illness, including supporting a pop-up shelter, using the air-conditioned kitchen, moving outdoor furniture to a shaded area, giving villagers fans, and distributing water and popsicles. There was, however, one challenging recommendation: KWV urgently needed to add sunshade sails to help provide shade to common spaces and reduce direct sunlight on the metal roofs of the pods.

Purchasing sunshade sails and getting them installed at KWV quickly before the heat wave was an urgent safety issue. Nearly all of the villagers have complex medical needs that would have been exacerbated by the extreme heat. Catholic Charites was desperate to find a donor and fast.

That’s when Bill Ahmanson came in.

Vanessa Briseño, Chief Development and Communications Officer at Catholic Charities of Oregon, reached out to Bill because she knew of his affinity for KWV. Vanessa inquired about providing emergency support to purchase the sunshades sails ahead of the weekend’s heatwave and, after a quick phone call, Bill personally donated the resources needed without hesitation.

Our donors have the greatest impact on Catholic Charities’ ability to be nimble and responsive in times of crisis. Bill’s personal contribution was made easily through our online donation platform and quickly allowed us to purchase the sunshades ahead of the heatwave. The sails arrived, and Catholic Charities got them installed at KWV just in time. The handful of villagers who decided to stay at KWV and endure the high temperatures that weekend enjoyed some shaded relief from the blistering sun, thanks to Bill’s quick generosity.

Bill, who resides in Los Angeles, CA, is also the President of The Ahmanson Foundation, which gives to three broad categories: education, health and human services, and art and culture. Bill explained that in the last few years the Foundation has given more to health and human services to help homelessness, mitigate health risks of the poor and vulnerable, and support those on the brink of disaster—issues exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. More broadly, the foundation concentrates its funding on cultural projects that support the arts, education at the collegiate and pre-collegiate levels, medicine and delivery of health care services, programs related to homelessness and low-income populations, and a wide range of human services.

“The Ahmanson Foundation was started by my great uncle,” Bill shared. “Giving back has been part of the family ethos since the very beginning. We have letters going back to the first Ahmanson in 1854 supporting the need to be charitable.  Being Catholic, we are called to do that as well.”

The Ahmanson Foundation made a general support grant for KWV in 2021. “The reason why I support Kenton Women’s Village is because in Los Angeles homelessness is an issue, and I want to be supportive of organizations when they face that and want to do something about it,” said Bill. “For me to get the best information, I have to be a contributor. I’m looking for better ideas than what Los Angeles is doing to help people who are experiencing homelessness. Catholic Charities of Oregon is providing effective services to combat this issue.”

In addition to the grant, Bill was eager to donate the sunshade sails for KWV because they would provide immediate relief to the villagers. “It was immediately needed, and we could immediately do it, and it was done in days,” he said. “That was just fun to be able to do!”

Bill lives by the message, “To those where much is given, much is expected.” With his Catholic faith Bill shared, “Being faith-based we are asked to tithe. I like to look at my own faith first for tithing. Catholic Charities of Oregon and Kenton Women’s Village have immediate return at low cost. Giving to this agency, and that program, has the greatest impact.”

He continued, “For anyone who is seeking to be in faculty with the community, they need to look no further than Catholic Charities of Oregon. I know that you are helping people that need that hope.”

Thank you, Bill. You #Inspire Us.