Like the beginnings of Longview itself, Rick Wollenberg’s family is rooted in timber. Their storied history in the community began in 1926, when his grandfather, Harry L. Wollenberg, was recruited by a longtime friend to help establish Longview Fibre Company. From there, Harry rose to become the company’s first CEO and seeded three generations of leadership at the mill.
As Longview residents, the Wollenberg’s kept close ties with their employees and their community. Over its 81 years, the mill grew to manage 589,000 acres of forestland and employ 1,700 proud, local workers. Not only did Longview Fibre become part of the Wollenberg family, it became part of the community’s core. This made the decision to sell the mill in 2007 all the more difficult and emotional.
However, apart from the mill, the Wollenberg family made many personal charitable contributions to Cowlitz County causes and are still impacting the region today through philanthropic investments. Though private in their giving, the Wollenberg’s incredible generosity has still been pressed into local institutions. Today, their name graces a local preschool, a few scholarship funds and even a community auditorium.
Rick and Barbara Wollenberg are carrying the family legacy forward today, and they credit Rick’s father and grandfather for passing on the value of community. It has inspired their generous giving and led Rick to serve on local nonprofits in many capacities, including efforts that helped establish the Cowlitz Community Fund.
After recognizing a need in the community for more localized funding, Rick and other leaders devised a plan to grow an endowed community grant program for their community. In 2011, the Cowlitz Community Fund offered its first grants to area nonprofits and has gone on to become a solid funding source each year.
Similar to how the sustainable management of natural resources grew Longview Fibre and Cowlitz County into economic forces, this fund manages the charitable investments of local residents in order to multiply the resources available for addressing local needs.
This model holds much promise in Rick’s eyes, because he believes in the industrious spirit of his community and has seen the good things they produce when they put their hearts and minds together. The result is usually a homegrown solution that becomes a source of local pride, which is why Rick is still proud to call Longview home.