Happy Trails! Pam Muelhausen Retires
“Thoughtful, wise, wonderful;” “Honest, sincere and trustworthy.” “A problem solver who is always willing to help make things work.” “One of the kindest, smartest and most delightful humans I have ever met.” “She is an anchor and an explorer; she builds on sturdy foundations and has the foresight to see what is coming.”
These are just a few of the words colleagues use to describe Pam Muehlhausen, our director of finance, and so much more, for the last two decades. We’re happy/sad to report that Pam begins her next chapter as a retiree in July.
While Pam grew up in Southern California, she was born in Vancouver, B.C. and her family came back to this area every summer to visit. When she and her husband were ready to leave California in 1990, they chose Lummi Island — lucky for us, since that’s how she ended up at the Community Foundation.
When did you come to the Community Foundation and why?
Mary Boire, the Foundation’s first Executive Director, also lives on Lummi Island. Since I was doing bookkeeping for several businesses on the Island, she asked if I would be willing to work part time to help with the accounting and admin functions at the Whatcom Community Foundation. I had no idea what a Community Foundation was, but Treasurer Paul Tholfsen set up the books and helped me to understand the complex fund accounting required. Over the years, as the Foundation grew, my function went from 1 day a week to full time.
What has changed? What has stayed the same?
In the 20+ years that I’ve been with the Foundation, it has grown from a new organization made possible by startup funding from the Packard Foundation to make grants in Whatcom County to an organization with more than $47M in assets held in 300+ funds, that received over $2.5M in gifts and grants and has made more than $4.4M in grants in this fiscal year to date. And that’s just the numbers – thanks to the phenomenal work of CEO Mauri Ingram, our staff and our Board, the Whatcom Community Foundation is involved in and making an impact on many community issues such as an accurate Census count, affordable housing, waterfront development, employee ownership, child college savings accounts and diversity, equity and inclusion.
What’s the hardest part of your job? My position is responsible for Finance, HR and IT – that’s a lot of hats!
What’s the best part of your job?
The people that I have the pleasure to work with, including:
1) our amazing staff
2) our Board and Committee members, who help to connect the Foundation with the communities that we serve
3) donors who trust us to do good work
4) grantees who provide community support through programs made possible, in part, by grants from the Foundation
Any particular memories you could share?
Tom Hunter, one of our founding board members, wanted the Community Foundation to feel like a hub in our community; he always said “let the vortex bring you in”, knowing that we would make all visitors, whether donors, grant seekers or other community members, feel welcome.
Any words of wisdom or advice for the person filling your shoes?
Community Foundations are complex entities, so it may take a while to feel comfortable in your new position, but Community Foundations are willing share nearly everything about their organizations including policies, procedures and statistics, and our Treasurer Kira Bravo, former Treasurer Kevin DeYoung, and other members of the Investment & Finance Committee are amazing resources, so don’t hesitate to reach out. I love this organization and want your transition to go well, so please consider me a resource as you acclimate.
Since my husband has also just retired, I think we’ll have to see what works. I’d love to travel, but have lots of local plans as well – I want to spend more time with my grandchildren and a lot more time outside, whether it be gardening or walking or drinking a glass of wine on our deck while watching the sun set over the San Juan Islands.
Cheers to you Pam, may this lovely vision become your reality July 1 and far beyond!