Jenny Glass departs Rosewood

Read about our visit with Jenny Glass, who was involved in the Rosewood Initiative in outer East Portland, back from before it existed …

May 14, 2011, then AmeriCorps member Jenny Glass takes a moment for a photo, with Portland Police Bureau Lt. John Scruggs, and former AmeriCorps member Mike Vander Veen, at the “groundbreaking” of what they’d hoped would become the Rosewood Café, sited in the Centennial neighborhood.

Story and archive photos by David F. Ashton

A driving force behind the Rosewood Initiative – its first Executive Director, Jenny Glass – stepped down a couple of weeks ago. She graciously gave East Portland News an “exit interview” as she transitioned out of her position.

Rosewood history
In late 2009, Portland Police Bureau’s then East Precinct Sergeant John Scruggs – who went on to become a lieutenant, and retired in 2016 as a Captain – started working with members of the then-named City of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement, about what were then called “Crime Prevention Coordinators” – the goal being to help reduce crime and increase livability along the TriMet MAX Light Rail Blue Line.

These grassroots efforts were centered on SE 162nd Avenue, from north of East Burnside Street, south of SE Stark Street.

Paintbrush in hand, Jenny Glass is one of dozens of people who helped turn a vacated pool hall into the Rosewood Center.

AmeriCorps member joins in
Joining with Scruggs was Jenny Glass, who originally began working at an old desk in the conference room in what was then called the East Portland Neighborhood Office – and went on to become the Executive Director of the Rosewood Initiative – until she left the post in this past August.

“My assignment for AmeriCorps was a Community Organizing role started in November of 2010, and it was really vague; my general direction was to do Asset Based Community Development work, in the area around SE 162nd Avenue and Stark Street,” Glass recalled.

“Essentially, I was working to get to know the community, and see what I could do to support community leaders.”

At a gathering, Jenny Glass spends a moment with Multnomah County Commissioner, District 4Lori Stegmann.

When The Rosewood Initiative first began, it was an evolution from the police-driven, community-safety-focused “Project 162” – intended to help create a vision of a community where everyone belongs, and is welcome, Glass explained.

“That vision was developed by a small group of people that came together to think about public safety in a fundamentally different way. This vision was the impetus for dozens of community meetings to establish the organization’s mission, strategies, and programs.

“Those community meetings were attended by neighbors, business owners, nonprofit partners, educators, public safety officials, and government agencies, each of which wanted to work collaboratively toward a safer, healthier community,” Glass said.

After being congratulated by then-Mayor Charlie Hales for Rosewood being given a 2014 Spirit of Portland award, Jenny Glass struggles to retain her composure while accepting the accolade.

This idea of gathering together diverse groups and working for a positive outcome in the area caught on, she said. Glass became Rosewood’s Executive Director in November of 2011. When she was selected for the position, she summed up her initial reaction in one word: “Inadequate!”

“And, I remember being really scared; I didn’t know what it meant to be an Executive Director – in fact, I had never even worked at a nonprofit. But I also felt determined to use my privilege to support the folks that I was getting to know.

“So, I signed up to for the position with no experience, and a guarantee of only a few months of funding for my salary; but, both then and ever since, it always has felt like a huge honor, to be trusted in that role.”

In the comfortable setting of Rosewood, Jenny Glass explains one of their program offerings to neighbors.

“The Rosewood Initiative has gone on to become a vehicle for so much positivity that we could have never predicted or planned; that’s been the real magic of Rosewood.

“It’s been important because it has brought people together. We’ve grown stronger as a community, and more understanding of differences as individuals,” remarked Glass. “Because of these human connections, the folks that I talked with in the community ten years ago had said that they felt ‘forgotten’ – but after we had the community center and we were really doing something together, it catalyzed a lot of hope for the future.”

At one of their many big National Night Out events, food organizer Shelli Thompson of Parklane Christian Reform Church, and Jenny Glass, pause for a photo while assembling dinner supplies for the barbecue.

Glass gave us some “bullet points” about the objectives that had been realized at The Rosewood Initiative:

  • “Together, we built a very successful community center that has hosted thousands of events, programs, classes, celebrations, and workshops with the diverse community in Rosewood; you name it, we’ve done it or hosted it!
  • “We supported the development of local leaders who are now in paid professional roles at the City of Portland and Multnomah County, as well as many other nonprofits around the region.
  • “We have raised the awareness of the Rosewood community, outer East Portland, and East Multnomah County from a “fringe conversation” to widely discussed public discourse about racial, social, and economic inequities.
  • “We listened to this diverse community and made strategic partnerships with organizations that could the support specific ideas and needs of Rosewood neighbors, and we built programs like Legal Services Day, Guerreras Latinas, and Rosewood English classes which have impacted thousands of people across Multnomah County.
  • “We advocated with the community for needed investments, and successfully got a new TriMet N/S bus line (with another one coming in the near future), $50 million+ in transportation safety investments, and $20 million+ in parks investments – plus so many much more investment in programming and people.

 

At one of their past events, Jossie de la Garza receives commendations and a “Heart of Rosewood” plaque from Jenny Glass.

Thankful for community supporters
Glass kept stressing in our conversation that she didn’t build Rosewood alone, but instead, with the help and support of many people.

“First, I thank Mike Vander Veen and long-time Centennial Community Association Chair Tom Lewis for doing the work to get the AmeriCorps position started, welcoming me into the community, and making so many introductions to folks.

“I’m thankful for the East Portland (Neighborhood) Community Office crew that gave me enough support and enough flexibility, Richard Bixby, and Eliza Lindsay; and, East Portland Action Plan Advocate lore Wintergreen for showing me what relentless bureaucratic activism looks like,” Glass commended.

At the kickoff of the major remodeling campaign in November, 2016, Jenny Glass spend a moment with then Rosewood Board Chair Jhoselyn Hernandez.

“There would be no Rosewood without the original founding board – those bold leaders and innovative thinkers Thompson Morrison, Shea Marshman, John Scruggs, and Robert Barzler. Thompson has remained a mentor and guide for me this past decade, and there would be no Rosewood without his steady support of my leadership.

“And there are hundreds of community members to thank and appreciate, whom I’ve learned so much from, and feel so grateful to have known and worked with: Antwoine, Valerie, Christy and Daniel, Rashad, Keyard, Jason, Aaron, Nelyn, Herico, Jes, MayMay, Pastor Bill, Harry, Michelle – and this list goes on and on.

“All of our staff and all of our board members and all of our volunteers and all of our partners that have served the Rosewood community and the Rosewood organization so generously and selflessly – yep, there are way too many to list,” Glass conceded.

Welcomes Sabrina Wilson
Glass said she is honored to “pass the torch” to incoming Rosewood Executive Director Sabrina Wilson. “I’m so excited to see where she and the Rosewood team will take the work.

“It’s a difficult time in the world, and communities like Rosewood are the hardest hit, so it won’t be easy. But there’s so much opportunity right now for Blacks, Indigenous peoples, and People of Color to find solutions that will transform our neighborhoods and our nation. I look forward to supporting from the sidelines,” Glass pointed out.

What’s next for Jenny Glass? “I’m going to be using the deep knowledge and skills I have been fortunate to acquire at Rosewood to continue my service in building a healthier and more equitable Portland community,” she concluded.

To stay in touch with The Rosewood Initiative, see their official website: CLICK HERE.

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™

 

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