Community generosity helps NSEA buy permanent home, expand mission to restore salmon

Elaine McRory, Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association campaign committee member and long-time salmon restoration supporter, at the entrance gate of the organization’s new permanent home.
Elaine McRory, Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association campaign committee member and long-time salmon restoration supporter, at the entrance gate of the organization’s new permanent home. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association concluded its two-year, $1.2 million capital campaign after receiving a final significant gift from Phillips 66.

Jeff Callendar, Phillips 66 regional director of public affairs and communications, made a surprise visit to Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association’s new home at the tail-end of a board meeting to announce the gift.

The campaign’s funds have allowed the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, known as NSEA, to purchase a 6.3 acre property and make all but one of the upgrades it needs for full functionality.

“I’m so excited to see how this property improves the work we do for salmon in our community. The facility isn’t even done yet and we are already seeing a shift in the work we can accomplish,” said Rachel Vasak, NSEA’s executive director. “For example, we were able to triple the native plant inventory from 5,000 to 15,000 plants. That will allow us do more restoration starting this fall.”

Plans for the last project, a community meeting room building, are being finalized by local architect and NSEA campaign volunteer Sid Nesbit. A completed building, with the capacity to host large group meetings and double as a classroom, will be finished by December 2016.

Cori Schleich, NSEA’s education coordinator, said the new property has changed the 25-year-old salmon restoration organization. “We’re able to give better to the community because we have a reliable, permanent home.”

For the 14 years before relocating, NSEA worked from a leased property that it rented from Western Washington University. Space limitations and the impermanence made it difficult for NSEA to evolve and grow. Beyond the stability that the new property provides, NSEA’s board and staff are banking on the organization being better positioned to do more and to do it more efficiently.

A new 2,000 square foot equipment shop, already built and in use, is one of many campaign-related projects that is proving that the donor investment is paying off. NSEA’s work crews are now able to easily pull up a work truck at one of three bay doors, quickly load it with tools (organized on wheeled storage racks) and access Whatcom County restoration sites from the perfectly located property.

Expense control is a core value at NSEA. In fact, a partner of ours once declared we use money until it screams. As time is money, organizational efficiency was one of the metrics we used when designing and locating the various physical structures on the new property.

Hundreds of donors – individuals, local businesses, partner organizations and foundations – made the campaign a success. Beyond funding the campaign, donors galvanized and motivated the organization to make good on its promise to restore salmon habitat in Whatcom County.

“We are so appreciative of the generous support the community has shown toward salmon recovery during this campaign. Gifts have come from all corners of Whatcom County and from all types of people and businesses. There’s no way we could have come so far without such a passionate and thoughtful community” said long-time NSEA board member and campaign chair Phelps McIlvaine.

Notable campaign donors include Mike and Elaine McRory, Dave Beattie, Philip Humphries, The Sustainable Whatcom Fund of Whatcom Community Foundation, Bellingham Cold Storage, BP North America, The Norcliffe Foundation, The Eleanor and Henry Jansen Foundation, Phillips 66, The Alcoa Foundation, D.V. and Ida McEachern Charitable Trust, and the Phyllis and Charlie Self Fund of the Whatcom Community Foundation.

The new property is located on the outskirts of Bellingham at 3057 E. Bakerview Road. Drop-by visits are welcome or, if you’d like a more formal tour of NSEA’s new home, please call NSEA at 360-715-0283 and ask for either Adrian or Rachel.

Adrian Shulock is development and communications manager at Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association.