Officially, Sound Water Stewards of Island County became an independent, non-profit as of January 1, 2016. IRS tax exempt status was secured later in the year, retroactive to Jan 1. The goal for the year was to get the internal structure functioning throughout the organization in order that all projects and efforts would continue as seamlessly as possible and to add staff as we determined what we needed and what we could afford.
There was a lot of work to create new documents and to transfer all communications and information from WSU to the new organization. Many in SWS assisted our volunteer SWS Board in this process. New communication methods were needed to maximize internal communications and transparency. Agreements with external entities who had been supportive of BW were revised, negotiated and all were adopted during the year: Lighthouse Environmental Programs, Island County, Town of Coupeville, Port of Coupeville, and Washington State Parks). WSU agreed to transfer the Getting to the Water’s Edge copyright to SWS for all future updates.
Existing committees from BW continued their work under SWS; new committees were added to fill in gaps. By March, a temporary, part-time staff assistant was hired. Last fall, this position was converted to two part-time Coordinators, one on each island to help facilitate projects and committees: inventory management, office set-up, helping monitor, manage and execute communications (email, newsletter) and PR with the Communications Committee, space usage, and member assistance – everything from ordering name tags to equipment and entering hours.
Sound Waters University 2016 in February was attended by 644 individuals and now provides significant financial support to the organization. The 2016 Training Class graduated 39 new volunteer members. New strategies led to a significant increase in hours reporting; the highest ever: 25,168 hours were reported by 165 SWS volunteers in 2016. And, these volunteers interacted with more than 30,000 people as they worked to sustain and improve our environment, sharing what we know with our community. All previous projects continued with some new additions. The Coupeville Wharf major renovation project was completed and dedicated, all funded with donations. The first grant was submitted by SWS to LEP in December for 2017 support.
Volunteers spent their time and efforts on the three major goals of our mission: education/outreach (6231 hours plus another 4049 hours spent on self-education), citizen science (5682 hours), and stewardship (951 hours). In addition, significant hours were spent on administration for SWS and in support of other organizations. Given that this was the first year of a new organization with minimal paid staffing, this was expected. As a grass roots organization, started 25 years ago to allow trained volunteers to find projects that will enhance our communities, this tradition continues with leadership offering support and assistance as needed.
Supporting material from SWS Annual Meeting
- SWS slide show
- SWS Annual Report
- Honor Role of Volunteers who passed significant milestones in 2015-2016