The Power of Community Organizations
Since the beginning of COVID-19, I’ve been involved in many discussions about how the City of Tigard can best support our community. A recurring theme from these conversations is the importance of supporting existing service providers. These nonprofits and faith-based groups face a shrinking volunteer base due to COVID precautions, just as the need and demand for services increased.
In April 2020, the City Council provided support by launching the Resident Aid Fund of Tigard (RAFT). The goal was to reflect our commitment to protecting, and providing stability for, our most vulnerable community members. By leveraging the expertise and capacity of community organizations, we ensured that aid got to those in need as quickly as possible. We saw this play out beautifully with the six organizations that received the first round of RAFT funding.
We built on the success of the first round of RAFT by allocating additional funds in January 2021. In the spirit of transparency, I want to highlight the five most recent RAFT recipients and how their work will benefit our community.
I became familiar with Family Promise of Tualatin Valley in 2016 when they formed to support homeless students in the Tigard-Tualatin School District (TTSD). Their work expanded beyond TTSD families during COVID. They have received a RAFT grant to fund eviction prevention and shelter diversion services. These vital services prevent at-risk households from losing their current housing and support those who have lost housing.
Down the street from City Hall, Just Compassion offers a safe environment and a community-centered response to the needs of those without homes in the Tigard area. Executive Director Vernon Baker has been instrumental in growing Just Compassion’s resource center for homeless adults. The center allows homeless adults a respite from the weather and offers nutritious meals, socialization, showers, and information about resources. I am delighted that Just Compassion will use the RAFT grant to open its resource center an additional day each week.
Seniors have been greatly affected by COVID-19. The Meals on Wheels People are doing their best to support this vulnerable population. The number of older adults using their services in Tigard has increased by 25 percent in the past 10 months. Many seniors who receive meals are living below the poverty line and lack access to healthy, fresh food. Through the RAFT grant, the Meals on Wheels People are able to continue supporting our seniors.
The Muslim Educational Trust is also addressing food insecurities exacerbated by COVID. Their staff works with 175 families (both Muslim and non-Muslim) in Tigard. They know the importance of being able to tell a family that they will not go hungry. I am heartened to know that the RAFT grant will be used to purchase culturally sensitive foods that families have accessed in the past.
Thirty Pacific Islander families are being supported by the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization. These families are struggling because of lost wages and are ineligible for government assistance. The RAFT grant will be used to pay for basic needs, energy assistance, and rent.
You, too, can help these organizations by volunteering your time and/or donating resources.
The COVID vaccine offers a light at the end of the tunnel. As a healthcare professional, I have received the vaccine and also administered it. I encourage every member of our community to get the vaccine when you have the opportunity.
I also know the vaccine will not eliminate all of the problems caused by the pandemic. I want to continue the dialogue with you on how the city can best support our community. Share your thoughts and answers with me at [email protected] or via phone at (503) 810-0269. You are also invited to my next Fireside Chat on Thursday, Mar. 4, at 6:30 p.m. on Facebook Live.