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 In-person meetups like that pictured above have been replaced by monthly peer-to-peer chats.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. This year the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) will move its annual event – Operation Overcoat – “from one big downtown event, to distributing winter gear and meals all over the city in partnership with other non-profits and local churches,” according to Communications Manager Courtney Dodds.
Family receiving a meal together at Operation Overcoat
As new restrictions and safety challenges due to COVID-19 mean no large crowds this year, UGM’s team brainstormed a way to reinvent Operation Overcoat to get vital supplies to those in need. In several city-wide mini functions beginning Saturday, September 19th, the organization will be partnering with local churches, schools, and workplaces to gather and deliver backpacks filled with shoes, coats, pants, and other items.
This year UGM will reinvent Operation Overcoat to allow for safety measures against COVID-19
“In other words, Operation Overcoat is going mobile,” explained Courtney. “Winter weather can be dangerous and even life-threatening for our neighbors who are houseless and living outside. Due to the pandemic, more people than ever are financially on the edge and sadly it is projected that even more people will fall into homelessness.”
“Receiving vital life essentials is often the first step to building a relationship and helping someone find a path off the streets. Operation Overcoat not only provides for basic needs but is a point of personal connection.”
This year’s unique conditions pose greater challenges for those experiencing homelessness than previous years
For over 20 years, the downtown-situated block party drew nearly a thousand attendees with live music, free food, and festivities as volunteers distributed thousands of donated clothing items to neighbors experiencing homelessness or need in the community.
Courtney notes that the event “will look different this year, but our commitment to coming alongside those in need remains the same.”
Here are some ways you or your local organization can get involved this year:
Organize a donation drive at your church, workplace or school. Our most needed items include pants, new undergarments, sleeping bags, boots, and coats. Drop your items off at Union Gospel Mission at 3 NW Third Avenue.
Support Operation Overcoat financially. It costs about $23.53 to serve each person through Operation Overcoat. Consider a special financial gift for Operation Overcoat. You can give online at ugmportland.org/donate
Your Gift of $23.53 provides an Operation Overcoat guest with goods and services that would cost them over $200 in a retail environment.
From the website:
FEEDING THE HUNGRY, RESTORING THE ADDICT AND LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR. SINCE 1927.
Union Gospel Mission was founded in 1927, when 40 area churches came together seeking to minister to the homeless and hurting on the streets of Portland. In 1937, Union Gospel Mission purchased a building at 15 NW Third Ave.
Portland, OR. The Bridge Meadows model is an intergenerational neighborhood where adoptive families of youth formerly in foster care bond with their older neighbors. The nonprofit has had to dramatically alter its operations due to the pandemic. “In our community, it’s about one-third elders—adults over 55 is how we define that—and then families who have adopted kids out of foster care,” Director of Communications Lindsay Magnuson explains. “The way everything is built is so people can connect, and that means being in person, face to face, doing things in the courtyard. And so [Covid-19] has kind of ripped away this way of connecting that has been so essential for people in our communities, and so we’ve had to pivot and figure out: how do we maintain that feeling of intimacy and connectedness without the physical proximity?”
Several of the Bridge Meadows elders in North Portland started busily sewing masks to support local health care workers.
Bridge Meadows will be hosting its annual fall auction and gala, IMAGINE, on September 17th. The event will be hosted—as in previous years—by KGW anchor Drew Carney and Benefit Auction 360’s Johnna Wells. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the event will be held virtually.
“We are aiming to do a very interesting, dynamic and short program,” said Bridge Meadows Director of Communications Lindsay Magnuson. “We really want it to be valuable because the event usually has this community reunion feel, and so we wanted to kind of try to replicate that as much as possible.”
“Though our event will be held online this year, we are excited to celebrate the resilience and power of intergenerational community with you in new ways. Hear stories from the community about the impact the Bridge Meadows Model has on the lives of children who have experienced foster care and how you can help us bring this solution to more communities.”
Bridge Meadows lawn prior to the pandemic.
Many of Bridge Meadows programs, such as check-ins with its members and therapeutic groups, have been adapted into virtual programs, and members have been hard at work figuring out how to help older members who are uncomfortable with newer technology and parents who are adjusting to homeschooling.
According to Lindsay, “We’ve also been brainstorming with the community about how—now that we kind of know a little bit more about how [Covid-19] is spread—figuring out how to safely connect in person with [social distancing].”
On top of the upcoming IMAGINE gala, Bridge Meadows has also been hosting virtual roundtables, where community members, partners, champions and donors get together to check in with one another and host Q&A sessions.
For those interested in supporting Bridge Meadows, Lindsay recommended signing up for their newsletter, attending their virtual events, and making financial contributions.
While the pandemic has created many challenges for Bridge Meadows, Lindsay noted that there has been some benefits: “I think that this experience has really made us become more comfortable with how you diversify your methods of maintaining community. We have learned how to do that very quickly, and we’re still learning,” Lindsay said.
About Bridge Meadows:
Bridge Meadows develops and sustains intergenerational neighborhoods for adoptive families of youth formerly in foster care that promote permanency, community and caring relationships while offering safety and meaningful purpose in the daily lives of older adults.
Portland, OR. A nonprofit serving disabled children is holding its annual “All Ability Tri4Youth” event. Unlike the in-person event seen above, for 2020 FACT Oregon is going online, and finding the format is allowing for more creativity and state-wide participation. The free event is open for registration and participation until August 22nd. Registrants can send in footage or pictures of activities to be included in a compilation video shared via social media.
FACT Oregon’s All Ability Tri4Youth event will be held virtually this year.
For the past three years, FACT hosted the event at Tualatin Hills District Park, where participants swam, biked, and ran for a total of 2.53 miles. This year FACT decided to embrace the flexibility virtual participation allows while keeping with the theme of “2.53”. Participants can choose to do any activity for 2.53 miles, 2.53 minutes, 253 reps, etc.
“We can get very creative; however you want to participate, you can participate,” support supervisor Karen McKenney emphasized. “It’s just a really good way of promoting a fun and fit event without letting the momentum slide, so hopefully next year we’re back up and running in person.” All registrants will get a medal and can purchase a commemorative t-shirt.
She noted the added benefit of families from around the state not having to travel to Portland this year, which enables a much broader demographic of their base to participate. “We were trying to draw families from across the state since that’s who we serve. So now if you live in Baker County in Eastern Oregon, you can still participate, which is a really cool positive.”
This event falls is just one of the ways that FACT facilitates connections between families within their community. The grant-funded nonprofit (self-described as “an organization that is by families for families“) specializes in providing information, training, resources, and support to families and professionals navigating disability, in addition to building person-centered one-page profiles for kids. The website includes a support line and a variety of general resources as well as COVID-19 specific information for families.
FACT Oregon offers a variety of informational services and resources to families experiencing disability.
Since the start of the Pandemic, FACT has been conducting webinars surrounding special education through distance learning, which have all been recorded and are available for free on their website. The organization offers over 150 training, workshops, and learning summits throughout the year on a variety of subjects for parents, teachers, and professionals navigating disability services and awareness.
“For families with disabilities, it’s common to feel incredibly isolated, just in general – and then to throw a pandemic on top of it! So we’re hoping that holding an event like this could be a way of keeping people engaged, knowing that there are other families out there like them doing the same kinds of things,” Karen added. “Anything to help families feel like they can make it through this. We’re all in this together; we don’t know what to expect and we’re doing the best we can with the news that we’ve got.”
About FACT Oregon:
FACT empowers Oregon families experiencing disability in their pursuit of a whole life by expanding awareness, growing community, and equipping families.
Portland, OR. The NW Dance Project, a Portland-based contemporary dance company, had to make significant COVID-19 adjustments since it went fully virtual on March 13th. The nonprofit’s phased reopening began on August 3rd, with the renewal of some in-person classes and continued reliance on video communication platforms. Jeff George (pictured above) is one of the instructors for the limited in-person classes that take place with strict safety protocols.
The initial shutdown of NW Dance Project meant all events, classes, and training programs were canceled, as well as the furloughing of all company dancers and some staff. Like many arts organizations, NW Dance Project is currently unable to generate income with performances, so outreach to supporters has become vital.
NW Dance Project members pose for a fundraising promo shot
Social distancing guidelines have posed a challenge for everyone, but perhaps no one is more affected than dancers. Executive Director Scott Lewis points out how, unlike other performing arts such as theater or music, maintaining social distance removes a core element of what constitutes this art form. For example, the pas de deux, which Lewis describes as an intense duet, is now entirely off the table.
“There’s so much in dance that relies on the electricity in the air when humans are experiencing something simultaneously,” says Lewis. “At some point, it just hit me that everything we do is not bringing people together.”
The dancers’ response to these challenges highlights their pragmatism and flexibility. “They quickly saw the dance world embracing technology and accepted that this is the reality,” Scott Lewis explains. Company members have shifted their focus toward individual projects and sharing their skills over social media. In addition to individual enterprises, dancers now attend classes via video call — streamed either from NWDP’s studio or from the instructors’ homes — and students served by North Portland’s Aspire Project (closed as of June 7th, 2020) were invited to join NWDP’s virtual summer session.
These virtual classes will continue even as NWDP’s studios have reopened for limited in-person classes. Safety protocols are strictly enforced: for example, tape outlines on the studio floor mark out 100 square feet of space per person. In September, youth classes are scheduled to begin in-person with similar restrictions. Next month also brings an outdoor performance and a film-based project that unites NW Dance Project company dancers and special guest choreographers.
Lewis encourages readers to keep an eye on these upcoming projects or even attend a few classes if they are so inclined. Those with skills they are willing to share can seek out volunteer opportunities with the company or even serve as board members if they are willing to accept the time commitment.
“Any support possible will be helpful,” says Lewis. “It doesn’t need to be said how destabilizing the confluence of events has been for artists. We’re still in the first act, stay with us, stay in touch, stay supportive. This is going to be a long crawl.”
NW Dance Project was founded in Portland in 2004 by acclaimed dancer, mentor, and choreographer Sarah Slipper. NW Dance Project is dedicated to the creation and performance of innovative, new contemporary dance works from established and emerging dance makers created in an open and artistically stimulating environment.
NW Dance Project has fostered the creation and Portland premiere of nearly 300 original contemporary dance works to date. Our dedication to providing dancers and dance-makers the resources and creative room needed to realize new inspired dance works led Dance International Magazine to proclaim that we are “changing the way dance is created” and that NW Dance Project has become “a laboratory, factory, and repository for risk-taking new works from the next generation of choreographers from Europe and North America.”
Portland, OR. The Portland Book Festival will look different than the picture above this year. Book Lovers won’t be crowding in to hear from noted authors as in the past. The literary staple of the Pacific Northwest since 2005 is changing its long-standing event from in-person to entirely online. This news comes in the wake of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic that has essentially curbed all social events and gatherings for the foreseeable future. Rather than canceling the annual festival scheduled for November, event organizers at Literary Arts say they want to continue community outreach during a time when people need it the most.
In years past, Portland Book Festival focuses on bringing families and the community together by offering their events for free and across many platforms.
Perhaps the most important change that Literary Arts has offered is to make the festival almost entirely free this year. This change comes during a time when many individuals may be uncertain about their financial stability and may not have been able to afford the previous cover charge for the event. Andrew Proctor, Executive Director of Literary Arts, says that this decision was made in order to better support the community during a national pandemic
Author readings will be viewable both live and backlogged for the attendee’s convenience.
Alongside the change in format, the festival will also be held across a fifteen-day span (Nov. 5-21) rather than staying as a single-day event. For this year’s attendees, that means that every seminar, class, and author reading can be accessed over the two week period, and often at their own leisure. It also means that the event becomes more accessible to everyone living here in Portland or anywhere else in the world. With formats ranging from podcasts, online blogs, and live streaming events, participants will have a range of options to suit their needs and limitations during these unprecedented times.
While things like book signings may not be available this year, online formats will still allow for attendees to interact with the festival’s many artists.
From Literary Arts:
To find out more about the upcoming 2020 Portland Book Festival, check out the Literary Arts website page on the event here. If you’d like to support a great organization, you can donate here.
Portland, OR. Despite the challenges that have ensued in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, Compassion Connect has continued to provide resource connections and unite some churches that serve Portland neighborhoods. Thanks to the continued support of donors, the nonprofit was able to raise over $10,000 for COVID-19 relief programs this spring.
The Portland-based nonprofit (which also has chapters in Washington and Arizona) has had to put its main outreach programs on hold until further notice due to health and safety concerns as well as state mandates. These programs include free health clinics and after school groups for vulnerable youth who face a higher risk for sexual exploitation.
Setbacks, have not stopped the small staff from brainstorming ways to invest critically in the communities they serve. Communications director Anna Johnson offers some insight: “During this time of hiatus, our team hasn’t ceased tackling the challenging question of how to resume operations safely so we can continue helping churches serve their neighbors in a time when they need the support more than ever.”
At the beginning of the outbreak, the company held area-specific Zoom meetings with church leadership from eight local neighborhoods to provide a platform for prayer and collaboration on how to meet the needs of the community. According to Ana, the “meetings culminated in a webinar in late May, where we shared ways for the church to make the ‘new normal’ look more like the Kingdom of God by providing a framework and tools for churches to build relationships, work together in unity, and transform the neighborhoods.”
While working from home, staff have rallied volunteers and churches to collect care package items for youth, many of whom now find themselves immersed in unstable home environments. The kits include essential hygiene items like masks and hand sanitizer along with games, treats, and encouraging notes.
Compassion Connect Health Clinics saw patients before the pandemic (above). The nonprofit is offering a community support form for clinic guests in need of medical services while the organization’s clinics are closed.
For those who have been without healthcare or have lost job-based insurance due to layoffs, Compassion Connect hopes to resume clinic services in late August with additional safety features in place, configured by staff, volunteers, board members, and outside experts. With additional precautions, the nonprofit has also been working on gradually relaunching its after school program, as well as its Adorned In Grace bridal shops, which offer new and gently used wedding gowns, formal wear, and accessories to support its work in anti-trafficking.
The nonprofit is currently exploring completely virtual or small group options for its largest fundraising event in October, which typically sees an attendance of around 300 guests.
About Compassion Connect:
Interested in volunteering with the Compassion Connect team? The nonprofit is looking for a technology coordinator to help plan virtual events, as well as other virtual volunteers, donors, and interns to make a difference in the community during this challenging season. For more information, go to www.compassionconnect.com or Compassion PDX on Facebook or @compassionconnect on Instagram.
We believe in the volunteer leaders, in those who are yet to rise up and in the potential of any community in the world to make a difference by uniting in Jesus-like service to its most hurting members. You have the heart to make a difference. We have the tools to make it a reality.
Many Portlander’s know Darcelle XV as the beloved “world’s oldest working drag queen,” who has been a staple of the Portland LGBTQ+ and nightlife scene for five decades. But what many may not know about Walter Cole—Darcelle XV when he is in drag—is that he lives in the historic “Elmer and Linnie Miller” Residence in Northeast Portland. The home was recently listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Walter Cole in his home, the Elmer and Linnie Miller Residence.
The new exhibit will feature the work of Portland photographer Tom Cook, and showcases Darcelle XV in the historic residence.
According to a press release: “Cook’s portrait series captures the unique character of the 1896 Queen Anne style house and its longtime owner, Walter Cole, best known as the female impersonator and performer Darcelle XV. The home’s décor has taken on the lavish style of Darcelle XV while still maintaining its original layout and details. Among the house’s features are stained glass windows created by Jerry Bosco and Ben Milligan, glass artists, work and life partners, and founders of the Bosco-Milligan Foundation, under which the Architectural Heritage Center operates.”
On top of being an example of historic architecture, the home has been a gathering place for political activists and gay rights events over the years. The residence also shows the indelible mark that Darcelle has left on the home.
Elmer and Linnie Miller House, Portland, Oregon.
The exhibit will be open to Architectural Heritage Members July 24–25, and will open to the public after that on Thursdays–Sunday’s from 11am–5pm. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, safety protocols will be in place for those who visit the exhibit, and masks will be required.
“My home is overdone, over-decorated and over jeweled, just like Darcelle, but it reflects me,” Cole recently told The Oregonian. “If someone gave me a framed photo, I wouldn’t have one spot on the wall to hang it.”
Darcelle XV sitting in the Elmer and Linnie Miller Residence.
Owned and operated by the non-profit Bosco-Milligan Foundation, we empower people in the Portland region to preserve both landmark buildings and the regular “vernacular” vintage homes and storefronts that collectively define our neighborhoods, traditional downtowns, culture, history, and quality of life.
Portland, OR. The Latino Network is gearing up for its big annual gala, Noche Bella (Beautiful Night), which is set to take place on Sept. 25th at 7:00 p.m. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the event will be held virtually. The picture seen above was taken at an event prior to the pandemic.
“We’re really excited to virtualize everything,” said Latino Network Communication Manager Martina Bialek. “We have an auction, and our auction items are coming through, and we’re just really trying to get people excited to attend, whether it is from the comfort of their homes or elsewhere.”
Normally, the event draws around 600 people and raises approximately $400,000 for the organization to fund programs, operations and administrative work, according to Bialek.
The pandemic has forced the Latino Network to alter many of its regular operations; however, the organization has been busy offering as much support as possible to the communities it serves. Everything shifted to virtual operations on March 13th, and since then, school coordinators have found innovative ways to continue to offer the education and support that the organization regularly provides to students and families.
“We’re basically an education focused non-profit, so, just from the sense of our programming, we’ve had to absolutely change everything, from the way that we interact with our students to how we show up for families who are in need right now,” Bialek said.
Latino Network program participants at a pre-pandemic event
One innovative way the organization has adapted its communications is through Facebook groups. “We created Facebook groups and invited parents and started doing Facebook Live nighttime reading for students,” Bialek said.
Through this program, the Latino Network has been able to help families cover their basic needs, such as food, utilities and rent.
Latino Network staff and program participants hosting standing food drive
“It has been a little challenging because we’ve reached the $10 million mark through the Oregon Worker Relief Fund, and we’re waiting for the second installment to come, which means that through that window, we’re not getting any new applications,” Bialek said.
Until the Latino Network is able to secure the additional funds from the state, the organization is keeping busy connecting families to any type of utility assistance they can get based on their circumstances.
“Being a nonprofit, it’s like we’re pulling money from all of our unrestricted funds, and all of our fundraising money, and we’re just putting it all towards helping the families,” Bialek said. “But we’ve reached a point where that’s just not a possibility at this point. So we’re getting other utilities involved and we’re really making sure that they can offer any type of assistance that they can to our families.”
Bialek applauded the work of the staff at the Latino Network through this time, saying, “They’ve just been going above and beyond to really put families at the forefront of everything.”
Throughout the pandemic, the Latino Network has also had many opportunities to work with other organizations: “Being able to work with other like minded community based organizations has been wonderful because we’ve been able to really tagteam all of our needs, and we were able to really expand on them,” Bialek said. “For example, we’ve been working really closely with the ACLU of Oregon, and we’ve really been able to create a partnership that is definitely going to last for years to come.”
Bialek said that those interested in supporting the Latino Network can make a donation or elevate the work being done by the organization.
“I feel like there is a big wave of change in the country, and the fact that our Black hermanos and hermanas are able to elevate their needs and are able to fight for what they need is wonderful,” Bialek said.
“We’re no strangers to police brutality either, we’re no strangers to racial targeting, we’re no strangers to discrimination or racism, and on top of that we have a pandemic that has completely devastated our community in ways that we’re only scratching the surface of right now. So any visibility we can get, any support we can get helps, whether it’s economic or just sharing something on Twitter—just making sure that our struggle is seen and heard.”
About the Latino Network:
Latino Network was founded in 1996 by community leaders who grew concerned about the lack of adequate resources to meet the needs of the growing Latino community. Since that time, we have evolved to become an organization that also encompasses transformational programs aimed at educating and empowering Multnomah County Latinos. Low achievement scores, youth violence and high drop out rates undermine the Latino community’s potential. We address these issues by promoting early literacy, encouraging parent involvement, working with gang-involved and adjudicated youth and families, and providing academic support and activities to high school aged youth. We also build leadership capacity for youth and adults.
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.
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