Portland, OR. Laasya Yenduri, a senior at Sunset High School and president of the nonprofit CyberBORN, has remained positive during COVID-19 by creating a mask initiative and offering virtual classes for young people as seen pictured above.
The organization was originally created as a high school club, but Yenduri found inspiration to take the club to the next level during a trip to India three years ago.
CyberBORN, is a student-led nonprofit, with its primary focus on fulfilling the academic dreams of less fortunate children around the globe. Students strive to improve the lifestyles of hundreds of children by fundraising to provide technology to impoverished children. They’re also raising awareness throughout communities, and opening up digital mentorship classrooms worldwide.
CyberBORN’s worldwide efforts became local, however, after COVID-19 hit back in March. Yenduri shares how online tutoring began. “I realized a lot of students since we had multiple events planned, but were canceled, especially younger students were really bored at home. They didn’t really have anything to do in school since they weren’t there. So that’s why I decided to start an initiative where we start tutoring kids for free.”
In one of the virtual classes, students learn how to make slime.
From these virtual classes, the hand-made mask initiative was born. CyberBORN, had goals to create and distribute 200 masks by April and 1,000 masks by August. Currently, they have donated 1,570 masks that were made from the students in these virtual workshops.
According to Yenduri, the thought process behind the mask initiative was finding a way to pay their respects to healthcare workers, but also realizing that older patients, were at a very high risk of contracting COVID-19. Efforts were focused on providing a platform where they could not only help one population but all sorts of people.
Yenduri explains, “This was actually a perfect way for us to stay connected and stay close to our nonprofit roots while also doing something beneficial for the community.”
Tutoring kids for free has seen a large growth in attendance since it began. The sessions started off being one hour every weekday. Usually, 10-12 students would join in. By the end of August, however, the organization had over 55 students joining every day with a growth of 500% since the initiative started, according to Yenduri.
Over the summer CyberBORN has held about 160 classes that varied in topics ranging from science to art, to graphic design and other general topics.
Members from CyberBORN distribute their first round of masks from the handmade mask initiative.
Looking towards the future, CyberBORN plans on hosting several other events. One of these events will be a virtual fundraising concert where kids can perform their musical talents such as singing, playing the piano, or playing other instruments that they haven’t been able to perform due to COVID-19. This encourages individuals to start practicing again and get back to the groove of whatever talent they possess.
Yenduri speaks about creating free virtual lessons. “This is the one part of my day that I really look forward to doing so it’s really great we’re still continuing our virtual lessons even during the school year but instead of doing like five times a week we’re doing three times a week so it’s good to see all the faces again and to see the students’ progress.”
CyberBORN is always looking for new volunteers and if interested, you can contact the nonprofit through this contact form online. The organization is also looking into opening up other high school chapters as well as always welcoming new students in their free virtual workshops.
From CyberBORN website: To improve education standards for hundreds of children worldwide by raising awareness throughout communities, fundraising to provide means of technology to impoverished children (currently donating to Indian girls), opening up digital mentorship classrooms worldwide, offering feminine hygiene products to low-income families and homeless shelters, and providing a means of removing the stigma around mental health.
Portland, OR. Oregon Friends of Shelter Animals (OFOSA) is running a photo contest to raise needed funds. Now through October 30th, donors can vote for the dog or cat they’d like to see win the title of President of the Furry States. Right now, in the lead for the title of President of the Furry States, with 225 votes, it’s Pippi Longears. (Seen above.) Pippi has an ambitious platform. The three-year-old dog promises to protect you from squirrels, keep your canine in line on morning walks, and create a warm spot in bed.
(OFOSA) came up with this novel idea because like most local nonprofits, it was forced to cancel in-person benefits because of COVID-19. Anne Haynes, Director of Development, explains the decision to host a presidential fundraising event. “It has been such a strange year and we have not been able to hold any of our in-person fundraising events, so I was thinking of what might be a fun, COVID-friendly way to raise funds in a positive way. That’s how our President of the Furry States was born.”
OFOSA is a foster-based animal rescue organization whose mission is to reduce the number of adoptable animals that are euthanized in overcrowded shelters, restore them to good health, and through adoption, provide them forever loving homes.
Chance is a 13-year-old rescue and is currently in second place.
Oregon Friends of Shelter Animals has faced challenges, like losing its in-store adoption locations with PetSmart and Petco due to COVID-19 restrictions and having to redefine the way to run business to keep everyone safe and still find homes for the animals.
Despite complications due to COVID-19 for OFOSA, the organization had 100 new foster sign-ups since people were staying home more than ever. By the end of September, they had already surpassed the intake numbers for the whole year of 2019.
Purrl the three-year-old and deaf cat is currently first in the feline party.
The organization has seen more serious medical cases this year and have been able to take most of those animals in. These animals are most likely to be euthanized because shelters are lacking the funds right now to repair broken limbs, fix bad teeth, and/or remove ruptured eyes.
In times of living with COVID-19, Haynes and the rest at OFOSA feels a huge benefit of their mission is that pets show their unconditional love for their owners and they know the word could use much more of that.
According to Haynes, “owning an animal has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, improve heart health, keep your company, help you make friends, teach kids responsibility, and improve your immune system. With all of the changes we’ve had to go through this year with COVID and the stress of the ‘real people’ election, we wanted to remind people of the love of animals.”
Since the beginning, in 2002, the organization has rescued over 19, 200 cats and dogs.
From Oregon Friends of Shelter Animals website: Our team is comprised of 5 dedicated animal lovers, a volunteer Board of Directors who provides strategic guidance for OFOSA, and hundreds of volunteers who contribute their time and talent to virtually every aspect of our operation. Without these volunteers, we would not be able to fulfill our mission.
Beaverton, OR. School attendance is up thanks to Camp Connect, a new program sponsored by the Beaverton Education Foundation (BEF). It is an extension of the summer academic program Camp Achieve which focuses on getting at-risk students back on track. Educators at Camp Connect reached out to 75 students from four elementary schools in the District, all of whom had low attendance rates; many had not been attending school online since Covid-19 hit in March. Camp Connect helped families struggling economically get access to distance learning necessities, such as Chromebooks, iPads, and hotspots.
Pre-covid days in the classroom.
Families were also connected to other services like the District’s Clothes Closet, to food box deliveries and school meals, and to early learning programs and intervention services for their younger children. All Camp Connect students received a “Student Success Kit” with basic school supplies, made possible by BEF, the School District, and community financial support and donations. Additionally, Camp Connect families received supplies including extension cords, lamps, or lap desks along with a gift card to set up for at-home learning.
Here’s a video about the foundation which was made before the pandemic:
Principals at the four schools that received help shared how important home visits were to the success of Camp Connect. “Having something of real value to offer seemed to help families see the schools as their partner,” said Monique Singleton, principal at Vose Elementary School.
Terra Linda Elementary School Principal Christy Batsell praised the program’s outcomes, adding, “The support from BEF made all the difference.”
Based on the success of the Camp Connect Pilot, the program is expanding to better serve students from all of Beaverton’s 34 elementary schools with additional family outreach beginning immediately. Learn more about the expansion.
Teachers chose specific books for each student’s interests, and Powell’s Books sent five books to each student in the mail.
From Beaverton Education Foundation:
The Beaverton Education Foundation (BEF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3), supporting kids from kindergarten through high school, by funding innovative educational opportunities in Beaverton public schools. #bef4kids #BeavertonsChoice
Portland, OR. For many families, the current pandemic has made trick-or-treating impossible, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get in the Halloween spirit like the ring-tailed lemur pictured above. During the Oregon Zoo‘s annual Howloween festivities, kids can show off their costumes and learn about wildlife in a fun and safe setting. The event takes place on Oct. 24th–25th and Oct. 29th–Nov. 1st. Reserved tickets are required.
“Like everything else, Halloween will look a little different this time around, but we’re still going to have a good time,” zoo events manager Nikki Simmons said. “We’ve got fun things planned for both kids and animals.”
A red panda plays with a pumpkin on Howloween.
A scavenger hunt around the zoo teaches kids about wildlife and throughout the day, guests can watch as animals enjoy holiday-themed treats like jack-o’-lanterns stuffed with snacks. Activities are free with zoo admission and treat bags are available for an additional fee of $3 per participant. In keeping with the zoo’s mission, Howloween aims to be educational as well as fun, and all the treats come from companies that are committed to using deforestation-free palm oil. Learn more about palm oil and how consumer choices impact animals around the world.
A river otter and a pumpkin.
To help ensure a safe experience for all, the following measures will be in place during this year’s Howloween:
All costumes must include masks that cover the nose and mouth.
Howloween participants must purchase pre-filled treat bags that can be collected at the end of their scavenger hunt instead of collecting candy throughout the zoo. Treat bags are $3 each and are available for purchase online.
All tickets must be purchased in advance, in timed-entry segments. Because of the capacity restrictions, even infants need to be counted. Infants are free with a paid adult admission but must have a ticket.
Items like treat-filled pumpkins are part of the Oregon Zoo’s world-renowned environmental enrichment program, which helps animals stay active and mentally engaged. It was at the Oregon Zoo in the 1980s that the concept of environmental enrichment was established. The first international animal enrichment conference was held at the Oregon Zoo in 1993, producing the book Second Nature, co-edited by former Oregon Zoo deputy conservation manager Dr. David Shepherdson and Dr. Jill Mellen, a member of the zoo’s animal welfare committee.
The Oregon Zoo says “Bring your costumed kids to Howloween for treats and safe fun!”
From the Oregon Zoo website: The mission of the Oregon Zoo Foundation is to foster community pride and involvement in the Oregon Zoo and to secure financial support for the zoo’s conservation, education and animal welfare programs. We work with individual donors, corporations and community organizations that share our dedication to creating a better future for wildlife.
Portland, OR. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Because People Matter (BPM), has had to modify popular programs to meet new challenges. The nonprofit is now assembling and delivering lunches (seen above) instead of hosting weekly meals underneath the Burnside Bridge every Thursday night. The outreach effort, called Night Strike, was an opportunity for members of Portland’s homeless community to enjoy a hot meal and receive additional services such as a haircut and have their clothes/shoes replaced. The outreach effort brought together approximately 200 volunteers to provide food, clothing, toiletries, haircuts, and foot washing for over 300 guests. Now, such volunteering is not possible, because of social distancing requirements.
But this isn’t the end of the program, instead, BPM has implemented the Sunday afternoon walkabouts where they hand out lunches three times a week to COVID-sanctioned city camps. There are potentially from 120 to 180 people at a given time in these camps.
Volunteers gather materials and supplies for a Sunday walkabout.
Lesley Snyder, co-founder, and administrator explains her decision to implement these Sunday walkabouts. “We waited for all summer long and are just now implementing walkabouts again on Sunday afternoons we feel like that’s a safer time of the day for most people, but we limit it to only about eight people so…this is dramatically reduced.”
The camps have had to lower their capacity due to COVID-19, needing to separate beds in order to be six feet apart. Some have also requested safe spaces for different groups of people including but not limited to individuals who identify as LGBTQ, trans, bi-racial, people of color.
Because People Matter is partnering with the city of Portland and is also collaborating with organizations like Medical Teams International. That nonprofit had previously attended Night Strike and provided medical and dental care to guests in the camps.
To raise funds for needed programs, Because People Matter hosted a virtual gala on September 16th. However, procuring items for the fundraiser was a struggle for the nonprofit as Snyder explains. “When COVID-19 hit we just couldn’t ask local vendors who were shutting their doors and laying people off to give us things for a fundraiser in six months we didn’t even know if it was going to happen in six months.”
Volunteers help hand out lunches for Sunday walkabouts.
COVID-19 has created new challenges for BPM and according to Snyder everyone at the nonprofit continues to work harder than ever they have especially in unusual circumstances.
Snyder is also hoping to recoup some of the funds that they weren’t able to raise this year because of COVID-19 through this virtual event. This will be different from previous virtual gala’s as they won’t be auctioning instead, they are using text to give, and although they’re asking for people to register for the event anybody is welcome to join at 7 pm.
From Because People Matter website: We exist to develop and sustain relational environments that create movement within groups and individuals to demonstrate love and generosity lived out in the world. Because People Matter creates relational environments that provide Relief, Mobilization, and Transformation.
Portland, OR. Eight different nonprofits around Hillsboro have gotten together to make artwork and raise people’s spirits throughout the fall. The community project is called LOVE on the FENCE.
AgeCelebration is heading up the effort. On Thursdays through to October 29th, volunteers from 8 different non-profits gather at various Hillsboro School District fences across the community to add their artistic flair to LOVE signs designed by local artist Elizabeth Higgins. The colorful artwork will be up on the fences through this fall. This multi-partner community-building project hopes to encourage us all to choose LOVE more often, by reminding us that LOVE is always on the FENCE. In every moment we each have a choice, whether to reach out and create LOVE, or not.
The community is invited to walk/drive/bike around Hillsboro to experience the LOVE artwork on the fences, download your own copy of the LOVE art to color and share on social media, and donate to the eight participating non-profits as the fence artwork is completed. Follow the project @AgeCelebration and #LoveOnTheFence on Facebook and Instagram for fence locations, maps, downloadable art, photos, updates, and more.
From LOVE on the Fence:
“This multi-partner community-building project hopes to encourage us all to choose LOVE more often, by reminding us that LOVE is always on the FENCE. In every moment we each have a choice, whether to reach out and create LOVE, or not.”
The eight nonprofits that have been involved in the project are inviting the community to come to experience the artwork, download their own copy of the art, to share the joy on social media, and to donate to the different nonprofits. Information on where to go to see the artwork can be found here.
Portland, OR. Despite the challenging impact of COVID-19 the nonprofit, Fences For Fido, is still going strong. Volunteers (like the one pictured above) helped build 17 fences and shade structures as well as 30 dog houses on the Warm Springs Reservation. They also provided critical veterinary care for 40 dogs. Fences For Fido works to improves the quality of life for dogs living outdoors by building fences free of charge for families who otherwise keep their dogs on chains, tethers, and in small enclosures.
Kelly Peterson, co-founder and emeritus board member, explains why the project was a priority. “As a result of COVID-19, Indian Reservations across the country have been disproportionately impacted, both financially and physically. That’s why Fences For Fido has committed to supporting the Warm Springs Reservations, one of the hardest-hit communities within Oregon.”
Fences For Fido team working on the Warm Springs Reservation build
On October 3rd this dog got a fenced space to roam from the Fences For Fido team.
For the first two months of the pandemic, the nonprofit focused on keeping past and present families together by delivering dog and cat food. Now the organization is getting back in gear. Fences For Fido has new protocols in place for volunteers and families, such as wearing gloves, masks, and following social distancing guidelines, allowing fence builders to safely help families again.
In addition to free fence building, they also provide shade structures (in Central Oregon), warm dog houses, dog food, and critical vet care, as well as spay/neuter services. “We all might be in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat,” said Peterson.
Fence builders are out in the field every weekend; their services can be found throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington in places like Olympia, Hood River, Prineville, Albany, and Newport. Residents of Oregon and Southwest Washington are welcome to apply online for services at no charge. Click here to access their application web page.
Fences For Fido volunteer helps groom a dog while their new enclosure is constructed.
In addition to delivering dog and cat food to families in need, Fences For Fido assisted in the collection of three full trucks of donated pet food and supplies to communities in need during the recent Oregon wildfires.
“Fences For Fido have been helping families and dogs in need for over a decade. We believe wholeheartedly that helping people is helping pets which is why we are so grateful to our families for the trust they place in us, to honor the love they have with their four-legged family members,” said Peterson.
Fences For Fido has been improving the quality of life for over 2,200 dogs since 2009. They average about 13 fences a month and are prepared for any kind of weather. The nonprofit also was a part of passing legislation in 2014, that limits tethering in the states of Oregon and Washington.
According to Peterson, “Through laws and leading by example, Fences For Fido will continue extending compassion to both people and their pets.”
Over the past several months, Fences For Fido has helped remove barriers for families who don’t have access to humane pet care by building a total of 27 free fences, 50 dog houses, shade structures, and provided vet care for more than 60 dogs.
From Fences For Fido website: Fences For Fido improves the quality of life for dogs living outdoors by building fences free of charge for families who keep their dogs on chains, tethers, and in small enclosures. In addition to the fence, we also provide an insulated doghouse for each dog as well as spay/neuter services and emergency veterinary care when needed.
When a dog is unchained, a transformation begins. It starts with what we call “zoomies:” The running, jumping, exuberant joy our Fidos display once unchained – many for the first time in years. That visible happiness puts smiles on the faces of our volunteers and most importantly, on the faces of our client families who through this process begin to connect with their pets in a more meaningful way.
Portland, OR. Unlike many nonprofits, online operations are no new challenge for BACKBONES. This organization provides support and education for people with spinal cord injury or disease (SCI/D). In-person meetups like that pictured above have been replaced by monthly peer-to-peer chats. The BACKBONES team already worked remotely, according to Executive Director Reveca Torres. They have successfully continued their online-based leadership program and boosted attendance for their monthly virtual meet-up group PeerConnect.
PeerConnect provides a space for people with SCI/D to take their minds off their worries and build relationships. Program Coordinator Shannon Kelly chooses conversational topics and activities for the group. Lately, numbers have grown. “At first, it was just a few people, and now we’ve had a consistent number of attendees,” says Torres. On September 19th, PeerConnect will host a discussion on managing mental health during COVID.
The BACKBONES Leaders Program also took place over video call pre-pandemic. As a result, social distancing and shelter-in-place orders were not major obstacles. The Leaders Program prepares individuals with SCI/D to advocate for others, be civically aware, and serve as role models. On October 22nd, BACKBONES will host a virtual celebration of this year’s participants and discuss plans for next year.
Before the pandemic, backbones created events and experiences that promote awareness and engage people of all abilities.
Despite BACKBONES’s preparedness, COVID did introduce new challenges for the organization. Many have turned to BACKBONES for help managing their healthcare mid-pandemic: for example, providing protective equipment for in-home caregivers. The nonprofit’s board had to cancel some in-person events. Economic hardships have made donations slow down. Also, some in the SCI/D community also feel an added layer of anxiety due to talks of ‘medical rationing.’ “Society doesn’t see disabled lives as valuable often,” Torres explains. “There’s this fear that, if it comes to rationing medical care, that people with disabilities would be at the bottom of that.”
Discussions of bias in medicine and disability rights intertwine with subjects like racism and policing. The Black Lives Matter movement continues to shed light on these topics and encourage solidarity between marginalized groups. “It’s been nice to see that disabled voices have been included. A large number of people with disabilities are victims of police brutality,” says Torres, citing officers’ frequent inability to communicate with autistic, deaf, and mentally ill people.
However, the intersection between racial justice and disabled rights gives Torres hope. According to her: “Everything that’s going on — with COVID, with BLM, with all the issues really — it’s bringing to the surface different issues we all face at the same time and if we work together we can make change in a more efficient way.”
From BACKBONES’s website: BACKBONES exists to help people with spinal cord injury or disease (SCI/D) and their families connect with their communities. We do that by creating events and experiences that promote awareness and engage people of all abilities.
BACKBONES was born when friends and family of Reveca Torres started a fundraising campaign in order to help pay for medical expenses after a spinal cord injury. Surrounded by great people, Reveca realized the importance of a support system to help reach one’s goals after an injury and the impact others with similar injuries had — they provided motivation and confidence that couldn’t be found elsewhere.
With the support and guidance of so many, Reveca Torres and co-founders Veronica Gott, Patricia Mikicic and Annie Gonzalez put a long-time goal into motion and transformed BACKBONES into what it is today: a place to connect with others with the purpose of learning, teaching, and sharing.
Portland, OR. The President of the Portland Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is feeling optimistic about the future of race relations in the Rose City. Rev. E. D. Mondainé, a renowned musician, and U.S. Army/Air Force veteran took the helm of Portland’s chapter in 2018. His voice has become increasingly important during this time of downtown protests and civil unrest. Mondainé’s says, “Even though times are bleak, we can make change. Portland is a perfect storm for change in this country and the ninety-plus days of noise is the start of revolution.”
While many organizations and individuals protesting are calling for a complete defunding of the police in Portland (and across the nation, for that matter), Rev. Mondainé says that the NAACP does not stand with the goal of abolition, but rather, reformation.
Starting in May 2020, demonstrations over the police killing of George Floyd have been held in the city of Portland, concurrent with protests in other cities around the United States and around the world.
When asked about the death of George Floyd and the reverberations across the nation, Mondainé’s said he believes Floyd’s death was nothing less than a “horizontal, modern-day lynching” and not to be convoluted else wise. (Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.)
Reverend E.D. Mondainé believes in Portland and the ability of residents to confront nationwide and global equality and equity. “We’re on a mission for justice, truth, and equality. And we’ll never stop fighting for that.”
The Portland NAACP has taken a stand on many issues including renter’s rights in 2019.
Mondainé’s spoke to Portland Society Page reporter Daniel Chilton about his views on the strategy of the Black Lives Matter movement and where the NAACP stands regarding the policing institution, as well as the prison industrial complex.
While the public conversation has primarily revolved around police institutions and police brutality, Mondainé also discussed the often-absent subject of the prison industrial complex. With Black inmates outnumbering whites by a large margin until very recently (according to Pew Research Center, this gap has begun to narrow) Rev. Mondainé says that the NAACP is trying hard to keep this conversation going and has major plans in the future to continue to address both police and prison reform; that one cannot exist without the other present.
Thousands marching into downtown Portland; a photo strikingly familiar to those of the 1960s civil rights march on Washington.
About the Portland NAACP:
Founded in 1909 in response to the ongoing violence against Black people around the country, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation. We have over 2,200 units and branches across the nation, along with well over 2M activists. Our mission is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.
The vision of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.
To find out more about Portland’s NAACP branch and any upcoming events, including their monthly meetings downtown, click here. If you’re interested in donating to their cause, you can do so directly here. To register to vote for the upcoming election and make your voice heard for change, you can do so here.
Portland, OR. New Avenues for Youth celebrated its annual Brews for Youths festival, but for the first time in its history, this fundraiser was held virtually. The benefit on July 25th, is one of many that have moved to an online platform due to COVID-19 pandemic. New Avenues for Youth has seen a tremendous shift towards technology to provide goods and services for at-risk and impacted youth in Portland. With a decrease in physical presence and an increase in a virtual presence, New Avenues for Youth has had to shift its approach.
“[This shift] is beneficial in the long run because we will have new tools and systems online,” says Lauren Eads, Director of Development and Communications. With an increase in online tools, New Avenues for Youth can continue to provide counseling and services to help at-risk youth in Portland while remaining safe.
An image from the educational program which is going live with virtual learning on August 24th.
However, one aspect that technology cannot provide is the face to face physical interaction that people need. “Community is important for them, a network of safe adults, that’s a lot of what the employers are. Case managers and problem solvers that can help,” Eads explained.
Helping nearly 1,400 individuals a year, New Avenues for Youth has served as a safe space for youth in Portland struggling with homelessness. By focusing on both intervention and preventative care, the nonprofit offers educational and employment programs, as well as counseling. Drop-in services including showers and meals, housing/residential services, and works with foster care systems with Portland to help those who are experiencing trauma or emotional and mental challenges that do not work well with foster care.
An image from the SMYRC program that serves young people who identify as LGBTQ+ with supportive services and a safe space.
Moving forward under the pandemic, New Avenues for Youth has decided to also hold its 19th annual Steve Allen Comedy show virtually. The comedy show has been a foundational pillar helping to fund the work of New Avenues for Youth. “With COVID-19 disrupting that [fundraising] pattern, we have an increased need for folks to make contributions so we are able to continue supporting young people experiencing or are at risk for homelessness,” Eads explained.
Tickets for the Annual Steve Allen Comedy Show can be found online.
New Avenues For Youth Front.
New Avenues for Youth is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention and intervention of youth homelessness. Here’s a video about the nonprofit:
Since 1997, our programs and services have impacted more than 20,000 young people as they work to overcome barriers, pursue their goals, and realize their potential. From supporting basic needs like meals and counseling to providing opportunities for education, job training, employment, and housing, we meet youth where they are—and help them get where they want to go.
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