Constructing Hope Workforce Training Center Re-Opens Doors

Constructing Hope Workforce Training Center Re-Opens Doors

Portland, OR. Constructing Hope is a nonprofit that trains low-income people to work in the construction industry. The organization hosted a Grand Re-opening on April 21st to showcase new additions that can accommodate larger classes and more job training options. The building, at 405 NE Church St, can now host up to 160 students annually for training. At the event, Executive Director Pat Daniels greeted former Oregon State Senator and Constructing Hope board member Robert Boyer, seen above. A new boardroom is named after Boyer.

With this expansion, Constructing Hope will help more low-income people of color enter careers in the skilled construction trades
with middle-class wages to support themselves and their families. Constructing Hope graduates typically start work as construction apprentices earning over $20hr with opportunities for advancement to journeyman wages of $35/hr. or more. Graduates enter careers as carpenters, laborers, sheet metal workers, roofers, electricians, heavy equipment operators, ironworkers, painters, bricklayers, and plumbers/steamfitters.
Over the past five years, CH has placed 326 graduates into new careers with an average starting wage of $23/hr. Graduates have been 80% people of color, 55% returning citizens (formerly incarcerated), and 100% unemployed or underemployed.

Guests arriving at the Hoffman Construction Training Center.

The new interior (training room) mural is for students only, and all students who have participated in the program should see themselves in the mural. A central theme of the training room mural is action-oriented images showing students learning and working in the trades. Another mural theme is personal growth and transformation. Tapping into the strength of our ancestors is another theme.

There’s a new outside mural. The exterior mural honors African American pioneers in the construction field, the founders of the Constructing Hope Program (Irvington Covenant Church), and the faithfulness and perseverance of the Executive Director, Pat Daniels. The mural will honor and respect the historically Black community, ancestors, and struggle for access in the construction field.

Example of the type of equipment Constructing Hope provides to its trainees.

From Constructing Hope:

Constructing Hope would like to thank our partners at Prosper Portland, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Hoffman Construction Company and Pence Construction who funded the Workforce Training Center renovations and additions.

The program provides a no-cost, 10-week, construction skills, and life skills training program for disadvantaged men and women. The pre-apprenticeship allows women to learn construction trade skills and helps them secure a living wage job. The program aims to break down barriers by providing three years of career placement, mentorship, and supportive services. Constructing Hope is doing the work to help reduce recidivism for these women.

Constructing Hope serves people of color, those formerly incarcerated, and low-income adults looking to gain skills to access a high-paying career in construction. The construction workforce has a major labor shortage and Constructing Hope is working to fill that gap and has placed over 1,000 graduates into apprenticeships since 1995.

Want to get involved? Visit us @:

Portland Opera Announces 2022/23 Season

Portland Opera Announces 2022/23 Season

Portland, OR. Portland Opera’s 2022/23 season will feature the cultural touchstone Carmen. Maya Lahyani (seen above) will make her Portland Opera debut in the title role of Carmen. Also on the schedule, Thumbprint, a new opera inspired by the story of Mukhtar Mai, a trailblazing Pakistani human rights activist; the company’s first production of the iconic and magical Dvořák opera Rusalka; and an exciting one-night-only concert featuring celebrated opera composer and jazz great Terence Blanchard. The season will also include the world premiere of a youth opera inspired by the life and experiences of Beatrice Cannady Morrow for the regional Portland Opera to Go tour, and additional community and educational programming throughout the year.

“It brings us great joy to present the 22/23 season to the city of Portland!” shares Priti Gandhi, Artistic Director. “This year signifies so much for us as a community. As we begin to reconnect with our neighbors, with ourselves – we invite you to come back and reconnect with the power of live opera once again. This is a season that will fill your soul with the thrill of powerful new voices, compelling stories, and brilliant music-making. As we bring beloved classics – as well as debut operas – to our stages, we continue our journey in embracing the many ways this beautiful art form expresses itself.”

Kelly Kaduce, Rusalka, with the water nymphs (Act 3)rin the Minnesota Opera Production of RUSALK

LA Opera’s presentation of Thumbprint, a contemporary opera-theatre work by Kamala Sankaram explores the deep family ties and tribal traditions that empowered Mukhtar Mai to become the first female gang-rape victim in Pakistan to bring her attackers to justice. In lieu of a financial settlement, she requested that a school be constructed for educating girls to help prevent the humiliation of signing their name with only a thumbprint. (Photo Credit: Lawrence K. Ho)

Portrait of musician Terence Blanchard at his home in New Orleans, LA.

The season begins with one of opera’s most loved works—Georges Bizet’s masterpiece Carmen. This grand production, the directorial vision of legendary mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, will take place at Keller Auditorium November 5, 11, 13m, 2022. Featuring recognizable and melodic gems like the Habanera and the Toreador Song, Bizet’s opera is a true classic. “Portland Opera is excited to present Carmen, an opera that for many people was their first opera, or is their favorite opera,” says Damien Geter, Portland Opera’s Interim Music Director and Artistic Advisor. “The opera abounds with familiar tunes that have crossed into the realm of pop culture. We are so fortunate to be able to bring this timeless classic to Portland under the vision of the one of the world’s most beloved Carmens: Denyce Graves.”

The 2022/23 season continues with Thumbprint, a piece by composer Kamala Sankaram and librettist Susan Yankowitz inspired by the story of Mukhtar Mai—a trailblazing Pakistani human rights activist who is a victim of sanctioned gang rape. “We want to tell human stories that can empower, and lift up women,” shares Sue Dixon, General Director. “Thumbprint does this beautifully when Mukhtar Mai chooses to advocate for her life over the tradition of suicide when dishonor comes to her Pakistani family. Her continued fight for justice for all women, serves as a beacon of hope for those who find themselves in impossible situations.” Portland Opera will present 4 performances of Thumbprint, March 18, 22, 24, 26m, 2023 at the Newmark Theatre.

In April 2023, Portland Opera will present Antonín Dvořák’s Rusalka for the first time in the company’s history. This piece, based on a centuries-old folktale with roots in Slavic mythology, tells the story of a water nymph who falls in love with a prince. “The world of magical creatures and mermaids exists just beyond our realm, waiting in long-ago memories,” shares Priti Gandhi, Artistic Director. “Dvořák’s lush and richly textured soundscape takes this world and transforms it into a musical experience that gently settles into your soul. When the water sprite Rusalka sings her famous “Song to the Moon”, yearning for her human lover, one feels the touch of magic and childhood again.” Portland Opera will present 3 performances of Rusalka April 22, 28, 30m, 2023 at Keller Auditorium.

On May 26, 2023, Portland Opera will welcome jazz great and celebrated opera composer Terence Blanchard to the company for the first time with a special one-night-only concert “Absence: Terence Blanchard featuring the E-Collective and Turtle Island Quartet.” This special event, conducted by Portland Opera’s Interim Music Director and Co-Artistic Advisor Damien Geter, will feature guest soloists soprano Karen Slack, Portland Opera’s co-artistic advisor, and Will Liverman, who was last seen with the company in La Bohème in 2017, as well as the talented musicians of the Portland Opera Orchestra. “What an honor to share the stage with my dear friend the extraordinary Grammy award-winning trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard,” says Karen Slack. “A prolific artist and an American treasure! I am filled with both gratitude and excitement that Portland Opera is presenting him alongside the thrilling E-Collective band, Turtle Island Quartet and the magnificent baritone Will Liverman. This promises to be a night the city of Portland won’t forget!”

During the 2022/23 season, the company will also continue its commitment to education and community engagement, including Portland Opera to Go, a program that travels to schools and communities throughout the region with 50-minute operas. This fall, Portland Opera will share the world premiere of a new opera inspired by the life and history of Beatrice Morrow Cannady—a renowned civil rights advocate and the co-founder of the Portland, Oregon chapter of the NAACP. Created with composer Dave Ragland and librettist Marry McCallum, this new commission is designed for school and family audiences, with curriculum targeted for students in fourth through 9th grades. This production is set to tour schools and communities throughout the state and region. “We know that the community is still struggling with impacts from school closures during the pandemic,” explains Alexis Hamilton, Manager of Education and Community Engagement. “We are hoping to use our operatic superpowers to help our educational partners re-engage with arts learning and live events as we share Beatrice’s story while helping students to understand the future by engaging and empathizing with our past.”“The ability to realize our mission, vision, and values continues to grow in these moments when we share this beautiful art form together,” adds Sue Dixon, General Director, “and that happens not just on stage or in the recital hall, but in classrooms, in community gatherings, in our business practices, at every level.” Throughout the season, Portland Opera will produce a host of community engagement activities and professional development initiatives. Opera a la Cart, Portland Opera’s mobile performance venue that brings live opera performance directly into the community spaces where people gather will be found around town again in 2022, along with pop-up performances that have become part of Portland Opera’s community activities during pandemic closures. The company will welcome a new class of Portland Opera Resident Artists back to the revamped program for an 11-week intensive and will announce a new roster of artists in the coming weeks. In addition to the program for emerging artists, the company recently piloted a new program for BIPOC artists/administrators, named Portland Opera’s Ensemble Leaders Fellowship program. The 2022 Fellowship announcement is forthcoming, along with opportunities for local internships, community partners, and free public performances. To learn more about cultural equity, inclusion, diversity, or strategic planning progress, please visit

Here are more details about the season: 

Portland Opera 2022/23 Season Casting

Carmen – Georges BizetNovember 5, 11, 13m, 2022


Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay

Sung in French with English captions 

The performance is approximately 3 hours, performed with one intermission. 

In addition to the ticketed performances at Keller Auditorium, digital access will be available for a limited time on Portland Opera Onscreen.  




Georges Bizet


Henri Meilhac & Ludovic Halévy


Maya Lahyani

Don José

Matthew Pearce


Richard Ollarsaba


Ariana Wehr


Darren Drone

El Dancairo

Zachary Lenox



Michael Ellis Ingram

Original Production & Staging

Denyce Graves

Associate Director and Choreographer 

Eric Sean Fogel

Scenery & Properties Designer 

Riccardo Hernandez

Costume Designer 

Oana Botez

Lighting Designers 

Robert Wierzel & Amith Chandrashaker

Set in early 1820s in Seville, Spain. Carmen is a factory worker, free spirit, and the toast of the town. She is brave, beautiful, and independent. She falls in and out of love like “a rebellious bird that no one can tame.” Then one day, in the busy streets outside of the bullfighting ring, her ex violently and tragically rejects her choice to move on.

Known for her legendary portrayal of the title role of Carmen, Denyce Graves makes her directorial debut with this production, which will first be staged by Minnesota Opera in May. Eric Sean Fogel makes his Portland Opera debut as Associate Director and Choreographer, along with conductor Michael Ellis Ingram, who leads the Portland Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani, a regular on the Metropolitan Opera stage, makes her Portland Opera debut in the title role of Carmen, a role she has previously sung with San Francisco Opera, Arizona Opera, and Opera Maine. Matthew Pearce, currently a Cafritz Young Artist at Washington National Opera, makes his Portland Opera debut as Don José. The cast also features Richard Ollarsaba as Escamillo, Ariana Wehr as Micaëla, and Darren Drone as Zuniga, all in their company debuts, as well Zachary Lenox, last seen on the Portland Opera stage in the 2021 production of Tosca, as Sciarrone.

Thumbprint – Kamala SankaramMarch 18, 22, 24, 26m, 2023

Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway

Sung in English with English captions 

The performance is approximately ninety minutes, performed without an intermission.  

In addition to the ticketed performances at the Newmark Theatre, digital access will be available for a limited time on Portland Opera Onscreen 


Composed by

Kamala Sankaram

Libretto by

Susan Yankowitz



Maya Kherani


Indira Mahajan




Alok Kumar


Omar Najmi

Annu/Young Girl/Reporter 

Samina Aslam



Maria Badstue


Omer Ben Seadia

Thumbprint is inspired by the story of Mukhtar Mai—a trailblazing Pakistani human rights activist who is a victim of sanctioned gang rape. She defied expectations to take her own life after the attack, deciding to live and seek justice. Her hope: open a village school for girls to learn to read and write, so that they may avoid the humiliation of signing their names with only a thumbprint.


This libretto originates from a series of interviews with Mai, paired with a score that is a dynamic collision of Hindustani and European opera influences. This piece features flute, violin, viola, upright bass, piano, and percussion.

Conductor Maria Badstue, recipient of a prestigious 2019-2021 Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship, makes her Portland Opera debut conducting Thumbprint. Omer Ben Seadia, whose recent credits include productions at Houston Grand Opera, Canadian Opera Company, and Calgary Opera, makes her debut as stage director.

Soprano Maya Kherani, whose credits include roles with Glyndebourne, Opera San José, and a recent performance locally with the Portland Baroque Orchestra, makes her company debut in the role of Mukhtar Mai. Soprano Indira Mahajan, winner of the Kennedy Center’s Marian Anderson Vocal Award, makes her Portland Opera debut as Mukhtar’s Mother, the Minister, and Reporter. Tenor Alok Kumar, whose recent credits include roles at the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and Los Angeles Opera, makes his debut as Faiz, Police Office, Reporter, and Villager. Also making their Portland Opera debuts, tenor Omar Najmi sings the roles of Shakur, Abdul, Imam, Reporter, Mastoi, and Villager, and soprano Samina Aslam sings the roles of Annu, Young Girl, and Reporter.

Originally commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects and the Here Center for the Prototype Festival, Thumbprint premiered in 2014 at the Baruch Performing Arts Center.


Mukhtar Mai is still striving for change, justice, and safety. Learn more about The Mukhtar Mai Women’s Organization and her activism at 



Rusalka – Antonín DvořákApril 22, 28, 30M, 2023

Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay Street, Portland

Sung in Czech with English captions. 

The performance is approximately 3 hours, performed with two intermissions.  


In addition to the ticketed performances at Keller Auditorium, digital access will be available for a limited time on Portland Opera Onscreen  

Composed by

Antonín Dvořák

Libretto by

Jaroslav Kvapil based on the fairy tales of Karel Jaromír Erben and Božena  Němcová



Karen Vuong

The Prince

Limmie Pulliam

Vodnik “The Spirit of the Lake”

Andrew Potter


Jill Grove

The Foreign Princess

Othalie Graham



Elias Grandy


Eric Simonson

Scenery and Properties Designer 

Erhard Rom

Costume Designer 

Kärin Kopischke

Projection Designer 

Wendall K. Harrington

Lighting design 

Robert Wierzel


In this centuries-old folktale with roots in Slavic mythology, a water nymph falls in love with a prince. With the help of the moon and a witch, she defies her father’s advice— giving up her home and voice to win the prince’s love on dry land. When it does not go to plan, the regretful prince seeks redemption, and heartbreak reigns in the land of true love.

Elias Grandy, General Music Director of the Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra Heidelberg makes his Portland Opera debut conducting Rusalka. Eric Simonson, writer and director for film, television, theatre, and opera, makes his company debut as stage director. Scenery and Properties are designed by Erhard Rom, costumes are designed by Kärin Kopischke, projections are designed by Wendall K. Harrington, and lighting is designed by Robert Wierzel.

Soprano Karen Vuong, whose recent credits include roles with Seattle Opera, Washington National Opera, and Tiroler Festspiele, makes her Portland Opera debut in the title role of Rusalka. Tenor Limmie Pulliam, whose recent credits include roles with the Los Angeles Opera, and Vashon Opera, makes his debut as the Prince. Mezzo-soprano Jill Grove makes her company debut as Ježibaba, a role she has sung with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, as well as New Orleans Opera. Also making their Portland Opera debuts are bass Andrew Potter as Vodnik “The Spirit of the Lake,” and soprano Othalie Graham as the Foreign Princess.

Scenery, properties, projections, and costumes for this production were constructed by Minnesota Opera Shops and are owned by Minnesota Opera and Boston Lyric Opera.  



Absence: Terence Blanchard featuring the E-Collective and Turtle Island Quartet 

A One-night-only ConcertMay 26, 2023, 8:00PM

Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay Street, Portland

Sung in English with English captions. 

The performance is approximately 1 hour, 50 minutes. 




Damien Geter


Karen Slack


Will Liverman




Terence Blanchard


Charles Altura


Taylor Eigsti

Electric Bass

David Ginyard, Jr.


Oscar Seaton


Turtle Island Quartet  


David Balakrishnan


Gabriel Terracciano


Benjamin von Gutzeit


Naseem Alatrash


In May 2023, Portland Opera will welcome two-time Oscar nominee, six-time Grammy-winner, and acclaimed opera composer (Fire Shut Up In My Bones and Champion) Terence Blanchard to the Keller Auditorium for an exciting one-night-only gala celebration.

This special event, conducted by interim music director and co-artistic advisor Damien Geter, will feature the E-Collective, Turtle Island Quartet, guest soloists soprano Karen Slack, Portland Opera’s co-artistic advisor, and Will Liverman, as well as the talented musicians of the Portland Opera Orchestra.

This performance is an optional addition to a season subscription. Single tickets are available from $35. A limited number of post-show celebration reception tickets are available for $250, in part as a tax-deductible contribution in support of Portland Opera’s bright future.

Subscriptions for Portland Opera’s 22/23 season are available now; and single tickets will be on sale on May 24. For more information, and to purchase subscriptions, visit, or call Patron Services at 503-241-1802.

Portland Opera appreciates the ongoing support of our generous donors, The Collins Foundation, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Community Foundation, Regional Arts and Culture Council, including support from the City of Portland, Multnomah County, and the Arts Education & Access Fund, special support from The CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund, and The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program. 

Dates, programming, artists, and details for Portland Opera’s 22/23 season are subject to change. Portland Opera is committed to the health and safety of our audiences, artists, and company members. The company is working with health authorities and medical advisors to continue to adhere with local, state, and federal guidelines. To create a safe and enjoyable experience for all, Portland Opera may implement staff and patron precautions, which may include face coverings, symptom screenings, temperature checks or other recommended safety measures.  

Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp Raises Over $150,000 at In-Person Gala

Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp Raises Over $150,000 at In-Person Gala

West Linn, OR. On April 22nd, supporters of Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp (MHKC) gathered both virtually and in-person to raise over $150,000. Funds raised at MHKC’s Auction & Gala go toward its mission of helping empower children and adults with developmental disabilities and provide equitable access to outdoor recreation. MHKC’s Emcee, Art Edwards & MHKC Board Member, Tammy Miller posed for a photo. (Photo credit, Justin Tucker)

Over 70 guests were in attendance at the Meteor Lounge at West Linn’s Youth Music Project while guests were able to also tuned in virtually. (Photo credit, Justin Tucker)

Special Appeal Honoree: Nell Carlson and her parents, Steve & Juanita Carlson

MHKC VIP In-Person event

Here’s a video about the camp:

From Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp (MHKC):

There are few places where individuals with disabilities can spend a week joyfully focusing on their abilities. For over 85 years, Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp (MHKC) has offered incredible outdoor recreational programming for campers with developmental, intellectual, and physical disabilities at its fully accessible 22-acre campsite in the Mt. Hood National Forest.

On any given summer day, our campers are catching fish, conquering their fear on the adventure course and zipline, splashing at the pool, riding a horse for the first time, whitewater rafting, paddling a canoe on Trillium Lake, and dancing the night away at campfire. Wheelchair accessible trails and innovations such as adaptive saddles, harnesses, and bicycles make the traditional camp experience available to all. Camp doesn’t just offer outdoor activities, it offers a chance for people with disabilities to make new friends and build community in a friendly, non-judgmental environment where they can feel empowered and included.

Each year, MHKC offers 8 weeks of Main Camp, where campers enjoy a one-to-one camper-counselor ratio with the option for outgroup adventures, including Trip & Travel, Tent & Travel, and Lakeside Camp where campers pitch tents on Trillium Lake, paddle canoes, go whitewater rafting and more. June brings the opportunity for new campers to experience MHKC through Family Camp, while experienced campers can come back to Camp in the snow through two weekend winter retreats.

As camper Renae told us: “At Camp, I can fly!”

St. Mary’s Academy Raises Over $1,000,000 at 34th Annual Gala

St. Mary’s Academy Raises Over $1,000,000 at 34th Annual Gala

Portland, OR. St. Mary’s Academy hosted its annual gala on April 9th and raised over $1,000,000. Guests gathered in-person once again to support the young women of St. Mary’s Academy at the school’s 34th annual auction: The Future is Bright. Guests included Lee and Marilyn Whitaker, Virginia Mathews, and Judie Simpson. (Photo credit, Greg Kozawa)

Bob Harold, Patricia and John Cheney

2022 St. Mary’s Auction Co-Chairs: Wendy Chan, Kim Patterson, Jennifer Wallenberg, Heidi Bell

Karis Stoudamire-Phillips ’94 and friend

Caitlin Whitty ‘08, Ashley Whitty ’02, Mya Brazile ‘19

Kristen Russo ’95 and friends

Jessica Hickox Meyer ’94 and Greg Meyer

Karen and Terry Newsom, Jill Newsom

Sarah Bracelin, Emily Niedermeyer Becker ’86, Stephanie Simpson-Narin

Sr. Maureen Delaney SNJM, Sr. Mollie Reavis SNJM, Christina Friedhoff, Steve Percy, Tom Fink

The event featured entertainment, testimonials, and bidding on auction packages, including a Zac Brown Band VIP experience, a week stay in Paris, a South African safari adventure and a private dinner for 20 at Portland-favorite Papa Haydn. For the first time in event history, St. Mary’s hosted an after-party with music and dancing.Emily Niedermeyer Becker ’86, Vice President for Development, captured the feeling in the room, “It was a magical night filled with incredible generosity, support, excitement and fun. Our community loved being back together to celebrate our rich 162 years of all-girls, Catholic education in downtown Portland and committed over $1m in support to St. Mary’s Academy. The future certainly is bright for our students, faculty, staff and community.”This year’s five auction co-chairs were all St. Mary’s Academy moms, including Heidi Bell, mom to Caroline ’25; Wendy Chan, mom to Mia ’25; Mechell Hansen, mom to Grace ’22 and Amelia ’25; Kim Patterson, mom to Jenna ’24 and Alex ’26; and Jennifer Wallenberg, mom to Madeline ‘25. Chan shares the impact of St. Mary’s on young women, “Having a St. Mary’s education in today’s world is so important for developing students into powerful, compassionate and contributing members of a community. St. Mary’s helps young women discover their passions, know themselves and use their voices to effectuate change for the better.”During the live event, current faculty members, alumnae and sisters, Ashley Whitty ’02 and Caitlin Whitty ‘08, credited St. Mary’s for molding them into the women leaders and educators they are today. As mothers of girls, Ashley, a St. Mary’s English teacher, and Caitlin, Director of Service, know firsthand the challenges facing young women in today’s world. They dedicate their careers to St. Mary’s because they know they would not be the independent, confident and heart-forward women they are without their SMA education. For the Whitty sisters, working at St. Mary’s gives them a chance to give back to their school and make a meaningful investment in young women.This year’s event also included a champagne toast and tribute to President Christina Friedhoff who will be retiring at the end of this school year after 30 years of service. In announcing her retirement, Friedhoff shared, “Throughout my entire career at St. Mary’s Academy, my efforts were sustained and inspired by my deep belief in the potential of young women. That belief motivated me to want to do my best each and every day to distinguish the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary’s mission of all-female Catholic education. Partnering with talented faculty and staff, administrators, the Board of Directors, alumnae and families, I was part of achievements that further the unique mission of St. Mary’s Academy in downtown Portland.”The live event was preceded by a week-long silent auction with over 200 packages available for bidding. Additionally, St. Mary’s again held its much-anticipated raffles for a 2021 Land Rover Discovery Sport, a $5,000 travel gift certificate, and a pair of 3ctw+ Malka diamond hoop earrings. Participants could also purchase tickets for a “Golden Ticket,” allowing the winner to select their choice of any of the live auction packages.From St. Mary’s Academy:Located in the heart of downtown Portland, OR, St. Mary’s Academy is the state’s oldest continuously operating school and only all-girls school. Founded in 1859 by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, St. Mary’s Academy serves 660 young women in grades 9-12. The school’s college acceptance rate is 100% and SMA students achieve, excel and are recognized locally, regionally and nationally in academic fields, leadership, STEM, the arts, athletics, community service and extra- and co-curricular activities.

KeyBank Pledges $150,000 to Support Under-Represented Entrepreneurs

KeyBank Pledges $150,000 to Support Under-Represented Entrepreneurs

Portland, OR. Minority entrepreneurs in the Portland metro area and other parts of Oregon and S.W. Washington are receiving a boost. At a press conference at MESO’s headquarters in Portland, KeyBank announced a $150,000 commitment to support the nonprofit Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO). Above, Josh Lyons chats with Cobi Lewis at grant announcement. (Photo credit, Antjuan LaShawn)

Tralice Lewis, owner of Callie’s Custom Hat Wigs, said when she opened her first store, it was the first Black-owned wig shop in Oregon.

The entrepreneur, Tralice Lewis, first heard about MESO in 2020 from relatives who are also MESO clients. Lewis received financial assistance from MESO and attended several its classes where she learned about marketing online and managing cash flow. “They give you all the tools you need to build your business,” said Lewis (no relation to Cobi Lewis). “MESO has guided me. They check in with me. They help me along the way with the process. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I could not have done this without MESO. That organization is amazing.”

It’s all smiles for the group including: MESO client Gaila Lusby, KeyBank exec Josh Lyons, MESO head Cobi Lewis, MESO client Tralice Lewis, MESO exec Jataune Hall.

The funds will be delivered during the next two years. The $150,000 will enable MESO to expand its technical assistance and financing to unbanked, under-represented entrepreneurs – especially Black and Latino – in Portland metro, rural Oregon communities and S.W. Washington. The services help disadvantaged entrepreneurs start new small businesses and assist existing ones to recover from the pandemic.The new gift increases the total KeyBank has donated to MESO to $440,000 since 2016. It is the most the bank has ever given to a community organization in Oregon and S.W. Washington.

“We love MESO and all it does to help our fellow community members succeed financially,” said Josh Lyons, KeyBank’s market president for Oregon and S.W. Washington and Commercial Banking leader. “Our mission is to help our communities thrive. Nowhere is that more important than in underserved communities that often lack access to business expertise and funding.”

“This time of year typically brings May showers, but we’ll always remember this April as the month that brought a huge gift to our organization,” said Cobi Lewis, MESO executive director. “This outstanding level of support from a partner such as KeyBank will strengthen our community by helping entrepreneurs.”MESO clients will participate in classes to gain skills and knowledge to create a strong business foundation. They will also have access to market research to identify industry and market trends and be eligible for no-interest credit builder loans.

“In addition, when participating entrepreneurs and their businesses are determined to be ready, they’ll receive access to affordable capital through our innovative forgivable loan program, thanks to this support from KeyBank,” Lewis added.

“We are delighted to again partner with MESO to help these industrious, small-scale entrepreneurs improve their communities through business development,” Lyons said. “We’ve seen how MESO’s proven model and comprehensive services can lead to increased revenue, business retention and loan repayment.”

Gaila Lusby from the woman-owned Momma G’s Soup sells her homemade soups and gluten-free baked goods to wholesale and retail clients. She, too, received financial support from MESO and attended all its business classes.

“I can’t say enough about what they’ve done,” said Lusby. “Without them I would not be where I am right now, not in a million years. The advice they’ve given me has been priceless.”About MESOMESO has an incredibly successful track record. Its results include:• 85% of its clients increase revenues between 30 and 1,600%.• 94% of its clients remain in business after graduating from MESO’s program.• $5,000,000 in matched savings to entrepreneurs through Individual Development Accounts.• $11,000,000 in loans to more than 900 borrowers since 2011, with an average loan size of $15,000 and a 1% default rate.• 56% of loans are placed in communities of color.For more information, visit KeyCorpKeyCorp’s roots trace back nearly 200 years to Albany, N.Y. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Key is one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies, with assets of approximately $186.3 billion on Dec. 31, 2021. Key provides deposit, lending, cash management and investment services to individuals and businesses in 15 states under the name KeyBank National Association through a network of 1,000 branches and approximately 1,300 ATMs. Key also provides a broad range of sophisticated corporate and investment banking products, such as merger and acquisition advice, public and private debt and equity, syndications and derivatives to middle market companies in selected industries throughout the United States under the KeyBanc Capital Markets trade name. For more information, visit KeyBank is a Member of the FDIC.