Portland, Or. Last summer walkers hit the streets together for the annual Autism Walk, but this year’s fundraiser will be a virtual live-streamed event, according to the Autism Society of Oregon. The free event, for which participants can register online, will be held online at 1 P.M. on Sunday, August 23rd. “Patterns and routines help to make sense of the world for people on the autism spectrum – they’re incredibly important. When those patterns are disrupted, it completely disrupts everything.” Executive Director Tobi Rates provided some insight into life on the spectrum, noting the impact that the disruptions to school, work, and service provisions have had on people experiencing autism: “It’s been traumatic for a lot of people, and it’s an ongoing trauma because it doesn’t look like things are going back to normal anytime soon.”
Participants in this year’s Autism Walk can send videos and photos to ASO by July 14th
Those registered can send in videos and photos of themselves walking or running in their Autism Awareness/ Acceptance T-shirt by July 14th. These will then be featured during the virtual event in a compilation video. Viewers can expect recognitions and prize-giveaways for sponsors, as well as guest appearances from Star Wars characters and a Virtual Resource Fair.
Here is a video encapsulating the details of the event:
Adapting the Autism Walk – ASO’s largest fundraiser supporting Oregon and SW Washington programs – to a virtual setting is one of the many ways the organization has been able to maintain a sense of routine for its members during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Participants in last year’s walk sporting their awareness gear
Max’s support system celebrating at last year’s finish line
Whether participants choose to walk or run in this year’s event, they can expect the fun to be virtually limitless.
Portland, OR. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) of Portland has successfully maintained the health of current residents while continuing to provide portable meal containers to the community safely via the front door.
The Union Gospel Mission set up a handwashing station outside its building
“We shut the inside services down and did safety protocols to keep all of the men inside COVID-free. And praise God, we haven’t had any infections inside,” reported Bill Russell, who has overseen operations of Portland’s UGM and Lifechange – an affiliated service – for over 30 years. The inside game room and evening services at the 3rd-Avenue location are typically staffed by the 30-50 men undergoing residential recovery from trauma or substance abuse.
Adapting services to meet health regulations still comes at a cost for UGM’s bottom line: connection. “It thins out what we do. Our whole philosophy of the program is to care for people in order to connect with people and coach them.” Russell explained. “It’s been harder to build trust with just the food program, to have the conversations and relational building that’s necessary to build trust…The very concept of wanting to get people to connect is really challenged when you have to maintain six feet of distance and wear a mask.”
Establishing this trust organically has always been a priority for UGM’s volunteer “Search and Rescue” team, who normally go out in the community to get to know residents at local camps like “Right 2 Dream”. A second team provides rides to medical and housing appointments the following day if they discover a need.
UGM’s Search & Rescue team distributes meals safely with social distancing
Russell noted, “A year ago we were moving one person a week out of homelessness into some kind of either program or shelter that led into housing, so there was a pretty good flow. This year, COVID has caused a real lockup on the available places to go. We’ve placed more women with kids out of camps, but single adults have been fairly stuck in place with COVID… It’s really been a game-changer.”
Russell predicts that the economic downturn will generate more need for affordable housing, adding, “We need many more allies.” Those interested can look online for volunteer opportunities or sign up to give monthly.
On June 9th, UGM reopened its thrift store for retail shopping and are accepting donations. Face coverings and social distancing are required to ensure the safety of guests and volunteers, and hand sanitizer is provided throughout the store. UGM has requested that clothing donations be sealed in plastic bags upon arrival.
From the Union Gospel Mission’s website:
FEEDING THE HUNGRY, RESTORING THE ADDICT AND LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR. SINCE 1927.
Union Gospel Mission provides more than 250,000 meals a year to the homeless and people in need. In addition to meals, the Mission provides food boxes, a day room with coffee and snacks, clothing, hygiene items, referral services and emergency cold weather shelter to the homeless.
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