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Cascade Seed Fund founders launch philanthropic effort to support C.O. innovation

Announces first two grant recipients: Bethlehem Inn, i4Education

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Cascade Innovation Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation announced its launch Wednesday to support innovation and entrepreneurship among nonprofit and philanthropic organizations in Oregon.

Personally established by Cascade Seed Fund founders Julie Harrelson and Robert Pease as a donor-advised fund through the Oregon Community Foundation, the Cascade Innovation Fund makes charitable donations to those organizations in Oregon demonstrating innovation while making a positive impact on their communities.

Both Harrelson and Pease have deep ties to Oregon’s entrepreneurial community through their on-going work managing Cascade Seed Fund. Cascade Seed Fund is a regionally focused early stage investment fund focused on technology and consumer products companies. Notable investments include Slumberkins, EnviralTech, A Kids Book About, Deep Surface and ZipCan as well as Topbox recently acquired by Khoros and Stabilitas acquired by OnSolve.

“We are excited to be partnering with the Oregon Community Foundation to leverage our support and passion for entrepreneurs working in nonprofit and charitable organizations,” said Julie Harrelson, Managing Director, Cascade Seed Fund.  “The humility, tenacity and determination that makes entrepreneurs successful in commercial ventures is the same that makes them successful in charitable ones and we seek to support both.”

Coinciding with the launch, the Cascade Innovation Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation announced its first two grants in Central Oregon - Bethlehem Inn and i4Education. Bethlehem Inn provides transitional emergency shelter services for adults and children struggling with homelessness and poverty in Central Oregon.  i4Education is the innovation arm of the High Desert Education Service District supporting educators as entrepreneurs to incubate ideas and create solutions for education.

“Bethlehem Inn is honored to have been selected as one of the non-profits to be supported by The Cascade Innovation Fund,” said Gwenn Wysling, Executive Director, Bethlehem Inn. “Their compassion and investment in a vital community resource will directly benefit our region’s vulnerable population, as well as the community at large.”

“We co-created i4Education with local entrepreneurs to empower educators and students to bring their best ideas forward and refine those ideas with the expert support of entrepreneurs,” said Ann Higgins, Executive Director of i4Education and Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, High Desert Education Service District.

“Funds like the Cascade Innovation Fund highlight how the Oregon Community Foundation can extend its resources and expertise to donor-advised funds,” said Max Williams, CEO of the Oregon Community Foundation.  “We believe supporting entrepreneurship in all forms can improve the well-being of our communities.” 

About Cascade Seed Fund

Founded in 2013 and investing as Cascade Angels Fund across five funds, we became Cascade Seed Fund in 2019 building on more than six years of early stage investing experience. Today we continue to seek out opportunities to work with amazing entrepreneurs in Oregon and throughout the Pacific Northwest. Since 2014, all of the Cascade Funds combined have raised over $12 million and invested in over 40 early-stage companies that cumulatively employ over 200 people. For more information, visit

About Oregon Community Foundation

Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) puts donated money to work for Oregonians. Thanks to the generosity of Oregonians, OCF distributes more than $100 million in grants and scholarships annually. For nearly fifty years, OCF grantmaking, research, advocacy and community-advised solutions have helped individuals, families, businesses and organizations create charitable funds to improve lives for all Oregonians. Impactful giving—time, talent and resources from many generous Oregonians—creates measurable change.

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