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Helen Silvis of The Skanner News
Published: 25 January 2012

The 11:45 initiative, which mobilizes volunteers to support Portland youth and families, is expanding. More pastors are bringing their congregations to the table, and more than 400 volunteers have signed up.  At the same time, the city and county's youth violence prevention efforts have gained new programs and staff.  
Currently, 11:45 is adding more church communities and a website,  Eleven45.org where you can sign up to join the effort. They also have a Twitter stream @Eleven45pdx and a Facebook page, and  a  dedicated communications and support volunteer, Marcie Spruill.  A call has gone out to each participating church for a point person, to assist with coordination.

"11:45 has just taken off to such a degree that it is outrunning us," said Pastor George Merriweather at an 11:45 community event,  (Picured above) Jan. 20, at Life Change Christian Center. "So we realized that we have to strengthen our existing structure and add some new structure. We also want to strengthen our volunteer base."

Merriweather was one of five church leaders who created 11:45 last year in response to an increase in violent crimes involving young people. The plan was to mobilize 100 volunteers who would commit to offering 45 minutes of their time every week for one year. About 400 people answered that initial call, with more than 300 signing up to mentor youth.

A Boost For Violence Prevention Efforts

Portland's gang task force gained some new faces Jan. 20 at the Northeast police precinct on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and N.E. Killingsworth St.  The task force meets every second Friday at 10 a.m.  Antoinette Edwards, now leading the Office of Youth Violence Prevention, introduced key players, who will be spearheading new efforts to support families and keep youth out of the justice system.
Rebecca Stavenjord, coordinator of Multnomah County's new STRYVE program introduced staff members. Funded through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control, STRYVE will help coordinate community prevention work. Stavenjord vows to keep community members front and center of the work.

"We want this to be an authentic community process and we want it to be infused with the strength that already exists in the community," she told The Skanner News.
So far STRYVE has hired Lane Community College student Derriel Ingram as a part-time weekend youth organizer. Two more community organizers are being hired from 130 people who applied for the jobs.  Portland is one of just four cities to receive Stryve funding. The Centers for Disease Control created the Stryve program to tackle youth violence from a public health perspective. Violence is a health problem because violence is the leading cause of death for young African American men.
Joe McFerrin, president and CEO of Portland Opportunities and Industrialization Center explained POIC's four programs that work with youth and families. The high school program helps disadvantaged and gang-affected students stay in school and graduate. It works with youth until age 25. The Civic Justice Corps program works with young people with a juvenile justice history, helping them get GED's or diplomas as well as work skills. The Summer Works program offers paid work to 90 students every summer.  And a new Community Healing Initiative will offer intensive wraparound support to 60 high-risk youth and their families. The Latino Network is offering a similar program.

Pictured: Top, Joe McFerrin at right addressed the Gang Violence Response Task Force Friday.
Center, Roberta Phillips, (L) with Rebecca Stavenjord.  Phillips chairs the Multnomah County sub-committee on youth violence that will supervise the planning phase of the STRYVE grant. Stavenjord is the coordinator.

The original 11:45 pastor group is:  Pastor George Merriweather of Northeast Community Fellowship Church, Bishop C.T. Wells of Emmanuel Temple, Bishop Steven Holt of The International Fellowship Family, Dr. W.G Hardy Jr. of Highland United Church of Christ, Bishop Marcus Pollard of Emmanuel Church of God In Christ United, and Dr. Mark Strong of Life Change Christian Center. Joining them now are: Pastor Stewart Minnieweather  of  Open Bible Community Church;  Pastor Cliff Chappell  of St. Johns All Nations Church of God in Christ; Pastor Donna Davis of Bethel AME Church; Pastor Andrew Miller  of  Life Change Christian Center; and Pastor Robin Franklin of  Hughes Memorial United Methodist.

 Volunteers commit to serve in one of four areas: There, Share, Care and Prayer. 'There' volunteers form a visible presence in streets and parks. 'Connected' organized by John Canda, Robert Richardson, Sam Sachs and others has taken the lead on that effort.

Share volunteers have become mentors, many working with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Columbia NW. More than 300 people already have stepped forward to share.

Care volunteers are building a directory of resources available through each church and in the community. They also are reaching out to grieving families with practical help and supportive listening. Other items on the care agenda: crisis support and prison visiting.

Prayer volunteers commit to supporting the efforts through active prayer.

11:45 has been recognized with the city's Spirit of Portland Award.  And this week Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Columbia Northwest will honor 11:45 with the Community Impact award at its 3rd annual Evening of Impact on Thursday, Jan. 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at NW Natural, 220 NW 2nd Ave., Portland.

"This has surpassed buzz and it has become interest," said Chabre Vickers, director of community relations and diversity programs for the mentoring nonprofit. "It's become emails and calls. People are asking me,'How are you doing this? In the least-churched state?"

The next quarterly 11:45 community event will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.,  April 20, at the Northeast Community Fellowship, 636 N.E. Stanton.  Visit the website to get involved sooner.

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