Extraordinary BOARD MEMBER Julie Ball, I Have a Dream Oregon

For six years, Julie Ball was a solid board member, raising money for and tutoring kids from low-income families through Oregon’s I Have a Dream (IHAD), a program devoted to helping them get through school and into college. But in 2003, the retired teacher decided to take a leap in scale: she “adopted” an entire third-grade class at Woodlawn Elementary. She committed to help guide all 52 students through their K–12 school careers, as well as to raise more than $800,000 in start-up funds with to hire IHAD staff to manage the kids’ day-to-day progress. 

IMPACT INDEX

18
Number of years Ball has volunteered for I Have a Dream

1500
Number of kids Oregon’s I Have a Dream has “adopted” since 1990

70–80
Percentage of “Dreamers” who graduate high school

30–40
Percentage of kids in IHAD’s target demographic usually expected to graduate

A decade later, after meeting with her students for regular after-school tutoring and carting kids on trips to museums and college visits, Ball’s original “Dreamers” finally achieved their goal. “I made these for all of them,” the 70-year-old says proudly as she holds up a silver key inscribed with the words: “Dreamer 2013: The key is in your hand.” “I’m amazed by their resiliency and strength.”

Her “kids,” many of whom come from troubled, low-income homes, agree. “I owe her a lot—she’s helped my education over my whole life,” says 18-year-old Jasmine Oddie, who just started classes at Portland Community College, funded through scholarships the IHAD team helped her secure. She remembers being “blown away” by an Art Camp at Willamette University that Ball encouraged her to attend in 2011. Oddie now plans to major in graphic design and art history.

“Julie is a force to be reckoned with,” says IHAD’s annual giving manager, Kari Morin. “And she does this in the kindest, quietest, and most graceful way possible.”

Game-Changing Project | Doernbecher Freestyle, Nike/OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital

Cole Johanson was 9 years old when they found it: a tumor in his abdomen the size of a grapefruit—and growing fast. Diagnosed with an aggressive lymphoma, the boy spent over three months undergoing intensive chemotherapy at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, finally beating the cancer in 2010. The universe doesn’t typically give out prizes, but what happened to Johanson next felt like a cosmic recompense: thanks to the Doernbecher Freestyle program, a partnership between the hospital and Nike, he got to design his own Nike shoes.

“It’s like you’re being rewarded for surviving cancer,” the now 14-year-old remembers.

Started in 2003, each year this one-of-a-kind project takes six to seven Doernbecher patients (some who’ve won their battle against their illness, some still fighting), pairs them with Nike designers, and lets them create totally customized shoes. These limited-edition styles are then sold at Nike stores and online, as well as at an annual auction, to raise money for Doernbecher. In its first year, the program brought in $120,000 for the hospital; it raised about $1.5 million in 2012.

IMPACT INDEX

58
Patients who have participated in Doernbecher Freestyle

$14,000
Average amount shoes are auctioned for

$6+ million
Total amount raised over 10 years

“It’s taken on a life of its own,” says Michael Doherty, Nike’s global creative director for brand presentations, who after joining Doernbecher’s board started the project based on an idea from his then-teenage sneaker-head son.

For the hospital, Doernbecher Freestyle is a funding source for trailblazing research, equipment, and patient financial aid. For the participants, it’s an invaluable opportunity to express their harrowing experience through design. If you look inside Johanson’s red Air Jordans, for example, you’ll find two words—“the two main things that helped me get through cancer,” he says—emblazoned on the insoles: “strength” and “courage.”

“Every story is unique to the child that’s creating this footwear,” says Doherty. “I’m amazed at the things these kids have gone through, and how that’s reflected in their shoes.”

Keeping Us Healthy | Oregon Food Bank

Behind Oregon Food Bank’s cavernous loading docks in Northeast Portland, where more than three million pounds of food are distributed every month, sits a garden brimming with jalapeño plants, lacy stalks of quinoa, and several chickens. This is the food bank’s Learning Garden, where low-income communities learn how to grow their own food and, in the process, help provide 17,000 pounds of fresh vegetables annually to hungry households around the state.

IMPACT INDEX

43.1 million
Pounds of food distributed in 2012

270,000
Oregonians served each month

20–30
Percentage of food from Oregon farms

The garden is just one of the $56.9 million nonprofit’s new initiatives putting it at the national forefront of food banks, by focusing, not just on providing food, but on nutrition and preventive measures against hunger. 

“There is a shift in the food-banking world from thinking about hunger as just a social justice issue to thinking about it as a public health issue,” says CEO Susannah Morgan, who has led the 31-year-old nonprofit since 2012. To help address what Morgan calls “hunger with a big H,” the Oregon Food Bank has pioneered programs at every level. Cooking Matters courses teach low-income Oregonians the basics of cooking at home with an eye on nutrition and practical budgeting. The FEAST program (Food, Education, Agriculture Solutions Together) digs deep into local food systems—from farmers to grocery owners to school principals—and brings together the community to establish healthy symbiotic relationships where none exist. Finally, CHOP (Choose Healthy Options Program) ranks the nutritional value of OFB’s inventory, ensuring that hungry families are eating their proverbial broccoli. “Clients are dying for fresh produce,” Morgan says. “You still need to sell a rutabaga over a bag of potato chips, but putting a real focus on nutrition isn’t rocket science.”

Extraordinary VOLUNTEER Michael BeRgmann

For his day job with Nike, Michael Bergmann builds sneakers out of the most advanced and sustainable materials to be found. On his off hours, he builds sports access in the most challenging of circumstances. 

IMPACT INDEX

$500,000
Estimated cost of Roosevelt’s track

54
Years since a relay team had placed at state championships—until 2013.

A few years ago, Roosevelt High School’s athletic facilities were in shambles. “The football field looked like a mud pit, the track resembled a parking lot, and the old wooden bleachers were rotted and condemned,” says Principal Charlene Williams. 

Bergmann had already founded the PDXC youth cross-country program and invigorated track and field at Central Catholic and Holy Trinity schools. But North Portland’s Roosevelt, where 75 percent of students are from low-income families, presented much higher stakes. 

“The vision was to build not just a regionally recognized athletic facility, but also a community center for St. Johns, where poor, high-immigrant populations were stuck in a school district that had given up,” says the 52-year-old. Beginning in 2007, he gathered diverse partners, from his church to Nike, to rebuild the school’s athletics field, including the crown jewel: a 400-meter track.

The result? School enrollment has increased since the project’s inception and Roosevelt athletes have catapulted into state championships. “It stands as a shining star in the St. Johns community and the envy of the entire city,” says Principal Williams.

Extraordinary Executive Director | Barb Attridge, Dress for Success

Barb Attridge’spinstriped slacks subtly match her blue-and-white-striped cardigan. The yellow of her tiered necklace echoes the gold of her dangly earrings. 

She is, in a phrase, put together—and that hardly comes as a surprise. As the executive director of Dress for Success Oregon, a nonprofit that provides professional attire and other career support to low-income women, Attridge knows as well as anyone the value of the right outfit.

“I see women come in in sweats and a sweatshirt, and their head is sort of hanging,” the 64-year-old says. “An hour later, I see them standing in front of a three-way mirror in a suit, and I swear they’re standing 10 feet tall.” 

IMPACT INDEX

16,000+
Women DFS has served

2
Years Attridge volunteered before being paid

900 vs. 6,000
Area, in square feet, of Dress for Success’s original location vs. its current location

Fourteen years ago, the then-CPA cofounded the Oregon chapter of Dress for Success in a cramped Northwest Portland space with a fundraising-savvy friend. In year one, the organization outfitted nearly 400 women. By 2009, they served 2,500, and the 12-employee nonprofit was helping hundreds of its clients land jobs. The Oregon satellite serves about three times as many new women as the average chapter.

Of course, dressing well alone doesn’t assure success. That’s why, under Attridge’s leadership, the local chapter has expanded its programs to include a networking group, career-development workshops, a job retention program, and a mentor service.

Attridge is equally astute at navigating the fundraising world. Last year, the organization netted more than $200,000 at its annual gala and scored a $200,000 grant from Bank of America, expanding its annual budget to $666,000. Attridge is “incredibly persuasive,” says the nonprofit’s board president, JoDee Keegan, but she’s more than a pitchwoman. She sees how the parts of the organization go together. “An executive director who understands the organization as a whole as well as she does is unbelievably rare,” Keegan says. “Barb is a complete package.”

Most with the Least | The Children’s Book Bank

For the kids at Earl Boyles Elementary, having Dr. Seuss around the house isn’t a given. Nearly a quarter of the outer Southeast school’s families have 10 or fewer books at home and little access to libraries. That’s where the Children’s Book Bank comes in: handing out bags filled with a lovingly curated mix of alphabet, poetry, and picture books to low-income families to give youngsters a boost in the literacy department.

Before becoming the nonprofit book fairy, CBB founder Danielle Swope, 49, taught math in rural North Carolina with Teach for America. “I saw how bleak the future was if you’re in high school and really can’t read,” she recalls. “We have to get books in the hands of kids as soon as we can.”

IMPACT INDEX

140,000
Annual budget for the three-staff-member organization

8,521
Kids who received books through CBB in 2012–2013

16
Books a child receives in every CBB bag

Since 2007, the organization has made sure all Head Start preschoolers in Multnomah County have books to call their own, in addition to stocking book fairs and providing “book prescriptions” for Children’s Community Clinic patients—all with three staffers and an annual budget of $140,000.

“This model works because it’s easy for anybody to get involved,” says Swope. Every week, new volunteers and longtime helpers crowd into the nonprofit’s cramped, cheery Northeast Portland headquarters to sort through the overflowing donation boxes. They gab like a coffee klatch as they scrub covers with lemony cleaner and tape up torn pages, gasping in delight when they rediscover old favorites. 

“Their work means my children have access to books,” says Earl Boyles Principal Ericka Guynes. “When you see these little guys walking out the door with those green book bags, they just treasure them. It is like we are giving them gold.”

CARING FOR THE PLANET | Backyard Habitat Certification Program

Under a darkNorthwest canopy, verdant sword ferns and wild oxalis sprout in the underbrush while fearless baby Douglas squirrels scurry down their towering namesake trees. This isn’t a stretch of Forest Park or Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, though. It’s the lawn of West Hills homeowner Lorena O’Neill, and it has earned her the highest honor in the Backyard Habitat Certification Program: platinum. 

In a partnership, the Columbia Land Trust and Audubon Society of Portland first piloted the program in 2006 with a handful of homeowners pledging to eradicate the worst invasive plants from their yards (top of the hit list: ivy and blackberry) and to garden solely with Willamette Valley natives. Flash-forward to 2013: more than 1,750 properties are enrolled across Portland, with at least 50,000 native plants distributed at wholesale prices from local nurseries. Backyards are surveyed by expert technicians, reassessed by an army of trained volunteers, and given a certification level from silver to platinum, with a prominent sign in the front yard championing the achievement. 

IMPACT INDEX

$25
Cost of a site visit

679
Households certified silver or higher

800
Volunteer hours devoted to backyard assessment in 2012

“The program essentially relies on community-based social marketing,” says program manager Gaylen Beatty, “and it’s incredibly effective.” The backyard certification community has grown so rapidly, that the total acreage now amounts to around 330. In comparison, Hoyt Arboretum has 187 acres. Eventually, Beatty hopes, the program will form entirely native corridors throughout the city.

But habitat certification is about more than one-upping your neighbors or putting a fence around a wild piece of land. “You experience wildlife and preservation at a very personal level in your own backyard,” says O’Neill as she gives a tour, proffering the tart, bright fruits from a thimbleberry shrub.

 

Extraordinary Pro Bono | FRED MEYER, Store to Door and the American Cancer Society

Fred Meyer donates $4 million and more than four million pounds of food annually. But for 85-year-old Portlander Jean Brooks, the homegrown grocery chain’s commitment to its community begins and ends with the fact that she can buy her favorite sugar snap cookies without hobbling to the store. “I have leg problems, and it’s hard to get out,” Brooks says, “so I really depend on them.”

For nearly a quarter century, the West Burnside Fred Meyer has been the unofficial headquarters of Portland nonprofit Store to Door. Every week, a wave of volunteers rolls through the grocery gathering blue bins of food to deliver to people with disabilities and vulnerable seniors like Brooks. The retailer reserves checkers and baggers for the operation, and donates around $30,000 yearly.

IMPACT INDEX

24
Years Fred Meyer has partenered with Store to Door

400
Portlanders to whom the program delivered groceries last year

2.3
million Dollars raised by Fred Meyer volunteers for the American Cancer Society since 1985

Store to Door is just one of the partnerships to which the company’s 33,000-person workforce dedicates tens of thousands of unpaid hours every year. The projects range from small, like cleaning up local parks, to one of the company’s biggest: the donation of $2.3 million since 1985 to the American Cancer Society. Nearly half of that sum has been raised from small-scale Relay for Life walks instigated by 250 separate teams of employees across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska. 

“We can’t tell them what to volunteer for: it’s whatever makes an employee passionate,” says Fred Meyer Manager of Community Affairs Melinda Merrill. But her office can give encouragement in the form of $200 in seed money to every employee group that mounts a volunteer effort. 

Forbes magazine dubbed Fred Meyer’s parent corporation, Kroger, America’s “most generous” company in 2011. But Merrill says that the nearly century-old retailer’s mind-set came from the original Fred G. Meyer, a crack businessman who was also known for donating time and money to local nonprofits. “This company grew up in Portland and shares its values,” she says. “You don’t [volunteer] to make yourself look good. You do it to keep employees, to keep customers, and to keep your community strong.”