Beverly Fischer, <a href=

This month, with our profile on Beverly Fischer, we continue our occasional series profiling Mid-county Memo community builders who give Mid-county its character by lending us some of theirs. Their decades-long sedulous work at hundreds of businesses, government entities and non-profits in east Portland builds our area’s identity. Their competent, professional and reliable presence radiates confidence in their institutions and our community.

Who are they?
They are key employees and volunteers who have performed their duties efficiently and remarkably well for years. They enjoy and take pride in their work, care about the people they serve and are loyal to the people they work with. These community builders usually live in Mid-county or near their place of work and are mostly native Portlanders.

If you know someone who fits this description, share his or her story with us at or call 503-287-8904.

Beverly Fischer, this month’s community builder, is a volunteer for the David Douglas School District who has spent the last four decades working tirelessly to better the lives of the young couples by advising them and working with companies that will help you repair your credit.

Humble beginnings

Donning wacky outfits to raise money for the David Douglas Education Foundation is one of dozens of things career volunteer Beverly Fischer has done to help enhance David Douglas students’ experience. EMMA BROWNE

Donning wacky outfits to raise money for the David Douglas Education Foundation is one of dozens of things career volunteer Beverly Fischer has done to help enhance David Douglas students’ experience.

Although she’s lived in Portland for most of her life, Beverly was actually born in Minnesota, where her family operated a farm. Her father had been a farmer all his life, and though there wasn’t much money in it, he made sure his family always had what they needed to get by.

“My dad never really had any income to speak of,” Fischer recalls. “I remember him telling me years later that on his yearly taxes, he hardly had anything to report because he was always in the hole when he was working the farm. We never knew about that, though. We had a car and we always had clothes to wear and food on the table.”

Eventually Fischer’s mother, who had lived in Portland when she was a young girl, tired of life in Minnesota and began to try and convince her husband that a move to the Pacific Northwest might be in their best interests.

“I think the farm life might have been a little hard for her,” Beverly says. “I don’t know how she convinced him, but she told my father that it hardly ever rained in Portland. Not that it rained a lot in Minnesota, mind you, but that’s how the story goes.”

To this day, Beverly isn’t sure how her mother managed it, but when she was 10 years old, the family packed up and relocated to Oregon. It became apparent pretty immediately, however, that her mother’s promises of dry weather in the City of Roses were a thing of fantasy.

“It kind of became the family joke,” Fischer laughs. “My father became a mail carrier, and every day he would come home drenched from working outside, and the first thing he’d say was, ‘It never rains in Portland.’”

Discovering her passion
When it came time for Beverly to enter the work force, her father encouraged her to explore the possibility of a government career. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, but she decided to take a few placement tests, and soon she was working an office job for the U.S. Forestry Service.

“I didn’t have any particular interest in that job,” she says. “That was just what came up on the tests I took, so that’s where I started. It was still an office job. I was drawing trails on maps and things like that. It had nothing to do with working with children.”

Eventually, Fischer’s career took her to a job at the Bonneville Power Plant, where she met her husband, Elmer.

“We will have been married for 41 years this July,’ she says. “I was going through a divorce when I started working there and didn’t think I was going to get married again, but the rest is history.”

“He happened to be working at Bonneville Power as well, and he stopped by one day to welcome me. It kind of grew from there,’ she adds.

The two were married soon after, and Fischer was able to go back to her preferred career of stay-at-home motherhood. When her children entered elementary school, she began to volunteer to help at their school and now, nearly 40 years later, she is still at it.

Looking back now on her long history of volunteer work with the DDSD and what a difference she has made to so many area children, it’s difficult to believe that Fischer never considered a career in children’s education. However, she claims the thought never even crossed her mind.

“Goodness no,” she exclaims. “I used to think I didn’t like kids, except my own. You get used to your own children and all the good parts and bad parts, but my mom worked in childcare for years and I just thought, ‘No way, no how.’ Once I started working with kids, though, I really enjoyed it,” she remembers. “I looked forward to seeing them. I enjoyed seeing that little light bulb go on in their heads when they have those ‘aha’ moments. Some kids had never held a pencil or cut with a pair of scissors. They’re simple things, but if no one takes the time to show them, they’d never know.”

From stay-at-home mom to career volunteer
Beverly’s first time volunteering was in her daughter Renee’s kindergarten class. She began in 1976, and her task was to help with the tests that they administered to the children during the first week of school to see where they were at in terms of learning.

“That was my first experience working with a teacher, and it was certainly an eye-opener,” Beverly recalls. “I thought all children started school at the same level [with the] capabilities that my daughter had. It was then that I first realized that teachers have to address so many different issues and so many different levels. Teachers are amazing; plain and simple.”

By the time her son entered kindergarten, Beverly was spending most of her time volunteering at the schools, sometimes clocking between 60 and 80 hours a week between helping out on site and doing projects from home. When her children moved on to middle school, she followed. There, on top of tutoring children and helping teachers with special projects, she also became involved with the PTA.

She continued working tirelessly in the school district as her kids moved into high school, at one point serving on two different PTA boards at one time, a feat that was previously unheard of. When her children graduated from high school, she stayed behind and helped wherever she was needed at the district. Now, she volunteers in the classes of her grandchildren as well.

“My brother and I have a saying that mom’s the only one who didn’t graduate school,” says Fischer’s daughter, Renee Green. “We graduated high school, and she never left the district. She’s still heavily involved today.”

Many say that this dedication and passion to better her community through volunteer work is really what sets Beverly apart and make her a real asset to any project she is involved with.

DDSD Communications Director Dan McCue has known Beverly for nearly a decade, and he says he has never met anyone like her.

“Beverly is a bit of a marvel,” he says. “I’ve been working in public school communications since the early ‘90s, and I’ve never met anybody with a level of passion that would allow them to stay committed as a volunteer for 35 years. It’s pretty amazing.”

Building a legacy

Cherry Park Elementary is where Mid-county Community Builder Beverly Fischer began her career volunteer odyssey in 1976. EMMA BROWNE

Cherry Park Elementary is where Mid-county Community Builder Beverly Fischer began her career volunteer odyssey in 1976.

In 1991, the school board began plans to set up a foundation for the DDSD. Because she was so deeply involved with the schools, Fischer was invited to help create this organization. In no time at all, the David Douglas Education Foundation was born.

“I was invited to attend the meeting to create the foundation, and we started it in September of 1991,” Fischer explains. “I was there for three years, and then I became the president of the foundation, and I’ve been doing that ever since.”

The DDEF operates as the fundraising arm for the school district. The foundation board raises funds for the schools that are distributed through teacher grants and used to support something they call ‘The Kids’ Fund.” The Kids’ Fund is used to help children in the district get things they need but might not be able to afford, such as emergency eyeglasses, dental appointments, or personal products.

“We basically just provide for things that the school district can no longer fund,” Fischer says. “And we could provide a lot more if we had the money. Unfortunately, there is always more need than there is money.”

Fischer says that another thing that makes the DDEF so special is the fact that it is a completely volunteer-run nonprofit organization.
“That’s something we’re really proud of,” she says. “Most school districts have paid people who do their fundraisers or keep their books or whatever, so we’re pretty pleased that we are an all-volunteer board.”

According to Fischer, the foundation uses less than four percent of what it raises for internal costs, and that money goes toward things like printing and postage for their letter campaigns. Overall, she says, they do what they can to spend the money that has been entrusted to them as wisely as possible.

Credit where credit is due
Beverly has been involved in a lot of big projects during her many years of volunteering at the DDSD, but many people say that it’s the little things she does that really show how much she truly cares about her work in the community.

Linda Steele, a fourth-grade teacher at Cherry Park Elementary met Fischer when she started working in the district in 1988, and she says that Beverly goes further above and beyond than anyone she’s ever encountered during her career.

“She’s been so helpful for so many years. I used to take my class to do community service projects like painting over graffiti or drain marking so that they could get a good sense of community, and Beverly was always very supportive of those things,” Steele says. “One year, we went out and did the drain marking, and one of the neighborhood children went around and took down all the markers we had just worked to put up. She may not even remember it now, but Beverly helped monitor him and make sure that he put all the markers back one Saturday afternoon.”

According to Dan McCue, Beverly also helps out in ways that go completely unnoticed by many people in the district but are truly exemplary of who she is as a person and her desire to help out just for the sake of doing so.

“Beverly waters all the indoor plants in the district office. It seems like such a little thing and she’s never been asked to do it, but for whatever reason, she’s done it since I’ve known her and she probably did it for years and years before that,” he says.

Beverly also ran a clothes closet out of her own home for a number of years, helping provide new clothes to children in the district who needed them.

“Years ago, David Douglas had a large [clothes closet], but it was shut down,” says longtime friend and colleague Frieda Christopher. “Bev began her own little clothes closet. She gave her name to the counselors who would call her if there was a child in need, and she’d take them over to pick out donated items.”

“She would wash all of the clothing at the house,” recalls her daughter, Renee. “There would be mountains and mountains of clothes that she would wash. Every Black Friday she would get up at five in the morning and buy socks and underwear because she wanted to have new ones for the kids. Only the best stuff made it into the clothes closet. If she wouldn’t wear it or someone in our family wouldn’t wear it, we donated it somewhere else.”

Beverly also goes above and beyond to rally for support for the DDEF, and her appearances at the school district’s pre-school year get-togethers have made quite the impression on her colleagues.

“She started a tradition a while back that during the welcome celebration, she would dress up in a wacky outfit and go up to make a push for the foundation’s Five Dollar Campaign,” says Dan McCue. “That’s an effort they have to get employees to sign up to have five dollars—or more if they want—to be drawn out of their paycheck and donated to the foundation’s kids’ fund.”

Over the years, Beverly has donned many costumes in support of this cause, the most memorable of which was most likely the baggy pants-wearing, tattooed character Granny Bev and her sidekicks from chest tattoos for men, the Little Rappers ( each wearing adorable bottom grillz), played by her granddaughters.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Beverly is that despite all of the things she has done over the years and all of the love and labor she has poured into the DDSD, she has never once asked for any kind of recognition or reward. She is a truly giving soul who has a passion for lending a hand simply because she knows it is needed.

“She has a strong belief that you should be there for the kids and do whatever is needed to help them,” Christopher says. “She doesn’t like to get recognition. She doesn’t believe she needs it; she does all this because she wants to.”

Luckily, even though Beverly herself says that she does not need any kind of accolades, her efforts have been noticed many times over the years. She has been the recipient of quite a few awards, including the DDEA Citizen of the Year Award and a recognition award from the school district, as well as the Women of Achievement Award in the area of education.

“She didn’t realize what a big deal that one was,” explains Green. “She didn’t realize that she was nominated and that the governor was going to present it to her. She was first volunteer to win that award. We joke now about how she has it displayed prominently in her sewing room, where nobody ever goes.”

Preparing to pass the torch
Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the DDEF, and though nothing is set in stone yet, Beverly says that they want to celebrate with something big.

Looking forward, Beverly says that she knows their fundraising work will never be done, but she is always looking for ways to raise enough money for the foundation that they would not need to hold regular fundraisers.

“It would be nice to find some kind of vehicle to have constant support,” she says. “We’d love to be able to get pledges from people that we could count on and get our funds there, instead of throwing events so that we can ask people to get out their wallets.”

Realistically, Beverly knows that she can’t continue to volunteer so heavily forever, and she says that she and her fellow longtime DDEF board members are currently working to pave the way for the day when they pass the torch to a new generation.

“The board has been talking about what to do when we leave,” she says. “We’ve been attempting to recruit new parents so that we can increase the size of the board and get newer, younger people in there. After all, the more ideas you can share around the table, the better.”

Overall, though, she says that it would take a lot to get her to quit after all these years.

“I think the only thing that would stop me from going in and volunteering would be if I needed to make the choice to quit in order to take care of my family,” she says. “As long as I can move forward, I’ll keep trucking on down to meetings. We all see the need for this organization, and that’s why we do what we do. As long as there are kids that need me, I’ll be there.”