From strangers on a train to husband and wife, fellow activists, and ultimately Bainbridge Island philanthropists, Jake and Ed support the work of organizations, like HRB, which are building a more equitable and inclusive community.

For years, Jake and Ed commuted by train traveling south from San Francisco and always in the same seats. Jake took an early train; Ed took a later one. Ed got off in Mountain View where he worked in biotech; Jake rode all the way to Santa Clara where she taught visual and performing arts at a public school. But one morning, their schedules disrupted, they rode the same train, and those seats turned out to be opposite one another. Jake and Ed got to talking and discovered they were both born in Ohio (Jake in Akron, Ed in Toledo) and that both were open to new experiences, committed to social justice, and engaged in the world with an uncommon passion. Sparks flew. Aged 46 (Jake) and 52 (Ed), and no longer “kids,” Jake offers by way of explanation, they married a few months later.

The decision to move to Bainbridge Island wasn’t nearly so charming and spontaneous. At the time, they were living in Davis, CA, where they had moved after retirement to provide support for their son and granddaughter and ended up staying 15 years. They loved Davis, its diversity and proximity to the political action in nearby Sacramento, and dedicated themselves to advocacy. They volunteered for causes they cared about and candidates for school board, city council, county supervisors, and state legislature. They were both deeply involved in immigrant rights, even joining a call list prepared to provide refuge to immigrants targeted by ICE. Jake discovered the farm-to-school and food justice movements.

But in 2019, they were older and no longer so involved in “boots on the ground” activism. Like many one-time San Franciscans before them, they considered a move to Marin County and Napa Valley but found those communities were not the kind of close values match they were seeking. Instead, they engaged in a “values clarification process” and decided to investigate Bainbridge, where Jake had an investment property. “When we started prioritizing,” she recalled, “it wasn’t just about this pretty place that we already owned… We literally sat down and started talking about what was going to be important in a community. We didn’t do it casually.”

A visit to the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, where they learned about Walt and Milly Woodward, publishers of the Bainbridge Island Review who spoke out against the incarceration of Japanese during World War II, proved pivotal. Ed found their courage “emblematic” of a community that was willing to “stick their neck out and make a statement.” Further investigation brought them to a deeper understanding of the largely white and affluent Bainbridge community that has spawned and supported groups deeply committed to equity and social justice. It is in organizations like HRB and Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center, that they found people who cared about the environment and equity. They decided to make the move.

Though they’ve given up their boots, the Clemenses still have much to offer. “We’ve always been givers,” said Jake. “It’s always been a part of what we’ve done. We’re educators. We’re not uberwealthy. We’ve gotten what we have because we saved, and we’re focused.”

Though their backgrounds in education might not have made them millions, the experience helped focus their giving on organizations advancing greater inclusion. Prior to working in biotech, Ed directed a program at UC Santa Cruz designed to encourage underrepresented students to enter the sciences. Jake was instrumental in efforts to desegregate the schools in San Jose, first at an arts magnet school, newly created to draw students of all races together (and a less volatile alternative to court-ordered bussing) and then at the district office, where she helped teach the language and practice of equity to school leadership.

Much as they chose their new home, they conducted a values analysis of the nonprofits they considered supporting. They identified national organizations and a few in Seattle, but finding island nonprofits took longer. When they met HRB Executive Director Phedra Elliott and the fund development director at the time for coffee at Blackbird Bakery, the values alignment was exceptional.

Jake and Ed see affordable housing as a means of creating the kind of diverse community in which all people are valued and supported and all people are engaged and able to contribute. In such a place, the benefits of diversity are reciprocal. Jake can recall a time in her own life when she was such a beneficiary. She still remembers a group of four students from Mexico who would talk incessantly while she was teaching and expected quiet. At first she was irritated, but after talking with them, listening and learning from them, she came to appreciate that this chatter was essential, that they had grown up in a community where learning was a social construct and people learned best from one another. Her eyes opened to this practice and potential, she changed the way she taught to encourage this sort of exchange—and in doing so, became a better teacher.

The more they learned about HRB, the more they came to trust and admire it.

“Knowing that HRB has a long history of respected and successful work, a stalwart community of supporters on the island, and has been vetted by the Bainbridge Community Foundation made it an easy decision to include it in our estate plan,” explained Jake. “The engagement of key partners is impressive—designers, lenders, government, agencies, community members, and more. A mighty array of representation. Also, the passion that fuels forging ahead when occasionally faced with a head-on assault by resistance is inspiring. I have seen nothing but positive attitudes and staunch beliefs in possibilities in spite of all of it!”

In its certitude and clarity, perhaps getting to know and deciding to support HRB was a bit like falling in love on a train from San Francisco.