Outer East Portlanders win four 2014 Spirit of Portland Awards

Discover who and what were honored at this year’s ceremony …

As the 2014 Spirit of Portland Awards program gets underway, Mayor Charlie Hales, Commissioners Amanda Fritz, Nick Fish, and Dan Saltzman – and Andrea Valderrama, sitting in for absent Steve Novick – prepare their remarks.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Many folks from the area had to travel quite a distance to attend the 2014 Spirit of Portland Awards ceremony this year, on the evening of November 6; but three major organizations and one individual from outer East Portland found the trip rewarding.

Thanks to helpful employees, honorees and guests found their way to the Atrium area of Legacy Emanuel Hospital in North Portland, where a stage and seating was set up, along with draping, to fashion a temporary auditorium.

Guests were greeted with snacks of meats, cheeses, crackers, and fruit, and were serenaded by musician Tito Maye playing guitar and pan pipes.

Before the program, attendees dine on meats, cheeses, crackers and fruit.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales says he’s glad so many people gathered to celebrate Portland’s outstanding volunteers.

“There is a lot of joy in this room,” Portland Mayor Charlie Hales told East Portland News. “This is a great event at which we celebrate ‘heroes’ in our community. These are people who stepped up as volunteers, not politicians, in their communities. Many times, theirs is a thankless job – this is our way to say ‘thank you’ to those who have given so much to the City.”

Previewing the upcoming awards, Hales added, “East Portland is now really part of the City family. That’s why it’s great that we see so many awards going to outer East Portland programs and activists – people who have made this community better already.”

After opening greetings from the organizer, City of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement’s Victor M. Salinas, he introduced Mayor Hales.

Mayor Hales welcomes attendees to the awards ceremony.

As part of his opening remarks, Hales quoted Oregon Governor Tom McCall, saying, “Volunteers are heroes [but are not remembered with] giant statues framed against a red sky. Heroes are people who say, ‘This is my community, and it’s my responsibility to make it better’. Tonight, we’re celebrating our community heroes.”

The 21 awards were presented out of sequence, to accommodate an honoree who needed to depart for the evening. Then, the Mayor and Portland City Commissioners took turns presenting awards.

2014 Spirit of Portland Community Award
East Portland Action Plan

Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz tells why the East Portland Action Plan is being presented a Community Award.

“The East Portland Action Plan is a multifaceted integrative plan, developed to improve livability and prevent displacement in East Portland,” Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz began. “East Portland has: 20% of the land mass of the City of Portland; 25% of the City’s population; and 40% of the City’s students. It has significant diversity: schools with 52% Spanish as a first language, and the highest density of new Portland/immigrant/refugee community members; and it has high rates of poverty: averaging 72% free or reduced school lunch eligibility, with some schools at 92%.

“The East Portland Action Plan activists (EPAP) have set a new standard for community involvement and activism in the City of Portland for the past five years. The EPAP has 12 open committees that meet monthly, and 25 issue-based representatives. Once a month an average of 55 community members converge at a general EPAP meeting to coordinate implementation of the Action Plan by hearing reports and discussing pertinent issues. At these meetings, priorities are established, and decisions are made by consensus.

Committee members and leaders of the East Portland Action Plan receive the 2014 Spirit of Portland Community Award.

“Advocacy has spanned topics from improved coordination between municipal governments and the five public school districts in East Portland – to transportation safety improvements and city parks infrastructure improvements – to tree planting – to building community involvement in several language and in cultural-specific underrepresented communities. The work of EPAP goes beyond that of individual organizations, neighborhoods, or a single municipality. EPAP manages to bring all of us together for common cause,” Fritz concluded.

2014 Spirit of Portland Mayor’s Award
The Rosewood Initiative

Mayor Charlie Hales tells why he’s honoring The Rosewood Initiative at the 2014 Spirit of Portland Awards.

Mayor Hales invited those present who are associated with the the Rosewood Initiative to step up, and told why they were selected for this accolade.

“The Rosewood Initiative is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to making the Rosewood area, located in a 15-block area around the intersection of 162nd and East Burnside, a desirable place to live, work, and play,” Hales said.

“The Rosewood Initiative is building a safe, healthy, respectful, vibrant, and inclusive community that brings prosperity to everyone in Rosewood. They are empowering community members to drive meaningful and positive change, in partnership with agencies across Portland, Gresham, and Multnomah County jurisdictions. Residents and businesses connect with one another to align resources and achieve shared goals.

Committee members and leaders of the The Rosewood Initiative receive the 2014 Spirit of Portland Mayor’s Award.

“Through the work of staff and volunteers, the Rosewood Community Center has become a neighborhood hub, where neighbors can stop by for myriad reasons, including Zumba classes, Parent/Child classes, after-school activities, community space rental, and computer/Internet access. Additionally, through a partnership with Work Systems Inc, the community center now provides valuable employment services, coaching, and research for community members looking for employment.

“Focusing on four priority action areas – public safety, business district development, place making, and job creation and connection – the Rosewood Initiative is working to complete their vision of a neighborhood where people want to live and where local business thrive with community support,” Hales explained.

The Rosewood Initiative Executive Director Jenny Glass says their organization is honored to receive the Mayor’s Award.

“It is really great to be here, accepting this honor, with all of my team, my crew,” said Rosewood Initiative Executive Director Jenny Glass. “The Rosewood crew has worked so hard over the last few years to bring resources to our community.

“We started this an area known for not much more than its crime,” Glass continued. “When we started this a few years ago, Rosewood was not on the map. It was an area ‘lost’ between Portland and Gresham. It is just amazing that a few years later, here these volunteers are, getting an award from Portland’s Mayor. It’s great being in the company of so many great people who made this happen.”

2014 Spirit of Portland Commissioner’s Award
Dr. Karen Fischer Gray

Walking up to the podium to receive her award is Parkrose School District Superintendent of Education Dr. Karen Fischer Gray.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish presented his Commissioner’s Award to Parkrose School District Superintendent of Education Dr. Karen Fischer Gray.

“Dr. Karen Fischer Gray has been serving the Portland community for 8 years,” Commissioner Fish started out. “She has been in Oregon 25 years, in education for 35 years, and a Superintendent for 12. As a public educator, and now as Superintendent of Parkrose School District, Karen has been a steadfast advocate and voice for East Portland students and their families.

Commissioner Nick Fish tells why Dr. Gray was selected to receive his award.

Dr. Karen Fischer Gray accepts a 2014 Spirit of Portland Commissioner’s Award from Nick Fish.

“Under Karen’s leadership, Parkrose School District helped students increase their test scores, built a LEED-certified beautiful new middle school, and adapted in order to better welcome Parkrose’s diverse families. Parkrose not only offers personal meetings, tailored to the specific cultural needs of students and their families, but the school district has also served as a center for vibrant cultural events in the community.

“In addition to her outstanding educational leadership, Karen also serves the larger Portland community. She is a strong voice for the East Portland Action Plan, helping to build community in our East Portland neighborhoods. She also has what many would consider a second full-time job, as an active member of the City’s Planning & Sustainability Commission.

“Karen’s love for her community, and for the children and families she serves, inspires us all,” Fish commended, as he invited Dr. Gray to speak.

Dr. Karen Fischer Gray responds to being presented a Spirit of Portland award.

“We work for all of the kids in the families in the City of Portland,” Gray responded. “But most especially I work for our families who reside in outer East Portland. It is to them that I dedicate this award. Thank you.”

After the program, Dr. Gray told East Portland News, “This award means a lot to me, because it signifies how hard a lot of us have worked for children and families and our communities. So, getting the Spirit of Portland Award just feels good and it feels right, after so much hard work a lot of us have put in to help our city.

2014 Spirit of Portland Commissioner’s Award
Jade District Steering Committee

Members of the Jade District Steering Committee gather to receive their Commissioner’s Award.

In the absence of Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick, his Policy Advisor Andrea Valderrama presented his accolades, telling why he chose the Jade District Steering Committee to honor.

“The vision, dedication, and inclusive collaboration led by the Jade District Steering Committee culminated this year in the opening of the Jade International Night Market and the Harrison Park School Community Garden,” Valderrama said. “The Jade District encompasses the only Census tract in City of Portland with a majority of residents of color, and the greatest concentration of Asian residents in the State. The District is also home to a significant population of Pacific Islander, Latino, Slavic, and African immigrants.

“The steering committee’s efforts to develop robust communication networks to engage diverse cultural groups in the district have bridged language barriers and improved neighborhood safety and livability. The committee has also elevated the District’s success nationally, and is being hailed as an example of community revitalization for diverse populations.

“Thanks to a close partnership with the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) and the Portland Development Commission (PDC), the Jade International Night Market brought together thousands of Portlanders each night. The market debuted in August 2014 and was open for four evenings. Additionally, the Jade District Steering Committee was integral in the June 2014 opening of a community garden at Harrison Park School, the most diverse K-8 in the Portland Public School District.

On behalf of the Jade District Steering Committee, Board Member Anita Yap accepts the award.

“I’m a resident of the district, and also on the board of APANO, and I thank you for giving us this award,” began Steering Committee Board Member Anita Yap, accepting the award on behalf of the Jade District. “This is a great opportunity to be able to talk about the Jade International District. It’s not the new ‘China Town’; it is an international District.

“Earlier this year we did a ‘community vision’ project in six languages, and had a wonderful opportunity for looking at what the 82nd Avenue of Roses can look like in a multicultural, multiethnic, multigenerational community.”

Yap recalled the success of the Jade District Night Market, saying that Venture Portland recently awarded their organization funding for it to return in 2015.

“We are working on local economic development, doing multigenerational organizing in David Douglas, Parkrose, and Madison High Schools,” Yap said. “And, we’re doing some elder organizing; [for example], meeting with people at Kirkland Manor at SE 82nd Avenue and Powell Boulevard to talk about safety, and getting around the neighborhood.”

With that, Yap thanked by name many supporters who have helped the Jade District succeed.

2014 Spirit of Portland Community Award
Portland Mercado

The Portland Mercado is also a “Community Award” recipient, Mayor Hales announces.

Mayor Hales stepped up and introduced the Portland Mercado as a “Community Award” recipient.

“The Portland Mercado is a community economic development initiative of Portland nonprofit, Hacienda CDC,” Hales said. “The project is a grassroots initiative – Hacienda CDC’s response to the high percentage of unemployed Latinos living in our region, and the lack of access to culturally-specific products and affordable business opportunities available in the City.

“The process to develop the Mercado began by surveying and interviewing Latino community members, which revealed the strong desire and potential for a Portland replication of a Latino public marketplace. Since 2010, Hacienda CDC and its “comunidad viva”, along with governmental, fiscal, and community supporters have teamed together to create a true cross-sector development that has the potential to transform the livelihoods of Latino business owners, families, and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods, spanning the area known as the Lents Urban Renewal Area.

“Portland has the opportunity to develop and bring amenities to neighborhoods without displacing people, and the Foster corridor is a great place to do it right. The Portland Mercado is just part of the current efforts to transform a neighborhood with a lot of history and community support. Ultimately, the Portland Mercado can serve as an example of how a nonprofit that works together, across sectors, can deliver equitable business and job producing opportunities,” Hales commended.

Mayor Charlie Hales presents the 2014 Spirit of Portland Community Award for the Portland Mercado to Hacienda CDC Executive Director Victor Merced and Board Chair Guillermo Sandoval of Banner Bank.

“What we do at Hacienda CDC is not a one-person job,” responded Hacienda CDC Executive Director Victor Merced. “It is a collaboration of community members, staff, and supporters. We’ve coined the term we call it “Latinismo” – which means that everything we do, and especially in developing the Mercado, will exude the Latin culture and celebrate this with all the citizens of the Portland.”

After the ceremony, officials and guests mingled and shared a slice of ceremonial cake, celebrating the good fortune of having volunteers who strive for continued improvement in the Rose City.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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