Best New Nonprofit
PORTLAND FRUIT TREE PROJECT
You may be surprised to learn that Oregon is second only to Mississippi for the highest percentage of underfed households in the nation. Luckily, we can also claim the Portland Fruit Tree Project, or PFTP, a fledgling nonprofit that, in 2009, organized more than 250 volunteers to visit 42 sites and harvest more than 15,000 pounds of pristine plums, pears, apples, persimmons, and quince that otherwise would have ended up sullying sidewalks and lawns. Half of the luscious loot, gathered from trees owned by private citizens who preregister their excess bounties with PFTP, is taken home by harvesters (half of whom are low-income), and the rest is donated to local food banks. “Last year we doubled the yield from 2008, our first year as an official nonprofit, and now we’re on track to double 2009,” says founder and executive director Katy Kolker. This year, the two-person organization was able to register all interested fruit-tree owners, offer tree care and fruit preservation workshops, and partner with city officials and community organizations to plant what Kolker refers to as public “food forests,” such as the Sabin Community Orchard in Northeast. When it comes to community-initiated solutions to the problem of hunger, PFTP is a model of innovation, even at the ripe old age of two.
Honoring Our Elders
HOUSECALL PROVIDERS INC
Once upon a time, all doctors made house calls. Today, the only medical personnel you’re likely to see at your house are EMTs—unless you’re one of the patients being served by Housecall Providers, a 15-year-old organization that makes more than 10,000 house calls a year and provides full-time home hospice support for Portland-area residents who are in their last months of life. Dr. Benneth Husted started the organization after three years of running a solo house-call program out of her dining room. Today, Housecall Providers employs more than 50 physicians, nurse practitioners, hospice workers, and professional volunteers who serve more than 1,300 homebound seniors and people with disabilities or who suffer from multiple chronic conditions. Ninety-four-year-old Elda Mae Harris of Helvetia, for example, has numerous ailments and would probably be in a nursing home, “but house calls have allowed her to stay in the home she bought with her husband and has owned since 1952,” Husted says, “right next door to the one she grew up in.” When Harris had pneumonia last year, visits from a nurse practitioner helped her avoid a potentially risky and expensive hospital visit (one emergency room visit costs $1,500—the same as 10 preventive house calls) and remain in the comfort of her home.
Inspiring Our Next Generation
I HAVE A DREAM FOUNDATION
While growing up in Northeast Portland, Janelle was chronically neglected and exposed to drugs and violence within her family. She struggled with her schoolwork for years, and at age 14, she became pregnant. But when she went into labor during a math exam in ninth grade, she refused to leave until the test was complete. “She ended up getting an A,” says Mark Langseth, president and CEO of the Oregon branch of the I Have a Dream Foundation. Janelle is just one of 900 students in low-?income Portland-area communities whom I Have a Dream has inspired to succeed in school. How does this organization make education more enticing to abused and overlooked children than emotional anesthetics like drugs, sex, and violence? They adopt entire third-grade classes and immerse the students in after-school mentoring, tutoring, and crisis intervention, all provided by an army of dedicated staff and volunteers who stand by every child through college and beyond; they promote a “culture of college,” taking kids on visits to college campuses in the third grade; and later, they provide them with tuition assistance. After 20 years of such strategies, “Dreamers,” as the kids are called, graduate from high school and get into college at twice the rate of other kids with similar backgrounds. “Our kids can still mess up,” Langseth says. “The message remains ‘Keep moving forward.’”
Keeping Us Healthy
COALITION FOR A LIVEABLE FUTURE
Achieving good health takes more than just eating your leafy greens and getting some exercise. It also hinges on a wide range of overlapping social justice and environmental issues, including living conditions, work, education, health care, transportation, and water and air quality. Enter the Coalition for a Livable Future (CLF), a 15-year-old partnership of more than a hundred groups that work together to ensure affordable housing, clean water, protected natural space, living-wage jobs, and transportation choices for low-?income populations and neighborhoods. CLF’s staff of five produces the Regional Equity Atlas, which maps community access to parks, grocery stores, and transportation. Recently, CLF successfully rallied to preserve the former Colwood Golf Course as green space in the Cully neighborhood—which not only has twice the regional average poverty rate but is one of Portland’s most park-deficient areas. CLF also forges connections between diverse organizations that, together, have persuaded Metro to put $15 million into walking, cycling, and public transit projects, and have guaranteed that low-income women, people of color, and youth have access to the City’s Clean Energy Works “green collar” jobs. “Our greatest achievement is probably that we’re still here,” says CLF co-director Jill Fuglister. “It speaks to the unique culture of Portland that organizations with different individual goals work together so that the entire community can thrive.”