12-13-2017  5:14 am      •     
MLK Breakfast
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NEWS BRIEFS

Special Call for Stories about the Spanish Flu

Genealogical Forum of Oregon seeks stories from the public about one of history's most lethal outbreaks ...

Joint Office of Homeless Services Announces Severe Weather Strategy

Those seeking shelter should call 211 or visit 211.org. Neighbors needed to volunteer, donate cold-weather apparel ...

Q&A with Facebook's Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams

A conversation on diversity and the tech industry ...

City Announces Laura John as Tribal Liason

Laura John brings an extensive background in tribal advocacy and community engagement to the city of Portland ...

Humboldt Sewer Repair Project Update: Dec. 4

Environmental Services continues to repair more than 3 miles of public sewer pipes ...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

OPINION

The Skanner Editorial: Alabama Voters Must Reject Moore

Allegations of predatory behavior are troubling – and so is his resume ...

Payday Lenders Continue Attack on Consumer Protections

Charlene Crowell of the Center for Responsible Lending writes that two bills that favor predatory lenders has received bipartisan...

Hundreds Rallied for Meek Mill, but What About the Rest?

Lynette Monroe, a guest columnist for the NNPA Newswire, talks about Meek Mill, the shady judge that locked him up and mass...

Top 10 Holiday Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet

Dr. Jasmine Streeter explains why pampering pets with holiday treats can be dangerous (and pricey) ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

ENTERTAINMENT

United Way CEO Keith Thomajan
Helen Silvis Special To The Skanner News

United Way CEO Keith Thomajan, photo courtesy United Way of the Columbia Willamette

A year into his new job at United Way of the Columbia Willamette, CEO Keith Thomajan was at a crossroads. Listening to his staff and board, Thomajan had heard their hunger for real change. At the same time, reports on family poverty in Multnomah County showed the problems were persistent.

"Nearly half of the kids in our region are growing up in desperately low-income families," Thomajan says.

"On a daily basis they are making choices between food and rent. That was staggering to me."

United Way staff knew they had been funding some excellent work, but they wanted to do more. They wanted to break the cycle of poverty that sees children who are born poor stay poor."

"Despite our long history of doing good, we saw that our kids and families in poverty were falling farther and farther behind," Thomajan says. "And when we looked at the data by race, we saw profound and savage inequalities for communities of color."

United Way of the Columbia Willamette estimates that from 2000-2012 child poverty rose by 65 percent across its service area: Clark, Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties. That means about 100,000 children in our region live in poverty.

Founded 125 years ago, United Way is made up of dozens of local groups which each set their own funding priorities. Taken together, these local groups form the largest nonprofit in the world, pulling in donations of more than $5 billion a year.

Locally United Way of the Columbia Willamette brought in $21.6 million last year. Donors earmarked just over $12 million for their favorite charities. The rest will go to the nonprofit’s three key programs:

  •       Successful Families 2020: a five-year community transformation effort that aims to raise children out of poverty. The program will focus on black and other minority children hit hardest by the cycle of poverty.
  •       Community Strengthening: funding 30 nonprofits working with low-income families to reduce poverty.
  •       Community Safety Net: short-term funding for programs that help families with housing, food, heat and crisis assistance.

Thomajan, just named Nonprofit CEO of the Year by the Portland Business Journal, says breaking the cycle of poverty demanded a new approach.

To get there, United Way’s leadership group rewrote their funding policies. Instead of doling out grants check by check to worthy programs, they would make a bigger long-term commitment to a smaller group of organizations. And instead of funding each nonprofit to work alone, United Way would ask them to work together.

The new community transformation strategy, Successful Families 2020, is at the heart of the new plan. It will fund six nonprofits for five years: Self Enhancement Inc., Albina Head Start; Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization; Latino Network; Metropolitan Family Service; and the Native American Youth and Family Center. Self Enhancement Inc., is the lead organization.

The six will share $750,000 a year for the next five years, a total of $3.75 million. The money is unrestricted, but it comes with a mission. All six organizations must work together to shift the needle on poverty.

Across the region, 100,000 –that’s one in five – children are living in poverty. Successful Families 2020 will work with around 5,000 of those children, helping them graduate from school. Up to 200 of those students should be able to attend college, improving the group's expected lifetime earnings by $150 million.

"These are all organizations that are getting outsize outcomes," Thomajan says. "Our belief is that if we can start to amplify success for these families we will begin to see systemic change."

Child Poverty by Race in Multnomah County

White Alone: 18 percent

African American: 52 percent

American Indian/Alaska Native: 49 percent

Asian: 15 percent

Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 43 percent

2+ Races: 19 percent

Hispanic/Latino: 38 percent

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