Volume XVII | Issue 2 | Fall 2017
Brandy O’Bannon’s strong work ethic, volunteerism and professional achievements earned her the 2017 Gerald E. Bruce Community Service Award. Photo: Frank Miller

Planting seeds of service

Ford Scholar earns Gerald Bruce award

Brandy O’Bannon loves living a life of service.

“Working alongside friends, colleagues, donors and volunteers in my community has brought a tremendous amount of joy to my life,” says Brandy O’Bannon, a Ford Scholar from the class of 1994 — the very first class of Ford Scholars.

Her strong work ethic, volunteerism and professional achievements earned O’Bannon the 2017 Gerald E. Bruce Community Service Award, presented annually to an outstanding Ford Family Scholarship alumnus.

“The selection committee was particularly impressed by Brandy’s long-term commitment to the causes she cares about,” says Bonnie Williams, manager of Scholar and Alumni Engagement at The Ford Family Foundation.

A lifelong Salem resident, O’Bannon says her parents set a great example of service.

“They didn’t have a lot of financial resources to offer, but that never stopped them from giving what they had — whether that was a few dollars, a smile, lending a hand to a neighbor or friend in need,” she says, adding that she began volunteering at age 14.

She earned a bachelor of arts in history from Willamette University in 1998 and a master of business administration with a focus on nonprofit management in 2000.

“I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Ford several times at conferences,” O’Bannon says, noting that his humbleness and work ethic inspired her. She still has letters he sent to the Ford Scholars.  “His words of wisdom have been a guiding force in my life.” 

After graduation, O’Bannon worked as a grant writer at a children’s museum before working in development for a private college preparatory school in Salem. 

Keeping children safe

In 2013, she joined Family Building Blocks, a nonprofit Relief Nursery that works to keep children safe and families together. She manages a staff of five and leads the major gifts and foundation gifts solicitation.

O’Bannon has served as a respite volunteer with Willamette Valley Hospice for five years, leads a local toy drive, and participates in several events to benefit the homeless population.

Perhaps closest to O’Bannon’s heart is the Lord and Schryver Conservancy, a Salem nonprofit group that preserves and interprets historic gardens, a cause she’s been involved with since she was a teen. Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver were the first professional women landscape architects in the Northwest and designed more than 200 notable gardens during a career that spanned from the 1920s to the 1960s.

“Gardens can bring us peace, beauty and respite and teach us lessons from the past we can apply to today,” she says. 

She has chosen the Lord and Schryver Conservancy to receive the $5,000 grant from The Ford Family Foundation that comes with the Bruce Award. “Lord and Schryver were extremely talented and professional — and trailblazers in a male-dominated field,” O’Bannon says. 

Mr. Ford would be proud of one of his first Ford Scholars.

“The Ford Family Foundation and so many others have invested in me. I hope that my work honors this legacy,” O’Bannon says.   

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