Albertina Kerr Unveils Inclusive Housing Project during Virtual Groundbreaking

Albertina Kerr Unveils Inclusive Housing Project during Virtual Groundbreaking

Portland, OR. After four years of planning, Albertina Kerr is beginning construction on 150 low-cost housing units on the Gresham campus for Kerr caregivers and improved client care. (Above is an architectural drawings.) On February 17th, the organization had a virtual groundbreaking.

Once completed, this project will be one of the first and largest net-zero affordable housing projects in the Pacific Northwest producing enough energy to operate the entire building fully.

Albertina Kerr has been caring for Oregon’s vulnerable citizens since 1907, with services that have evolved over the years to meet community needs. Kerr offers short-term psychiatric care and community-based outpatient mental health services for children and teens. This also includes 24-hour residential group homes for children and adults experiencing an intellectual and/or developmental disability (I/DD).

In the virtual groundbreaking, guests were introduced to several community leaders who have been a part of getting the project off the ground. Joining the live stream to discuss the project were:

Ken Thraser, Albertina Kerr Emeritus Board Member, also spoke in the live stream about what this project could look like for other organizations as well, “This is kind of going to have a ripple effect. Not just for Kerr, but for the community, for other non-profits, for other organizations that will look at workforce housing as a strategy that they too could do.”

Albertina Kerr unveiled its Workforce & Inclusive Housing Project during a virtual groundbreaking, which can be viewed in the live steam video below.

During the live stream event, Albertina Kerr’s CEO, Jeff Carr, shared stories about the affordable housing project targeting low-wage human services workers and adults experiencing I/DD.

As Carr shared in the live stream, the idea for the Workforce & Inclusive Housing Project came to him after speaking with one of his managers in 2016. Carr learned that one of the direct care employees lived in a tent with her five children in Washington County. He also learned that some other employees were sleeping in their cars or couch surfing.

He immediately relocated the direct care employee and her five children to a hotel as he took time to think about this issue. After 48 hours, the idea came to him during an early morning run where later that day, he told his assistant that they were going to build housing for workers.

“Those who care for the most vulnerable in our community are the backbone of our social safety net. If they become as vulnerable as the people, they care for due to housing instability, our entire community is at risk,” said Carr.

Chief Program Officer, Derrick Perry, also spoke in the live stream about the project, “I’m just really happy to be aligned with an organization that cares so much about the people we support and our workforce, to where we’re launching this huge project.”

One aspect of the universally accessible units will be hydraulic upper cabinets as well as pull-out cooktops.

When completed in the spring of 2022, one hundred and twenty units of studio, 1, 2, and 3-bedroom apartments will promote greater workforce stability for low-wage caregivers (Kerr employees and others).

Throughout the complex will be an additional 30 universally accessible units for adults experiencing I/DD. These individuals face a shortage of quality, affordable, accessible housing and often earn 30% or less than the average median income.

Solar panels will be placed on the apartment complexes to produce renewable energy, adding another layer of affordability where residents won’t pay for utilities, including high-speed internet access. Once built and occupied, one full year of collecting energy usage data will be completed and certified.

From Albertina Kerr’s website: MISSION: Kerr empowers people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, and other social barriers to lead self-determined lives and reach their full potential. VISION: All people thrive in nurturing and inclusive communities. VALUES: The values of our expert caregivers remain constant: compassion, commitment, collaboration, and advocacy.

Susan G. Komen of Oregon & SW Washington Closes Doors

Susan G. Komen of Oregon & SW Washington Closes Doors

Portland, OR. The Susan G. Komen Oregon 7 SW Washington office will be closing its doors as of March 31st. Susan G. Komen national leadership announced in April 2020 that it would, “consolidate the entire affiliate network into One Komen to provide greater efficiency and effectiveness in its mission.” The pandemic accelerated making big decisions, according to Paula Schneider, Komen’s president and CEO for almost three years. The majority of revenue in the affiliate structure came through Komen’s signature walks and runs, which were canceled, postponed, or now held virtually.

For 29 years, Susan G. Komen has held its annual fundraising walk as seen above. It was a time when people shared stories, laughter, and tears while raising money that to help fight breast cancer. The Portland walk was one of the biggest in the nation.

Oregon & SW Washington affiliate leaders reflected upon the transition. “Collectively, we are incredibly proud of the work we have completed in the last 29 years. In that time, we have built a strong and loyal family of supporters in the fight against breast cancer; raised $35 million for programs that prioritize the importance of improving breast health and building on the quality of life for breast cancer patients; and funded local cutting-edge research.”

The organization closed its physical office space in downtown Portland and began to work remotely at the start of the pandemic. Last fall, Komen Oregon and SW Washington learned all operations – programs, services, fundraising, marketing, technology, accounting would be managed in Dallas, Texas. The nonprofit is integrating its 65 affiliates into a single national organization.

Susan G. Komen Oregon and SW Washington explains, “We remain steadfast in our focus to provide for our local breast cancer community through the funds we have raised here. As our legacy programs transition, we will give over $200,000 to community partners to either continue the work we began or to further enhance their work. 

“We know this change is upsetting; we deeply empathize with you,” Susan G. Komen Oregon and SW Washington CEO, Andrew Asato, said. “This organization has been a place of support, friendship, and family during some of the hardest times in our lives, and it is with a heavy heart that we deliver this news.”

Susan G. Komen Oregon and SW Washington offer a local resource for women who need assistance with breast cancer screening, diagnostic, treatment, and support services. Through annual events, including the More Than Pink Walk and individual contributions, the organization raises funds supporting their programs in their service area (all 36 counties in Oregon, and Clark, Cowlitz, and Skamania counties in Washington).

For nearly three decades, the organization has built a strong and loyal family of supporters in the fight against breast cancer. “We’re proud that we’ve invested $35 million into local programs and services to the rest of the community,” said Asato.

As Susan G. Komen Oregon and SW Washington transition, they remain in communication with community partners and will be giving over $200,000 to continue the work the organization started or advance their own work further. Below is a list of the community partners receiving these funds (some are still currently being finalized):

The closure of Susan G. Komen Oregon and SW Washington and other U.S. locations will impact thousands of women, men, and families relying on the foundation for support. According to Asato, by consolidating regional locations into “One Komen,” the organization aims to provide consistent services to all breast cancer patients across the country.

National programs will still be accessible by visiting Komen. Org where more information is available about “One Komen” services. If any questions remain, Susan G. Komen Oregon and SW Washington can be reached by email at [email protected].

From Susan G. Komen Oregon and Washington website: Save lives by meeting the most critical needs in our communities and investing in breakthrough research to prevent and cure breast cancer.

Portland Parks & Recreation Revives 2021 Summer Programming

Portland Parks & Recreation Revives 2021 Summer Programming

Portland, OR. Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) will bring back programs including some Fitness in the Park classes as seen above. The city is restoring 2021 Summer programming and will be designing classes and events to meet public health regulations. Programs will also be as flexible as possible in case conditions change. This means a return of programs like Free Lunch + Play, summer camps, art center classes, swimming, movies in the parks and more.

Portland City Commissioner, Carmen Rubio, proposed PP&R Fiscal Year 2020-21 Supplemental Budget ordinance to City Council and was unanimously approved.

“This budget charts a new approach for Portland Parks & Recreation,” said City Commissioner Carmen Rubio. “It centers racial equity and lays the foundation for a Sustainable Future where all Portlanders’ feel safe and welcome in our parks system and where everyone can access programs that bring us together, help us heal, and make our whole community healthier.”

During this public health crisis, access to nutritious food has proven to be one of the highest needs in the Portland community. PP&R will play an important role in keeping kids healthy this summer by moving forward with the Free Lunch + Play program. Youth will be able to count on FREE lunches and safe outdoor recreation—citywide—from June through August.

Portland voters passed the Parks Local Option Levy (Parks Levy) in Nov. 2020 enacting a tax at the rate of $80 per $100,000 of assessed property value for five years in order to fund recreational programs and park services.

The funds from the Parks Levy usually wouldn’t become available until Nov. 2021 however, the Portland City Council also approved an interfund loan to let PP&R access resources early from the Parks Levy.

With Parks Levy resources, PP&R’s recreation program will transition from a model that depended on charging fees to a service-driven model that focuses on racial equity and eliminating cost as a barrier for Portlanders’ who need programming the most.

In 2013 Portland Parks & Recreation held its yearly Summer Free for All, a popular annual series of free outdoor concerts, movies, playground programs, and more. The Portland community will be able to attend this program again in summer 2021.

“I want to thank Portland voters for investing in their parks system through the Parks Levy,” said PP&R Director Adena Long. “We will use these community resources to provide recreation programming for kids, families, and older Portlanders’ in safe, outdoor, physically distanced settings across the City this summer. We will help our community reconnect, exercise and play, and learn and grow. And none of this would be possible without Portlanders’ investment in parks, thank you.”

Some PP&R sites and programs may need to operate at reduced or restricted capacity due to COVID-19 guidelines when summer arrives. For all summer programs, participant capacity limits and locations are subject to change based on the most current public health guidance.

Kids on scooters play together while receiving free food from Portland Parks & Recreation programs before the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Portland Public Schools.

Portland Parks and Recreation plans to keep the Portland community updated about the summer programming throughout the winter and spring as more details become clear. Below is the list of programs set to run this coming summer.

Portland Parks & Recreation’s COVID-19 Responsive Summer 2021 Programming

  • Free Lunch + Play: PP&R will serve over 100,000 meals to alleviate hunger in our community by continuing a critical, decades-long program of distributing free meals to enjoy in parks or take home. Families will also receive free art and music activities at Free Lunch + Play sites.
  • Summer Camps: Outdoor day camps, sports, and art camps will be available at 20 locations across the City.
  • Environmental Education: Nature day camps (info below), guided Ladybug Nature Walks, and family programs will connect young Portlanders to our natural environment.
  • Nature Day Camps for ages 5-12. The PP&R Environmental Education program will offer summer day camps full of hiking, exploration, nature-based activities, and more; groups of campers will adhere to COVID-19 guidelines with other participants of similar ages. Camps offer job opportunities as nature educators for qualified people aged 16 and older.
  • Environmental Education jobs and volunteering – the next generation of environmental leaders start with us. Paid work programs, volunteer naturalist training, and more. The Teen Nature Team (TNT) is a free program for middle school students connecting young people to nature, environmental careers, and college programs. The Youth Conservation Crew (YCC) provides jobs and training for a diverse population of 14-19 year-olds in the Portland area.
  • Fitness in the Park: Expansion of outdoor fitness programs, including yoga, exercise, and Zumba classes.
  • Swimming: Outdoor pools will open in summer 2021 for life-saving swim lessons, water fitness classes, lap swims, and swim team activities. Indoor pools will only open if public health conditions allow.
  • Community centers: Outdoor programming is prioritized to protect public health; community centers will provide staging for outdoor events and access will be limited.
  • Arts centers: The Multnomah Arts Center and the Community Music Center will offer outdoor camps and classes.
  • Art performances: Free art and music activities at Free Lunch + Play sites and small-scale pop-up performances will be available across the City.
  • Gateway Discovery Park: Art and cultural activities will be hosted all summer long at this East Portland park.
  • Splash Pads: Interactive (play) fountains and park splash pads (water play features) are anticipated to re-open.
  • Lifelong Recreation (formerly known as Senior Recreation): Virtual programs and outdoor activities will be available to older Portlanders.
  • Teen Force: Outdoor, drop-in programs designed for young adults will be provided in coordination with Free Lunch + Play events.
  • Stay and Play video series: Free arts, fitness, education, and music videos will help Portlanders stay active and connected to PP&R throughout the summer. Videos are available at Portland Parks & Recreation’s YouTube channel,
  • Virtual Programming: PP&R’s Adaptive & Inclusive Recreation (AIR), Lifelong Recreation, Portland Parks Preschool, and Arts & Culture programs will offer live virtual programming online.
  • SUN Community Schools: SUN Schools, a collaboration between Multnomah County and PP&R, will offer outdoor summer camps.

From Portland Parks and Recreation website: Portland’s parks, public places, natural areas, and recreational opportunities give life and beauty to our city. These essential assets connect people to place, self, and others. Portland’s residents treasure and care for this legacy, building on the past to provide for future generations. Making Portland a great place to live, work and play. Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland.

Free Geek Needs Computers for People Still Struggling to Get Online for School and Vital Services

Free Geek Needs Computers for People Still Struggling to Get Online for School and Vital Services

Portland, OR. The nonprofit that takes donated computers, removes all personal information, and gives them to needy people is working in overdrive. Free Geek helped to deliver computers to students at William Walker Elementary School as seen above. The nonprofit delivered 40 devices to families of students in need, but there are still many more people in the Portland area who need to get online.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Free Geek saw a 4,000% increase in the number of requests for computers for low-income people.

The number of requests continues to grow according to Free Geek marketing specialist, Charlie D’eve. She explains how getting online is vital for people. “It’s families of five who received only one computer from the school their children attend when e-schooling began. Its people asking for computers for their parents whom they haven’t been able to contact since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s parents who lost their jobs during the pandemic, looking to find work online. It’s college students who relied on the library for their homework. It’s therapists who have clients with no access to them. It’s social workers. It’s houseless youth. It’s cousins, neighbors, friends.”

In January, Free Geek staff members fill their van with laptops and desktops to deliver a hardware grant to families living at The Louisa Flowers, Multnomah County’s largest low-income apartment building.

For the past two decades, Free Geek has offered a way to divert technology that would otherwise be recycled or thrown away, refurbish it, and give it back to the community at no or low cost.

Since COVID-19 began the organization has been able to partner with programs including SNAP, Every Child Oregon, Project LEDO, Black Resilience Fund, Portland State University, and many more community change organizations according to D’eve.

In their partnership with SNAP, Free Geek has provided 121 devices and is working to provide 300 more. “Our Gift a Geekbox program has been seeing around 20 applications a day since we put the program up on our site. Our highest amount of applications in one day was 240. We haven’t even advertised the program yet,” says D’eve.

Other programs available through Free Geek include:

  • Plug Into Portland (computers for K-12 students)
  • Hardware Grants (free and low-cost technology grants)
  • Online Shop (low-cost tech through an online store)
  • Corporate Technology Donation (bring corporate used tech back into the community)
  • Personal Tech Donation (bring your personal tech back to those who need it)
  • Data Security (data destruction certification for your tech)

There are a number of challenges Free Geek has faced throughout the pandemic, although one challenge has hit the organization the hardest. According to D’eve there is a great need for laptops to provide for students going through e-schooling, and telehealth services for the elderly.

Vaccines are now available in Oregon, with the elderly (age 65 and older) prioritized receiving the vaccine first throughout February. This does not come without challenges, however, as many people are having trouble navigating an online platform and finding ways to get to their appointments. In response to this, Free Geek is relying on potential partnerships with businesses to ensure they can get devices to those who can sign up for the vaccine but don’t have digital access.

Currently, there are no volunteer opportunities with Free Geek. However, there are many other ways to get involved, according to D’eve, including:

  1. Give a gift to Free Geek at
  2. Donate your used technology
  3. Ask your employer about where your used tech goes, and start a conversation about providing that tech to Free Geek
  4. Start a fundraiser for us
  5. Start a tech drive for us
  6. Talk with your friends about Free Geek – shout us out on social media!
  7. Know a community change organization or person that needs a computer? Help them get one from us

“I think what people are starting to notice is that even though they have a device, their next-door neighbor likely doesn’t. And now we’re seeing people notice, and people wanting to make sure that changes,” says D’eve.

Staff members deliver laptops to Title I elementary schools by partnering with project LEDO.

From the Free Geek website: Free Geek’s mission is to sustainably reuse technology, enable digital access, and provide education to create a community that empowers people to realize their potential. Including everyone in our digital future. 

27% of Americans do not own a computer. And one out of ten families do not have internet at home. This lack of access is sharply stratified along lines of income, race, age, and education. Low-income families, immigrants, seniors, and children are digitally under-connected, many with mobile-only internet access, which often isn’t enough. 

The crisis is growing. Our world is growing more digital every day, and vulnerable populations are being left behind. The digital divide separates individuals along economic lines – from the cost of technology and devices, to which neighborhoods have better broadband access. Day-to-day tasks middle- and upper-class individuals take for granted become massive challenges to communities where basic technology and skills feel alien and inaccessible, due to language or financial barriers. From applying for jobs to completing homework assignments, from paying bills to accessing medical records to communicating with family, people with the means to access technology are at a decided advantage over those who are not. This is a social justice issue. Without technology access, full participation in nearly every aspect of American society — from economic success and educational achievement, to positive health outcomes and civic engagement — is compromised

Now think about this: the EPA estimates that only 27% of e-waste is recycled nationally. E-waste represents 2% of America’s trash in landfills, but it equals 70% of overall toxic waste.​​​​ ​​​

A large number of what is labeled as “e-waste” is actually not waste at all, but rather whole electronic equipment or parts that are readily marketable for reuse or can be recycled for materials recovery. So what if we repaired and reused these devices, in order to keep our community connected while keeping e-waste out of landfills?

Our programs are founded on this very idea. Free Geek has created a unique circular model which points two existing societal problems – excess electronic waste in need of sustainable reuse and recycling, and lack of access to basic technology among vulnerable populations – back at each other to reveal innovative solutions. The computers we grant to our Digital Inclusion participants are saved from ending up in landfills, and instead, go on to find a new life helping provide our community’s most vulnerable populations with the digital literacy skills they need to succeed and thrive.

Want to join the movement helping both our environment and our community? Join us and make an impact. For just $10 a month, you can provide one person a device, tech support, and digital skill training. Join our monthly giving community THE BRIDGE, and give the gift of clean water all year round.



‘Our House’ Plans Virtual Gala to Celebrate and Raise Needed Funds

‘Our House’ Plans Virtual Gala to Celebrate and Raise Needed Funds

Portland, OR. Poison Waters (on left, posing with Tracy Curtis) will take her enthusiasm online this year for the ‘Our House’ Virtual Gala. Organizers encourage supporters to step back in time and tune in for an MTV-esque online event set in the ‘80s. The free benefit on Feb. 20th offers an opportunity to support the organization which provides healthcare, housing, and other vital services to people in the Portland community living with HIV. The nonprofit started in 1988.

Dana Kinney, Director of Development and Communications, explains the decision behind the 80s’ themed virtual gala, “Since, Our House came to life in the eighties, we decided this would be a really fun year to do a flashback to the eighties and talk about how we’ve come, how we progressed, how our community has stood by us and how that was reflected in the height of the AIDS epidemic, but also at the height of the COVID pandemic.”

Kinney recognizes that the AIDS epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic are very different in who is affected and how both communities are impacted differently, but the need for help and support has not changed.

“We’ve been fortunate enough that our community of supporters and donors have really stepped up tremendously to give us so much more than we could imagine during a pandemic to ensure that the most vulnerable keep getting supported,” Kinney explains.

Johnna Wells and Carrie Welch speak to guests at the Hopelessly Devoted to Our House Gala from 2019. This year’s virtual gala speaker will be Dale Johannes.

There will also be a virtual auction that opens on Feb. 12 at 8 am and closes on Feb. 20 at 9 pm. Once the auction opens, each package will be available to view and attendees can bid as often and as much as they like. Some auction packages include the following: beach vacations, mountain vacations, a hot tub boat in Seattle, nature tours, and art/wine tours.

There is also a chance to win two roundtrip Alaska Airlines ticket vouchers for $80. There are only 200 raffle tickets available and the winner will be announced during the live stream on Feb. 20.

Prizes are not the only thing to look forward to either. With previous in-person events, the organization has offered catering services which have also seen a significant impact from the pandemic. In order to ensure that attendees still have the full virtual experience, there will still be a catering service from Vibrant Table who has partnered with Our House before. Make sure to RSVP for the event and order food ahead to have it ready by clicking the link here.

Participants bid on auction items at the 2019 Hopelessly Devoted to Our House Gala. Auction items are still available with the event being virtual this year.

The live stream event is going to be really fun Kinney explains, “I would love for anyone who is either familiar or just learning about Our House or has no idea who we are, to tune in and just learn about us and see what we’re doing for the community and whether it’s as their one time that they’re watching and learning about us, or if they want to learn more, they can get ahold of us or even volunteer.”

From Our House website: Our House inspires people with HIV to LIVE WELL. Our House provides integrated health and housing services to people with HIV/AIDS.  Guided by compassion, collaboration, and respect, we provide 24-hour specialized care, supportive services, and independent housing with support services.

Our House Core Values:

Compassion for those most in need was the reason we founded Our House and it continues to be our guiding value.

Collaboration at Our House builds relationships by sharing resources and expertise in the community to serve our clients.

Our House Respects the dignity, spirit, worth, needs, and rights of everyone we touch.

Our House maintains a Resourceful staff, stable finances, and effective programs through innovative and responsive action.

Our House Empowers clients to optimize the quality of life in a safe and accepting environment.