PORTLAND - Decades before there was a Wal-Mart or a Costco Warehouse, there was Fred Meyer, a chain of what Wikipedia calls "hypermarket superstores" that was the "first in the United States to promote one-stop shopping, eventually combining a complete grocery supermarket with a drugstore, bank, clothing, jewelry, home decor, home improvement, garden, electronics, restaurant, shoes, sporting goods and toys."
The first Fred Meyer opened its doors in 1922 at the corner of SW 5th and Yamhill in Portland, Oregon by Fred G. Meyer. Owned since 1999 by The Kroger Company, today there are more than 130 Fred Meyer superstores, mostly in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
He was born Frederick Grubmeyer in Germany in 1886. He and his parents immigrated to the U.S., first settling in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of 19 he headed west hoping to strike it rich in the gold fields around Nome, Alaska. After three years he still hadn't struck pay dirt. So he moved to Portland where, like his father and seven uncles, he decided to go into the grocery business.
He was still in charge of day-to-day operations when he passed away in 1978 at the age of 92. The same year, Fortune magazine ranked the company as the 145th largest retailer in the United States. The following year it would report for the first time in sales of $1 billion.
Which meant Fred G. Meyer left behind a considerable fortune. He had aside 2 million shares of Fred Meyer stock valued at over $60 million - about $250 million in today's dollars - for a charitable foundation, but did not specify what the foundation's focus would be. "Realizing as I do the uncertainties of the future," he wrote, "I want my trustees to be able to exercise broad discretion in shaping and carrying out charitable programs which can be tailored to fit changing conditions and problems."
The Meyer Memorial Trust opened for business in 1982 driven by seven core values - equity, responsiveness and flexibility, accountability and transparency, collaboration, humbleness and advocacy - and its focus since 2006 on four areas - "housing, education, the environment and building inclusive communities."
And there's no question it's delivered. To date, it has awarded more team $810 million in more than 9,800 grants and investments to more than 3,380 organizations in Oregon and Southwest Washington. "We are committed," Michelle DePass, the Trust's president and CEO, wrote in a recent note to partners, "to being with you for the long haul."
It probably comes as no surprise, then, that HUD Secretary Ben Carson recently announced the Meyer Memorial Trust is one of seven foundations selected by the Council on Foundations and HUD as winners of the 2020 Secretaryās Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships. The Award, first conferred in 2012, honors "innovative partnerships between foundations and government that have been critical in transforming communities and improving the quality of life for low-and moderate-income residents across the country.
Since the Award was first conferred in 2012, other winners in the Northwest and Alaska have included the Rasmuson Foundation in Anchorage, the Home Partnership Foundation in Boise,, the Oregon Community Foundation Portland and the Raikes Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates and Seattle Foundation in Seattle and King County. That's very good company indeed, but certainly company that the Meyer Memorial Trust belongs in.
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