Reach for the Stars Shines Bright
By Katie Riley
It was a beautiful evening looking out over the winery at Montinore Estate but the action was definitely inside their tasting room! Washington County Kids (WCK) supporters packed the room and enjoyed Montinore wines and the delicious hors d’ouevres of Claey’s Catering while listening to the guitar music of Peter Vik.
WCK President Katie Riley thanked attendees and WCK sponsors Christine Vernier, Werner James, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Joe and Corrine Christy, State Representative Margaret Doherty, Toya Fick, State Representative Mitch and Harriet Greenlick, Math Gamers (Kathy Cvetko) Room 122 (Martha Brooks), and the Westside Quilters Guild.
Shweta Moorthy from the Coalition of Communities of Color spoke about their report, Leading With Race: Research Justice in Washington County. According to the report, children of color in Washington County are disproportionately experiencing injustice in schools, juvenile justice, poverty, and housing. The report calls stakeholders including us to action to eliminate racial disparities in our children's experiences and to do so in partnership with communities of color. Copies of the executive summary were provided and can be download as well as the full report from the Coalition's website.
Iris Maria Chavez, Coordinator of WCK’s Meyer Memorial Foundation funded Community Conversations brought everyone up to date on conversations held to date. Our partner organizations have collaborated with us to conduct almost a dozen focus groups to date. Additional conversations are now being scheduled.
Katie presented Betsy Schultz from Tonkin Torp with a certificate of appreciation for helping WCK attain non-profit status. She also highlighted WCK’s gratitude to Jeff Cogen, Executive Director of Impact NW, and Susan Stoltenberg, former Executive Director of Impact NW and current ED of the YWCA of Greater Portland, for their dedication and support Impact NW’s fiscal sponsorship.
Susan Bender Phelps, first Chair of WCK, introduced guest speaker, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, a long-time supporter of enriching activities for kids. Commissioner Avakian spoke eloquently of the importance of out of school time programs and the room responded with raised hands about their memories of how impactful those experiences had been in their own lives.
The beautiful hand-stitched quilt from the Westside Quilters Guild got many covetous looks and raffle sales from Rachel Gowland to get the lucky ticket were busy. Bidding on the amazing silent auction items compiled by Claire Morgan was fast before it closed out, assisted by Maureen Barnhart and Lindsay Garcia. Event Chair, Luann Pelton was pleased that the event brought in almost $10,000. We are grateful to all for their generosity and happy that everyone who attended had a great time.
Like a Good Neighbor, the Good Neighbor Center is There
By Sal DeTraglia
The tragedy of homelessness in Oregon is not limited to inner-city Portland. Idyllic suburban communities like Tigard and Sherwood also have families in need. Fortunately, the Good Neighbor Center stands ready and able to help. They also offer out of school time support for the children they serve.
The Good Neighbor Center is a clean, beautiful, well-run homeless shelter located at 11130 SW Greenburg Road in Tigard. Established in 1999, The Good Neighbor Center is staffed by eleven employees and countless volunteers.
The Good Neighbor Center’s main facility provides temporary housing for up to nine families. Eligible families must meet three criteria: (a) they must be homeless, (b) they must have at least one child ranging in age from third trimester pregnancy to 17 years, and (c) they must complete a background screening and on-boarding process. The Center’s operations, and the waiting list for applicant families, are managed by Hillsboro based Community Action Organization.
Eligible families may live at The Good Neighbor Center for up to six weeks, with a possible two-week extension for medical or transitional housing reasons. Each resident family is given a spacious, hostel-style room containing a double bed, two bunk beds, and dressers. The Center also provides community bathrooms and showers, a common sitting area, outdoor playground, a well-equipped kitchen, and a spacious classroom/study/tutoring facility for children.
Resident families may remain in the Center at all times except during the period 9 a.m. to noon each day. Each family is responsible for making their own breakfast and lunch, keeping living areas clean, and performing a designated set of daily chores. Dinners are prepared each night by community volunteers.
The Good Neighbor Center shares Washington County Kids’ passion for out of school time (“OST”) programs and offers resident families an invaluable service called “Homework Club.”
On Mondays through Thursdays during the school year, Homework Club provides the Center’s resident children with an on-site classroom where they can do homework, read books, and receive tutoring. Homework Club also facilitates science experiments, arts and crafts activities, park outings, and play time.
Outside the school year, Homework Club provides a ten-week, daily Summer School program that includes outdoor activities and field trips.
Homework Club is run by the Center’s Resident Youth Specialist, Megan Mornini. Megan moved to Oregon from Maryland more a year ago and holds a bachelor’s degree in school counseling. In addition to running the Club and its tutoring activities, Megan directly contacts each child’s teacher to identify special learning, tutoring, and/or other special needs, coordinates transportation to/from the Center and the child’s school, and helps obtain coats, sports equipment, and other materials as needed for the children to thrive. Community volunteers, including high school students and retired teachers, provide invaluable assistance in making Homework Club run smoothly and effectively.
The Good Neighbor Center also runs an innovative program called the “Housing Stabilization Program” for eligible families staying at the Center. The goal of the Program is to help these families transition from the Center to permanent, independent housing by providing rental assistance and case management.
Families accepted into the Program are placed in a local, subsidized rental apartment. The subsidy gradually decreases—and thus, the rental amount paid by the family gradually increases—until the family’s rent reaches full market rate.
This Housing Stabilization Program extends for one year, and families must meet specified minimum requirements of participation (e.g., completing a Rent Well course, undergoing routine unit inspections, and attending community meetings). A Program advocate is assigned to each participating family. Participation in the Program is limited to twelve families per year, and contingent on vacancies at participating apartment complexes.
The Good Neighbor Center relies on community donations—including but not limited to food, funds, clothing, and supplies—and volunteer service time in order to keep its overhead low and standards of operations high. Excess donations are passed on to other local charities and shelters.
If you’d like to volunteer, make a donation, or cook dinner for the Center’s residents on a given night, please visit https://goodneighborcenter.org/ .