From the President

It was such a delight to launch the Idaho Community Foundation’s 30th Anniversary events in Boise last week with 350 of our closest friends! 

We kicked off our anniversary events with our 29th Annual Southwest Idaho Luncheon.  In her keynote address, former CEO and Steering Committee Member Alice Hennessey reminded us that we are all “…so blessed to live in Idaho, where all kinds of dreams can come true – including the dream of an organization dedicated to enriching life’s quality throughout Idaho – forever. Thanks to all of you for YOUR part in making this dream come true.” 

Karen Bilowith

She encouraged us all to “find the sheer joy in altruism, and to help make the impact of the Idaho Community Foundation even stronger in the years ahead.” 

And our Friend of the Foundation honoree, Dean Buffington, reminded us to say thank you and to show appreciation for those who have helped us along the way by paying it forward. Great advice from two of the Idaho Community Foundation’s visionary leaders!

We look forward to taking our celebration on the road, with our next stop in Coeur d’Alene on June 13th. Details are below and the deadline to register is Friday, June 8.

As we look back at our accomplishments, we are reminded that our impact simply would not be possible without our generous donors, who have believed in the power of collective philanthropy. 

It also would not be possible without the partnership of all of the charitable organizations throughout the state doing great work in our communities.  Thank you for your role in helping Idaho communities thrive!

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Deadline to register for the North Idaho Luncheon is June 8

The ICF 30: Esther Becker Simplot, a lifelong dedication to the performing arts

Upcoming Deadlines

Upcoming Events


ICF's New and Renewing Members May 2018

New Member | Renewing Member

Patron ($500-$999)
JJ and Sara Astorquia, Boise

Sponsor ($250-$499)
John and Helen Yuditsky, Coeur d’Alene

Sustainer ($100-$249)          
Lawrence Halvorson, Boise
Don and Andrea Solberg, Grangeville
Norman Steadman, Weippe

Supporter ($50-$99)             
Kellie Lavigne, Wallace        

Friend ($25-$49)                   
Heidi Rogers, Coeur d’Alene

James and Susan Thomas, Sagle
Logo Survey

Deadline to register for the North Idaho
Luncheon is June 8

The 9th Annual North Idaho Luncheon will be held Wednesday, June 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Hagadone Event Center in Coeur d’Alene.

The deadline to register is June 8. For more information and to register, click here.

Our keynote speaker is Bruce Reed, a Coeur d’Alene native who is CEO of co-founder of Civic, a bipartisan policy ideas company. Bruce served for more than a decade as a top White House policy advisor in both the Clinton and Obama administrations.

Bruce Reed
Bruce Reed

We’re celebrating our 30th Anniversary this year so the three nonprofits we’ve selected as On The Spot Grant presenters were some of our first grant recipients – Northwest Children’s Home in Lewiston, Panida Theater in Sandpoint and TESH, Inc., in Coeur d’Alene. Each will tell us about their work and will receive a $500 grant.

Our Friend of the Foundation is Marion Shinn of Lewiston, a 97-year-old retired educator and former mayor of Lewiston. Marion has been actively involved in the community for 70 years and has two ICF funds – one that benefits the Nez Perce Historical Society and one that encourages nonprofits to grow and take on new challenges.

The ICF 30: Esther Becker Simplot, a lifelong dedication to the performing arts

Through her performances on stage and her work behind the scenes, Esther Becker Simplot has always had a dedication and commitment to the performing and visual arts.

Esther was one of seven children and grew up on a rural Wisconsin farm during the Great Depression. She describes her mother Pauline Warmbier Becker as “a 4-foot 11-inch, 90-pound dynamo who set the pace for all of the family.” Pauline milked cows, worked in the fields, cooked, cleaned and maintained a large garden that always had room for zinnias and gladiola, her favorite flowers.

Esther Simplot

The Becker home was filled with music. Esther’s father played the piano, organ and accordion and had perfect vocal pitch.

“He would seat my sister Marion and me on either side of him on the piano bench and teach us old and new songs that he had picked up from the radio or at the Saturday dances at the Grange Hall where he was part of the band,” she said.

Esther went away to school at MacMurray College in Illinois and graduated with a degree in music. While working in New York City and studying voice, she met J.R. “Jack” Simplot when he came to the office where she worked to borrow money for the expansion of his Pocatello fertilizer plant. They fell in love and Esther moved west.

Jack had grown up in Declo in the Magic Valley and wanted to make Idaho their home. His parents, Charles Simplot and Dorothy Haxby Simplot, had moved from Iowa to Declo as homesteaders. Dorothy had grown up in a wealthy farming family and was well educated. Moving to a homestead cabin, “must have truly been a great adjustment for her,” Esther said. 

Jack and Esther’s mothers are important because in 2015 Esther established the Pauline Becker and Dorothy Simplot Memorial Endowment Fund at ICF to honor her mother and mother-in-law. The fund provides grants of about $45,000 each to Ballet Idaho, the Boise Philharmonic and Opera Idaho every year. The fund is endowed so they will receive support forever.

“Giving to my art organizations is my way of thanking them for all the hard work they have done,” Simplot said. “It’s a way of letting them know that I do appreciate the giant strides they have made and that everyone – from the performers to the administrative people – has contributed to this success.”

Esther got involved with the performing arts in Boise soon after moving here. She quickly realized that rehearsal and office space were critical needs for the performing arts to survive and thrive and she began looking for ways to help.

“When I first arrived in Idaho, the Boise Philharmonic was well established. The ballet and opera were in their embryonic stages and there have always been a large number of people interested in these art forms,” Esther said.

When the Hendren Furniture Building in downtown Boise came up for sale, Jack purchased the building, promising to establish an endowment fund at the newly established Idaho Community Foundation if Esther could raise the funds to pay for major renovations. She succeeded and the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy opened its doors in the fall of 1992, housing Ballet Idaho, Opera Idaho and the Boise Philharmonic.

Jack held up his end of the deal and established a $1.1 million endowment at ICF to support the Academy.

Today, Esther serves as the Chairman of the Board which operates and manages the Academy. Boise was a small city of 60,000 people when she arrived and she said the changes to the city and its cultural organizations, including the Boise Art Museum, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Idaho Historical Museum and many smaller organizations has been wonderful to watch. 

“It becomes quite difficult to select from the long list of entertainment choices,” she laughed. “Boise has always been a huge supporter of all things cultural and its star continues to shine.” 

The ICF 30 is a special series recognizing those who contributed to the success of the Idaho Community Foundation in our first 30 years. To see more of the stories, click here.

Upcoming Deadlines

Idaho Future Fund
The Idaho Future Fund is accepting applications from eastern Idaho for preschool scholarships, charter schools, public schools and public school libraries, and supplemental educational programs. The grant cycle is open for the eastern Idaho counties of Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Bonneville, Butte, Caribou, Clark, Custer, Franklin, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison, Oneida, Power and Teton counties. A total of $100,000 will be distributed in eastern Idaho.

For more information, including eligibility and application, click here. Deadline for submission is June 15.

Eastern Region Grant Cycle
ICF’s Eastern Region Grant Cycle, which provides grants of up to $5,000 to nonprofits, is now open for the counties of Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Bonneville, Butte, Caribou, Clark, Custer, Franklin, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison, Oneida, Power and Teton.

For more information, including eligibility and application, click here. Deadline for submission is June 15.

Upcoming Events

ICF Annual Luncheons
Save the dates for our Annual Luncheons and 30th Anniversary Celebration! More details to come!

  • Central Idaho Annual Luncheon – Wednesday, August 29 at the Limelight Hotel in Ketchum. Keynote speaker: Alice Hennessey, former ICF President/CEO and Steering Committee member.
  • Eastern Idaho Annual Luncheon – Wednesday, Sept. 19, at the L.E. and Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center. Keynote speaker: Russ Stoddard, President and Founder of Oliver Russell and author of “Rise Up – How to Build a Socially Conscious Business.”
  • 30th Anniversary Celebration – Wednesday, Nov. 14 from 5-7 p.m. at JUMP in Boise.

Newly Created Funds

Ola Community Fund (Forever Idaho) – Created to permanently support and enhance the charitable needs and interests of the residents of Ola, including, but not limited to, the Ola Community Center and Church.


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