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Matthew Eide

Extraordinary Staff Member: Winner #2
MATTHEW EIDE

Outside In

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During the five years he spent teaching in a large public high school in Los Angeles, Matthew Eide, 37, watched countless teens get let down by the educational system. “When there are 35 students in a class,” he says, “all the kids who might have unique needs end up slipping through the cracks.” So when Eide became the education coordinator for the Urban Ed Alternative School at Outside In—a 42-year-old nonprofit that provides health services, counseling, housing, employment opportunities, and education for low-income and homeless youth&#8212he decided to tailor the system to the students, meeting with each one individually and building a custom program around how each kid learns best. Students can work solely with volunteers during drop-in tutoring, or they can participate in community projects Eide has developed, such as an oral history project about gentrification and redlining as told by North and Northeast Portland elders. The school’s message: it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. The only requirement: when you show up, you work. As a result, hundreds of homeless youth have obtained a GED, entered college, and found jobs. But the most important ingredient in the program is the confidence the teachers show in their students. Says Eide, “It’s our job—our calling—to believe.”

 

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Gun Denhart

Extraordinary Board Member
GUN DENHART

Stand for Children Leadership Center

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What motivated me to dedicate so much time and money to the Stand for Children Leadership Center?” muses Gun Denhart, 65, who’s been a board member for the organization since its Oregon inception. “Well, I didn’t know I was going to do it when I first joined,” she answers, laughing. Nevertheless, after she’d spent years donating clothes from her children’s clothing company, Hanna Andersson, to local shelters, Denhart longed to create a more comprehensive solution for alleviating poverty. So when she met Stand’s CEO, Jonah Edelman, in New York, in 1998, Denhart convinced him to relocate the nonprofit’s office to Portland, where he could field-test his new grassroots organizing model. Twelve years later, Stand boasts 2,400 members in 14 Oregon communities—countless citizens have united to help leverage $1.9 billion for education policy reforms that will benefit more than 980,000 Oregon schoolchildren. In addition to providing her own financial support, enlisting other philanthropists through the Oregon Business Association, and hosting occasional fundraisers in her living room, Denhart has spent incalculable hours lobbying, training, and heading conferences and rallies. “I wanted systemic change,” says Denhart, “and it’s amazing how much better things can get when you really chew on them with people from other walks of life.”

  

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Elaine Wells (second from right) with Ride Connection colleagues

Extraordinary Executive Director
ELAINE WELLS

Ride Connection

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Over two decades ago, while working with community aid organizations like Peoplebank and Community Action, Elaine Wells recognized a basic human need beyond food and shelter: mobility. “If you want to stay independent,” she says, “you must be able to get where you need to go.” So Wells began to nag the executive director of Ride Connection—a 25-year-old nonprofit that provides free transportation for older adults, people with disabilities, rural residents, and low-income job seekers in the Portland metro area—about standardizing training programs for drivers. Instead of just taking the suggestion, the director hired Wells to implement the program. Five years later, Wells found herself in the nonprofit’s top position. During her 16-year tenure, Ride Connection has grown from two employees who coordinated 11,700 rides to a staff of 37 who, last year alone, provided more than 390,000 rides. But ask Wells about her greatest accomplishment and she’ll answer without missing a beat: “Hiring fabulous, dedicated staff who are always figuring out creative ways to do more with less.” That can-do attitude is a credit to Wells’ own leadership skills, says the organization’s development manager, James Uyeda. “Knowing she has our back, everyone at Ride Connection can strive for excellence.”