Nonprofit Champion: Kathy Deggendorfer | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Nonprofit Champion: Kathy Deggendorfer

The Roundhouse Foundation: Supporting arts, health, the environment and much more

Nonprofit Champion: Kathy Deggendorfer

Source Staff


athy Deggendorfer is a resident of Sisters, where she and her husband, Frank, and daughter, Erin settled in 1994, so, as Kathy puts it, "Erin could play basketball at Sisters High School and keep her horse at home." That was the beginning, but very shortly, the reason the Deggendorfers remained in Sisters went beyond basketball and horses.

The family moved to Bend from Lake Oswego in '73. Never one to sit on her hands and just enjoy the sunset, Deggendorfer opened a Columbia Sportswear sales outlet on Division Street. in Bend called, "Just a Second"—one of the first businesses in the area to hop on the Internet bus that was just starting to roll down the highway of online commerce. It also helped that her mother was the well-known "tough lady" owner of Columbia Sportswear, Gert Boyle.

Frank and Kathy then bought the historic WTE Wilson Ranch, outside of Sisters, where Kathy got serious about her own art and created a studio in an old barn. Describing what happened next, Deggendorfer says, "I got involved with the Community Action Team of Sisters, became part of the Sisters Folk Festival board and jumped in with both feet into the community of Sisters."

Deggendorfer formed the Roundhouse Foundation in 2002, primarily using funds from her mom's estate. She's quick to say that running a foundation isn't like opening a lemonade stand; there's a lot of work involved with philanthropy. She, her husband and daughter comprise the board of trustees and have two "fantastic" staff members—Susan Robinson and Holly Hakala.

"We never wanted the foundation to be about our family, but more about our community, so we named it for a saying that my Dad used to use... 'Head for the Roundhouse, Nelly—they'll never corner you there.' It also invoked the idea of a terminus—a place where things could turn around and head in a new direction."

The focus of the Roundhouse Foundation has always been on creative expression, starting with support for the local things:

The Sisters Outdoor Quilt show, and the Sisters Folk Festival.

"We never wanted the foundation to be about our family, but more about our community, so we named it for a saying that my Dad used to use... 'Head for the Roundhouse, Nelly—they'll never corner you there.'"- Kathy Deggendorfer

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Arts in the schools

Sisters Library and all places where people can learn and be creative

As the foundation grew, the crew realized it's hard to be creative if your teeth hurt or you feel like crud—so they also began funding things including the Kemple Dental Clinic, Kiwanis Mobile Dental Van, Volunteers in Medicine, Kiwanis Food Bank and Furry Friends. Because, as Deggendorfer puts it, "If your best buddy is your pet and it feels bad—that's not so nice either."

As one successful grantee after another made its Big Plan come to life, the foundation began to spread from Sisters to locations worldwide, with human health a major goal. Because Deggendorfer's mom had at one point found herself in need of cataract surgery at the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health Sciences University, Deggendorfer became deeply involved with ophthalmology and with Dr. Devin Gattey's work with people in distress.

Deggendorfer says Gettey was a human dynamo, involved in Peace Corps ophthalmological work that took him to southeast Asia. The Roundhouse Foundation stepped in to help fund Casey Eye Institute programs, and Deggendorfer began to travel with the docs to places such as Fiji and American Samoa.

"I particularly value eyesight, as I'm an artist," Deggendorfer states. "I love to read, to drive my car, to see my kids and check out the weather every morning on our beautiful skyline. Eyesight is high on my list for health issues I'd like to address through the foundation."


s a person who recognizes the success of people taking part in community activities, she has this to say about philanthropic work: "There is plenty to be done in our community. I'm thankful that I live in Sisters and honestly, I do everything I can to make it the kind of place we all want to live.  

"Our work at the Foundation tries to use the mantra, 'Don't do something for me without asking me,' so we're responsive to work that is going on here with community support already in place—and we try to make sure we are providing help that people really want and need."

The Roundhouse Foundation's grantees include those in the arts, education, environment and social services. Among the testimonials on the website is this one from the Bend Science Station:

"The introduction of SPArK: Igniting the Power of Science Education in Sisters was a huge success thanks to Roundhouse Foundation funding. Each Kindergartner, 1st and 2nd grader got to experiment with extreme cold by shattering hotdogs and observing droplets of Liquid Nitrogen dance across the floor. Third and fourth grades learned about forces by building structures with Legos, collecting torque data and then going outside to use ropes to 'rescue' their instructor from a 'climbing accident.' Fifth graders built motors and then conducted experiments on heart rate. 390 students and 13 teachers participated in the program. There was so much exciting science for Sisters last spring because of the Roundhouse Foundation. Thank you!"

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