United Way of the Columbia-Willamette
Celebrating 2013!

Last night we held our annual staff party at Punch Bowl Social in downtown Portland. Did you know that your United Way contacts are also great singers, bowlers, skee-ball players and dart players?

It was a fun time and there was also a purpose: To celebrate the accomplishments of 2013 and look forward to 2014. Your support and generosity has meant that 2013 has been a successful year as we’ve launched our new strategic focus on breaking the cycle of childhood poverty. In 2014, we can do even more. We are better together!

Hello from Vietnam!

Our President/CEO Keith Thomajan, and his wife and two sons are visiting Vietnam, where Keith’s youngest son was born. Left to right from top: Keith in his LIVE UNITED t-shirt along the Mekong River, Keith and his family, Ben Thanh market, a sculpture in Ho Chi Minh city, a Buddhist pagoda, and Phan Thiet on the coast.

The United Way team had a fun time at our recent 5th Annual “Pumpkin Patch Potluck and Putt-Putt Playoff” - aka our in-office mini-golf tournament. In-office golf tournaments where each of your teams create their own mini-golf holes can be a fun, free event for your United Way Giving Campaign. It also promotes team-building for your employees!

New façade and lobby makes UW building more welcoming

We just finished a major remodel of the lobby and exterior façade of our building at 619 SW 11th Ave in downtown Portland. We own the building and most of our tenants are also nonprofits. It’s another way to generate revenue and help the community, plus offer an affordable space to organizations that do great work.

Our new look is warmer and more welcoming, and also bold and inspirational! It’s a perfect way to showcase our energy and excitement about breaking the cycle of childhood poverty in our region.

Stop by and check it out next time you’re downtown.

Special thank you to local firms DAO Architecture and Precision Construction Company for their work.

Intel retiree takes the next step to give back

After 30 years at Intel — our largest corporate supporter —Mary Vander Yacht is giving back in a new way by volunteering for our volunteer program, Hands On Greater Portland. It’s all thanks to another example of Intel’s dedication to giving back, a program that lets retirees work part-time with a local nonprofit and still receive insurance and a salary.

At Intel, Vander Yacht started in the fabrication plant where chips are made and eventually worked proofreading specs for the plant. When she started in the early 1980s, Intel had a small campus in Aloha. Over the years Vander Yacht has seen the company grow to be the largest private employer in Oregon— and one of the biggest philanthropists. Over the past 10 years, for example, Intel employees, retirees and the Intel foundation have given $50 million back to the community through their workplace giving program.

Just like Intel, Vander Yacht has been active in her community for many years. She donates through the workplace giving program and actively volunteers. She bakes every week at the Ronald McDonald House and co-chairs the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Hillsboro. This has personal meaning for her as her father is a cancer survivor.

And Intel has made it easy for Vander Yacht to volunteer. For example, they offer easy one-time volunteer opportunities and the Intel Foundation donates matching grants to qualifying schools and non-profit organizations where Intel employees volunteer at least 20 hours per year.

After this history of volunteering, Vander Yacht decided that she was interested in transitioning to a nonprofit career. The Intel program was a perfect fit. It’s giving her a chance to try out nonprofit work for six months and see if it’s a fit.  

In her role at Hands On, Vander Yacht is researching opportunities around social media and marketing. Her help allows Hands On staff to take some things off their plate and focus on building relationships with nonprofits and managing volunteer projects.

Asked what advice she’d give to people who want to volunteer, Vander Yacht says, “Find something you’re interested in and where you can meet other people. Try a lot of different things. There’s so much opportunity to do good here!”

To learn how you can volunteer today, visit the Hands On Greater Portland website.

Let’s talk about breaking the cycle of childhood poverty – in Washington County!

As we’ve started to launch our new focus on breaking the cycle of poverty for kids and their families in our region, we know we can’t do it alone. We all have to work together – and part of that means listening to people in our community. So we held Town Halls in each of the four counties to have open conversations and learn from each other. Our most recent was in Washington County. Unlike previous Town Hall events, this event was a hybrid of a Town Hall and an informational session about grant funding opportunities. We’re saving questions about grant funding for an upcoming post that will recap all the grant info sessions. We got lots of great input about our grant-making guidelines. The final version of the guidelines will be released later today. 

Last chance to vote and win a free t-shirt

Today is your LAST CHANCE to vote for your favorite t-shirt design by youth from New Avenues. Tell us your favorite in the comments below and you could win a free shirt!

New Avenues for Youth provides a path of hope and possibilities for homeless and at-risk youth in the Portland area. You might have met some of the youth they serve if you’ve visited one of downtown Portland’s Ben & Jerry’s, both of which are owned and operated by New Avenues. These ice cream shops provide at-risk youth with paid employment and the professional training needed to pursue a successful career. New Avenues also recently opened a youth-run screen printing business, New Avenues INK. United Way donors helped fund equipment and construction for the shop. Now, three New Avenues youth have designed special-edition United Way t-shirts, and you can vote on your favorite! We’ll print the design that gets the most votes, and one lucky voter will win a shirt hand-printed by the youth at New Avenues INK with the winning design.

Below are our three artists and their designs. Vote by telling us your favorite in the comments!

Let’s talk about breaking the cycle of childhood poverty – in East Multnomah County!

As we’ve started to launch our new focus on breaking the cycle of poverty for kids and their families in our region, we know we can’t do it alone. We all have to work together – and part of that means listening to people in our community. So we are holding Town Halls in each of the four counties to have open conversations and learn from each other. Our most recent was in East Multnomah County and we want to share some of the questions from the audience along with our answers.

Much of what I heard in UWCW’s presentation reminds me of the African immigrant community. According to the Coalition of Communities of Color’s report on the African immigrant community in Multnomah County, this community scores at or near the bottom on nearly every indicator of quality of life.

This is true and example like this are why we’re interested in looking at target populations that are disproportionately affected by poverty, based on their race, language, immigrant/refugee status, etc. It does have to be a balance because at the same time, we want to focus across our four-county region. We need to think about how to build a portfolio that incorporates both our target populations, and also a wide swath of the region we serve.

Eight years ago, United Way took on the issue of homelessness. They said, “We’re going to end homelessness in 10 years.” What is United Way doing around homelessness now? Give me confidence that you’ll follow through with childhood poverty.

We are definitely making a long-term commitment to the issue of childhood poverty. With regard to homelessness, that was actually a ten-year plan that was developed by the Oregon state governor’s office. We were a partner on the project, but not the primary driver. Housing is definitely something we’ve continued to invest in, especially short-term rental assistance, and we’ll continue to do so. That’s most certainly related to the conversation about childhood poverty.

Why invest so much in one community with your Community Transformation strategy?

We are looking for proof points on change in childhood poverty. We won’t be able to break the cycle of childhood poverty in our whole region in three to five years, but by investing in a collaborative that’s ready to move and knows what they want to do, we can see significant change in a single community.

The Community Transformation strategy is where we can make a deeper, longer-term investment. This strategy is intentionally balanced with our other two strategies, Safety Net and Community Strengthening, which provide short-term and middle-term change.

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How is your strategy around funding direct service going to change under the Safety Net strategy?

Safety Net provides direct and immediate service to families in crisis. Also, under our Community Strengthening Strategy, most of the organizations we will fund will be service organizations. Our funds will support the progress they’re making, and we’ll also be able to tie our funding to the metrics that they are recording and showing progress on. This funding won’t go to a specific program, but to the organization’s overall operations. We want to fund what you’re already doing well as an organization.

There’s a lot of work going on in our region focusing on childhood poverty. The question for United Way is, “how do we ramp up and coordinate all of these efforts?”

That will happen through:

  • Leveraging other resources than funding
  • Accountability—how we’re measuring progress
  • Align around childhood poverty while respecting other organizations’ existing work and priorities

We’re lucky that we have a unique position, connected to businesses, nonprofits, philanthropists and more, which allow us to convene efforts around breaking the cycle of childhood poverty.

Meet Our Third T-shirt Designer: Tyler

New Avenues for Youth provides a path of hope and possibilities for homeless and at-risk youth in the Portland area. You might have met some of the youth they serve if you’ve visited one of downtown Portland’s Ben & Jerry’s, both of which are owned and operated by New Avenues. These ice cream shops provide at-risk youth with paid employment and the professional training needed to pursue a successful career. New Avenues also recently opened a youth-run screen printing business, New Avenues INK. United Way donors helped fund equipment and construction for the shop. Now, three New Avenues youth have designed special-edition United Way t-shirts, and you can vote on your favorite! We’ll print the design that gets the most votes, and one lucky voter will win a shirt hand-printed by the youth at New Avenues INK with the winning design. Now…let’s meet our designers. 

Meet Tyler

Tyler grew up in Oregon and is a student at New Avenues for Youth’s alternative school, which helps homeless students pursue their GED, re-enter high school, or get credits for a diploma. In the future, Tyler wants to give back by operating her own restaurant and homeless shelter that gives people a job so they can get experience and build a career. She loves to paint and grew up in an artistic family. On the day that Tyler designed her t-shirt, she’d been singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” so she immediately connected with the rainbow in the United Way logo. When asked what the design means to her, she said that she has a lot of faith in people: “To me it’s saying we can work together to make the world better for everybody.”

Like Tyler’s design? Vote for it now by commenting or reblogging!

Gear for you, jobs for youth!

Looking for screen-printing services? New Avenues INK doesn’t just offer screen-printing, it also provides job training for Portland’s homeless and at-risk youth. The business is owned and operated by New Avenues for Youth as part of its broader efforts to help youth succeed, which includes providing everything from healthy food, housing and  case management to education, job training and paid employment. Investing in job training for youth makes our whole community stronger and helps break the cycle of childhood poverty. That’s why United Way gave New Avenues a grant last year to buy equipment and build out space for the INK shop.

“Thanks to United Way, we’re able to provide 30 more jobs each year to the youth who need them the most,” said Sara Weihmann, New Avenues enterprise director. “Our youth get to work in all areas of the business, building job skills for today and sustainable futures for tomorrow.”

Now, three New Avenues youth have designed special-edition United Way t-shirts and you can vote on your favorite! The shirt with the most votes will get printed and one lucky voter will get a shirt. See the youth hard at work in the photos below and vote for your favorite design.