PORT TOWNSEND — Siobhan Canty is the 2021 Woman of Excellence. And she’s busy, thank you.
The year leading up to the Port Townsend American Association of University Women award had its bumps and swells. Through it all, Canty, CEO of the Jefferson Community Foundation, has led with “energy and vision,” said AAUW nominator Rose Lincoln.
“I put my head down and got to work,” Canty said, adding she’s grateful to be recognized.
The award — along with a major donation — “made a great end to a hard year.”
That contribution, made at the end of December, was a $100,000 gift to Bayside Housing Services for its Peter’s Place village, which provides transitional housing in Port Hadlock. Canty acted as a kind of matchmaker between Bayside and the anonymous donor.
Jefferson County’s housing crisis was but one of the problems Canty confronted; another was the pandemic. Canty and the foundation created the COVID-19 Response Fund, raising $713,659 in community donations during 2020.
“People never stopped donating,” Canty said Monday.
From March through October, the COVID fund distributed $700,929 in aid to housing, food, childcare, mental health and youth organizations in the county.
“We do have a small amount left, and we could react to an urgent need, but we want to be thoughtful,” said Canty, adding that the foundation may officially reopen the COVID fund.
“We suspect we will,” she said, in light of the March 31 end of the statewide eviction moratorium.
“We want to see if there is a role for the COVID fund to help not just renters but landlords,” Canty said.
She expects the Jefferson Community Foundation board of directors to decide at its Jan. 25 meeting whether to reopen the fund.
Canty’s creation of the Housing Solutions Network last year was another factor in her Woman of Excellence honor. The network has issued a “Community Call to Action,” a document listing ways county residents can solve the housing shortage, with details at housingsolutionsnetwork.org.
With Canty at the helm, the Jefferson Community Foundation faced its own eviction last June. Property manager Brent Garrett told the foundation to move out after a “Black Lives Matter” sign was posted at its office in Port Hadlock’s Salmon Business Park, so Canty and staff were homeless.
Then James “Kiwi” Ferris of Edensaw Woods donated a large space at 63 Julian St. south of town, giving the story “a very happy ending,” Canty said.
The foundation moved into its office in mid-September.
In the new year, Canty is developing the Jefferson Community Foundation’s latest network: one for creative entrepreneurs. This will become a resource for local artisans and other business people who make things, she said.
“It’s really about job creation,” she said, by increasing business for local entrepreneurs and by building what she calls an “enabling environment,” making sure services such as childcare and senior care are available in Jefferson County.
To reach Canty and the community foundation, entrepreneurs and donors can visit JCFgives.org, email [email protected] or phone 360-385-1729. The mailing address is Jefferson Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1394, Port Hadlock, WA 98339.
Kathleen Kler, a member of the AAUW, hailed Canty as a change agent, one who has worked through concurrent crises this past year.
Canty has set an example, Kler said, as “that person who is ready to face the storm.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]