Reflections Coffeehouse owner Gloria McMurtrey, Red Cross emergency educator Clarence Harper, Loretta Young. manager of the City of Portland's Minority and Women Business program, and Pastor Fred Woods are among the Spirit of Portland Award winners announced last week.
The award ceremony will be held in the Council Chamber at City Hall on Thursday,
Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. with a reception immediately following. City Hall is located at 1221 SW 4th Ave.
Young, who is on the board of National Forum for Black Public Administrators, and served on Mayor Tom Potter's Charter Review Commission, will be honored for Public Involvement. Pastor Woods, who has worked with area youth and homeless Portlanders for decades, receives the Independent Spirit Award.
Gloria McMurtrey, winner in the Community Harmony category, has run the Reflections Coffeeshop on Northeast Killingsworth Street at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard for 13 years.
She was honored for providing such a vital gathering space, which was recently renovated into a free community computer lab, in partnership with the Sabin Community Development Corporation.
"The most important thing is that it's a central meeting place for many viable organizations in the community as well as a place for local residents to just commune with each other about neighborhood issues, political issues, world issues,"
McMurtrey said. "And play chess."
Regular customers at Reflections on any given day might include lawmakers, kids, parents, retirees, construction workers, schoolteachers and commanders from the Northeast Precinct next door.
McMurtrey can't think of any single memorable event that stands out from her years as a barista. Rather, she says, what's remarkable about her business is the flow of friends and neighbors through her doors.
"It's hard to say any one event – because it kind of happens daily. You know what I'm saying? Even when a mother from the Boys and Girls Club comes over and says, I told my son to come over an meet me here if I'm ever late picking him up because it's a safe environment," she said.
"That's kind of like how I always thought Reflections should be, it's a safe space for children and adults – and safe doesn't necessarily mean just bodily safe, it means that I can say the things I want to say without people pointing their fingers – people feel very comfortable to voice their opinions about things, and reach out to other people."
Clarence Harper will be honored with the Emergency Preparedness award. He helps staff the fire call desk at the Oregon Trail chapter of the American Red Cross, fielding calls from concerned neighbors, Fire Battalion Chiefs and others involved in disaster-related incidents.
He is a member-in-training with the Disaster Assistance Team and has been dispatched throughout the tri-county area to provide immediate aid at disaster scenes.
Harper has received the Star Award for 10 years of service as a Neighborhood Emergency Team member, in 2006. He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for 13 years of service to Portland Office of Emergency Management NET program in April. He also received a Presidential Call to Service Medal in 2008 and was knighted as a Royal Rosarian for his volunteer work as a volunteer First Aid Responder during the Grand Floral Parade in 2004.
"I think that as far as the emergency neighborhood teams that Portland's in real good shape, but we're really fortunate, from when I started in 1995 to have Rachel Jacky as the coordinator of the neighborhood emergency teams," he said. "She went on in April to become the SERT director for the Department of Homeland Security, so I brag about her a lot because she taught me everything, and she always provided me with fantastic training opportunities."
Harper says it's critical that local residents understand their own responsibility in taking care of their neighborhoods in the event of a disaster – especially in communities of color.
"When I first started I was scared to death I was one of maybe two minority members that stuck out the training and at that time," he said. "I got into it for selfish reasons, I just wanted to know what to do, you know what I mean? With my mother, and my brothers and myself in case of an emergency."
Now he is a member of the Woodlawn Neighborhood NET Team, and he continues to recruit and train others.
"It doesn't matter what your condition is, everybody can contribute in time of emergency," he says.
The Selection Committee is made up of representatives from Council Members' Offices, the Office of
Neighborhood Involvement, District Coalitions, neighborhood business associations, and past recipients.
The nominees are evaluated using five categories in which they exemplify commitment to the community.
How they helped with outstanding projects, enriched our community, provided a special service, wereresponsive to neighborhood issues and how they helped raise cross-cultural awareness.