It’s official: Outer East Portland has ‘Spirit’

Of the 17 people who were named 2010 ‘Spirit of Portland’ Award winners, you’ll be amazed to see how many of them come from ‘way East’ of the river …

Many of these seventeen 2010 Spirit of Portland Awards went home with East Portland folks.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The 2010 Spirit of Portland Awards ceremony on November 8 was the highlight of many East Portlanders’ year, as their name was announced and their accolades read before a packed ballroom at the Doubletree Portland Lloyd Center.

We’re including award winners from, or who work in, East Portland in our report.

The Portland City Council sits on the dais at this rare official meeting of our governing officials in East Portland, as the Spirit of Portland Awards gets underway.

Portland Mayor Sam Adams gives a brief welcome to the awards event, and starts right in by calling up the first honoree, Wayne Stoll.

Business Association – Parkrose Business Association

Mayor Sam Adams started off, “The successor to the Parkrose Chamber of Commerce, dating to the 1940s – the Parkrose Business Association (PBA) – has worked since 1986 to grow the Parkrose Business Community through various community-based projects.”

President of the Parkrose Business Association Wayne Stoll, from Century Associates, accepts the award on behalf of his organization.

Adams continued, “PBA partnered with the City to improve Sandy Boulevard, eliminating hazardous street flooding, limiting through-traffic from neighborhood streets, adding bike lanes, and installing landscaped traffic medians.  PBA maintains the traffic island at NE 99th, Sandy and Killingsworth. The Immigrant Statue Project, spearheaded by PBA member Joe Rossi, honors the role immigrants had in development of Parkrose and will commence on the island with seed money from PBA.”

“The PBA Scholarship has given $40,000 to 40 Parkrose High students. The Parkrose Business Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, originated by PBA for fundraising activities, raises funds through projects including the PBA Parkrose Festival and Cruise-In and PBA membership directory.”

PBA President Wayne Stoll accepted the award. After the presentation, Stoll told us, “It’s important for the City to recognize the work that volunteers do in a business association. We work to improve our neighborhood, and our business community – and together, the city as a whole.”

Community Harmony – Mr. Lee Po Cha

Next, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz stepped to the podium.

“Lee Po Cha serves as Associate Director of Programs and Government Relations for the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, an organization he helped found in 1994,” Fritz said. “As a former Hmong refugee from Laos, Lee has dedicated his career to serving Portland’s immigrant and refugee communities and fostering harmony between them and the community at large.”

Lee Po Cha accepts the Spirit of Portland Award from Commissioner Amanda Fritz

Fritz continued, “He co-chairs the Coalition of Communities of Color, a group of local organizations that advocate to local government and foundations, for improved institutional responsiveness to ethnic minority group needs.  Lee’s guidance on successful reconciliation efforts between disparate African refugee groups newly-arrived in Portland also demonstrates his dedication to community harmony, as does his role with the City of Portland’s Diversity and Civic Leadership Engagement Program.

“Lee also dedicates significant time to varied boards and committees, helping design service delivery systems to improve and expand local systems of care.  When individuals feel challenged to address situations involving conflicting goals, interpersonal disagreement, and the like, they often come to Lee for guidance and support – which he graciously provides without fail, in the true spirit of community harmony.”

Community Policing/Public Safety – Brian Wong

It was Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s opportunity to present one of his selected award candidates.

“In September 2008, the controversial Prostitution Free Zones statutes were allowed to sunset,” explained Saltzman. “The impact was significant, turning once-quiet neighborhood streets into de facto brothels. Brian and his neighbors realized they had to act.

“With the help of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, Brian formed the Montavilla Foot Patrol. The Patrol called attention to the prevalence of prostitution along and around 82nd Avenue. He realized more needed to be done. Brian joined with other neighbors to draft and circulate a petition.”

Montavilla Neighborhood Association’s chair Brian Wong, receives his award from Commissioner Dan Saltzman.

Saltzman added, “Brian partnered with me and then East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs to create the Prostitution Advisory Council. Brian co-Chaired and facilitated the meetings. The final report and recommendations were presented to City Council December of 2009; the report represented the work of many and would not have been possible without everyone’s collective effort.

“Currently, Brian is serving as the Chair of Montavilla Neighborhood Association. Recently, he coordinated the Kids Summer Fest. This free event had games, entertainment, movie, food, and 600 packs of school supplies were given away.”

Commissioner’s Award – Ted Gilbert

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish had the opportunity to present awards to individuals and organizations of is choosing. One of them was Ted Gilbert.

“Portland native Ted Gilbert is a passionate and dedicated advocate for a number of worthy causes in our community,” Fish told the audience.

Developer Ted Gilbert is personally honored by Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish.

“Through his volunteer work in East Portland,” Fish Continued, “Ted is helping to make this under-served portion of our city a vibrant, dynamic, and attractive place to live. As co-developer of Montavilla’s Milepost 5, he’s helping bring innovative and affordable live/work space to Portland’s creative class. As co-founder of Gateway Green and Director of Friends of Gateway Green, he’s working to make the vision of a 35-acre open space and recreational destination in Portland’s Gateway neighborhood a reality. He also serves as a member of the Gateway Regional Center Program Advisory Committee, the area’s urban renewal advisory group.

Ted co-founded and served as Director of Albina Community Bancorp, a locally-owned bank investing in our community, and Albina Opportunities Corp., a non-profit venture capital fund emphasizing minority, immigrant, and women-owned businesses.”

Emerging Community Leader – Tom Barnes

Commissioner Amanda Fritz looked pleased as she called this honoree up to the platform.

“Tom Barnes has spent the last year as the Powellhurst-Gilbert Public Safety Chairperson, working on varied public safety issues for the neighborhood,” Fritz stated. “The issues are made even more complex due to the fact that there are over 60 different languages spoken in the neighborhood. He works with his co-organizer, Donna Dionne, for the East Portland Graffiti Clean-up program, for outreach to the 13 East Portland neighborhoods.”

Tom Barnes accepts his Spirit of Portland Award from Commissioner Amanda Fritz

Fritz read on, “Tom has also been working on our Adopt-a-Drain program that was started after the neighborhood flooding 2 years ago.  Tom has been active as an East Portland Action Plan member, belonging to the EPAP Bike sub-committee, Operations committee, and the newly formed MAXaction committee, which is working on concerns that East Portlanders have regarding the MAX system. He is a trainer for the ONI Know Your Neighborhood program, and is actively campaigning to include this program in as many of his interests as possible. Lastly he is a founding member of a newly-formed group in East Portland that is interested in bringing East Portlanders together to share their interests in gardening and food sustainability.”

Powellhurst-Gilbert businessman Richard Blocker, owner of Dick’s Tires, congratulates Tom Barnes on his award.

After the program, Barnes told us, “This is incredibly humbling; I feel very honored to get this award, especially looking at the other recipients of the Spirit of Portland Award. As I said up front, I encourage everyone to get involved as a volunteer. It’s amazing what we can do with just a few eager, caring volunteers.”

Commissioner’s Award – Barbara Rommel

Commissioner Dan Saltzman invited this well known outer East Portland educator up to join him at the podium.

“Barbara Rommel first started in the David Douglas School District as a teacher, and years later, became superintendent,” Saltzman intoned. “Over her twelve-year tenure, Barbara oversaw a fast-growing, diversifying community and student population. She guided the school district through ongoing budget cuts while preserving arts and music programs, and overseeing the construction of a new science building at the high school and expansion of the Howard Horner Performing Arts Center. Her energetic dedication to the students, parents, staff, and community were apparent; she even guest-starred in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ as Grandma Tzeitel.”

Retired David Douglas School District superintendent Barbara Rommel beams, as Commissioner Saltzman presents to her the Spirit of Portland Award.

Saltzman concluded, “Rommel’s relationships with the community in Portland and Multnomah County, as well as collaborations with other school districts, underline her commitment to strengthening the district.”

Small Business – Jean Baker

Smiling as he walked up to the podium, Mayor Adams called for Jean Baker to come forward.

“Jean Baker began by working with the Division/Clinton BA as liaison from the Richmond Neighborhood.  She stayed on to write the D/CBA quarterly newsletter, joined the board, served as secretary, and for 6 years, as its president.

“In 1999 Jean began attending the Alliance of Portland Neighborhood Business Associations (APNBA) meetings as newsletter editor and D/CBA representative, most recently serving three years as its president.  During her presidency, the APNBA board tripled in size, and the budget grew from $50,000 to nearly $300,000, as a result of City funding.  She and her staff found and furnished an office, updated everything from the newsletters to the website, and added five business districts.”

Honored for her support of the small business community, Jean Baker receives her award from Mayor Adams.

“The Mayor continued, “During this time over $380,000 in grant funds were distributed, generating over $1,000,000 in matching dollars, services and volunteer time.  In her last year, she was critical in the process of redefining the organizational focus, values and goals, and hiring an executive director.

“Jean currently sits on the APNBA board as past president, the D/CBA board as vice president, the board at OHSU’s Family Medicine at Richmond as vice president/president-elect, and is active in additional community organizations.

Although no longer the president of the APNBA, this Spirit of Portland Award recipient says she continues help improve area neighborhood business districts.

Baker spoke about her award after the program, “I love it; I’m very pleased – and embarrassed at the same time. About small businesses – I was really tempted to give a 10 minutes speech about the importance of small businesses. We did a quick survey; our business districts support over 20,000 small businesses, and 100,000 employees.

“I’m accepting this award on behalf of all the people helping their neighborhood business districts and commercial districts, and ‘neighborhoods looking good’. A neighborhood with a terrible business district is really not a neighborhood,” Baker added.

Non-Profit Organization – Portland YouthBuilders

“Founded in 1995, Portland YouthBuilders is committed to giving low-income youth who have dropped out of high school a second chance at success,” observed Commissioner Saltzman. “At Portland YouthBuilders, students work on completing their high school education while learning a trade that can help them enter a career in either construction or computer technology.”

Portland YouthBuilders’ executive director, Jill Walters, accepts the Spirit of Portland Award on behalf of her organization.

Saltzman continued, “Whether building houses for low-income families or creating websites for nonprofit organizations, all of their students learn the value and importance of hard work, caring for the community, and being positive leaders.  Their goal is to move our students out of poverty and into self-sufficiency.”

Sandy Diedrich Award – Ed Kerns

Rounding out East Portland’s awardees, Commissioner Fritz told the assembly that she’d created a new Sprit of Portland Award for 2010, named in honor of parks activist Sandy Diedrich.

“Fifteen years ago, Ed Kerns created the Lents Springwater Habitat Restoration Project, which coordinates clean-up efforts and native tree plantings along the Springwater Corridor within the Lents neighborhood,” Fritz said. “These plantings are done by the residents of Lents, but primarily by the kids of that neighborhood – from schools such as Kelly and Lents Elementary, Marshall High School, and many others.

“In addition to the 8 or 10 annual tree plantings, Ed provides a short curriculum on the history of the Springwater Corridor and Johnson Creek, as well as habitat restoration and watershed management. Ed also manages monthly volunteer workdays for the removal of concrete, asphalt, brick, non-native plants, and illegal dumps, to prepare areas for future plantings.  These crews also maintain previous plantings by weeding, mulching, and watering.  Over the history of this project, there have been over 100 plantings of 30,000 native trees and shrubs by 3,000 kids and 1,500 adults.”

Ed Kearns accepts the first-ever “Sandy Diedrich Spirit of Portland Award” from Commissioner Fritz.

Continuing, Fritz added, “Removing this amount of concrete and asphalt impervious surface from within the flood zone of Johnson creek will improve stormwater retention.  Replacing this impervious debris with clean soil and native plants will greatly improve wildlife habitat and beautify this ‘natural area’.

“But maybe, the larger benefits can be viewed more in terms of community involvement and education. The students who participate in this project are learning about native plants, watershed management, and how to work together to build, value and maintain public property. Most of all though – by working with the youth of this neighborhood – Ed is hoping to establish a few thousand community stewards or environmentalists for Portland’s future.”

Ed Kerns says he’s both honored, and humbled, by the award presented to him.

After the ceremony, Kearns said, “I’m honored to be included with such an honorable group of Portland heroes. Sandra Diedrich was one of the main founders of the ‘No Ivy League’; and she did a lot of work and mentoring with kids. I am so honored to have my name appear with hers.”

Pamela Jones, a guest from Yorkshire, England (and Amanda Fritz’s mom) gets ready to enjoy a slice of celebration cake, served by her daughter.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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