In 1992 the Washington State University Small Business Development Center received an award from the US Agency for International Development to work with universities in Romania to help–in words of the US Congress — “jump start the economy” of that Eastern European country. On the first trip to Romania, WSU staff were hosted by Romanian university faculty. Professor Mihai Stoica said in his welcoming speech, “Our parents and grandparents went to their graves saying ’Don’t despair, the Americans will not forget us.’ Well, it seems you didn’t. It took you fifty years to get here, but you finally made it.”

Romanians are extremely hospitable and often provided evening meals for WSU personnel. Bob Tolar, project director, was a guest at so many homes that he rarely used his per diem allotment for meals. Feeling guilty about keeping the unspent funds, he asked his interpreter, Ioana Frunza, just where a little extra money would do the most good. She said, “The orphanages are receiving a lot of money now because of the television coverage, but the old people don’t receive anything. Some of them are living on $3.00 per month.” So Bob began leaving his per diem money with Ioana for the elderly. Carol Riesenberg of the WSU SBDC began doing the same. When he told his family and friends about the need, they began sending money with him on his trips to Romania. Thus began the IDEA Foundation.

The Foundation’s only fund-raising activity is an annual folk music concert. The first was held in 1993. The Rite of Spring took the plight of the Romanian elderly poor to heart and have given their time and talent for over 25 years, helping raise thousands of dollars in support of IDEA Foundation projects. Other Portland area performers have participated in the annual concerts, always at no cost to the Foundation.


The Foundation for International Development and Education Advancement (IDEA) was officially recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in 2001. All contributions to the Foundation are tax-deductible. In the years since its founding, the Foundation has provided funding for food, medicine and firewood to well over a thousand elderly poor. Funds are distributed by Romanian university personnel who were involved in the original USAID project. They provide photos and brief biographical sketches of each recipient.

The Foundation has no paid employees and all funds raised are used directly for projects overseas.


After several years concentrating solely on Romania, the Foundation Board decided to provide what funds it could to areas of need in Ukraine, Namibia and Cameroon.
A heartfelt THANK YOU to IDEA donors from students in a Ukraine boarding school. IDEA Foundation provided funds for emergency roof repairs before the winter snows arrived. The pillows were purchased with leftover funds after the roof repair.

Due primarily to the continued war in eastern Ukraine, school budgets have been steeply reduced for the past several years. IDEA has provided funds for medicine and food for the past two years to this school. The Foundation is reaching out to other schools with additional ways to assist.

The IDEA Foundation began supporting the Starenki (Seniors) Charity in Ukraine early in 2019 as both organizations share the common goal of helping the needy elderly in transitioning economies. Essential needs of senior citizens are not being satisfied by family or government programs and IDEA and Starenki are exploring ways in which to expand cooperation and address these needs.

Learning of a need for books in schools of Namibia, IDEA began a book drive in western Oregon and gathered 24,000 books that it sent to schools in central Namibia. The Foundation worked closely with The Echo Group, an Oregon international development firm working in Namibia, to see that books were properly distributed.

The extent of library holdings at an elementary school of 700 in central Namibia prior to receiving thousands of books from the IDEA Foundation.