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Levy extends Mid-county programs


On Dec. 14, the Portland Children's Levy Allocation Committee met to distribute $1.2 million ($400,000 per year through 2012) to nonprofit programs that support city initiatives to help children arrive at school ready to learn, provide constructive after-school alternatives, prevent child abuse and help foster kids succeed. Created by city voters in 2002 and renewed for another five years in 2008, city homeowners contribute to the levy through a property tax estimated at $60 a year for a $150,000 home. Of the levy's $12.5 million annual investment, the funds allocated last December combined money leftover after fulfilling contract negotiations on recent grant awards with funds remaining from the previous levy.

The committee consists of City Commissioner and Chair Dan Saltzman, city-appointed representative Alissa Keny-Guyer, county-appointed representative Adrienne Livingston, Portland Business Alliance representative Ron Beltz and Multnomah County Commissioner Ted Wheeler. The committee prioritized the investments to answer community concerns voiced by social service providers, policy makers, teachers, foundations, business leaders and parents who advocated more new and full-service after-school programs, and more new and culturally specific programs in the fields of mentoring, child abuse prevention/intervention and early childhood services.

Organizations which receive city funding must have a demonstrated record of success and satisfy a competitive evaluation process that considers cost effectiveness and proven positive effects on children. All funded programs are monitored by levy staff and are subject to regular site visits and performance assessments.

Currently the levy funds 69 different programs that, among other goals, facilitate access to preschool and child care programs and health screenings, help immigrant families adjust, encourage children to stay in school and out of trouble, and assist families struggling with poverty, homelessness and other challenges that contribute to abuse and neglect.

Seven of the eight programs vested with levy funds last December are extensions of existing programs, six of which aim to enhance the lives of the youngest mid-Multnomah County residents:
Northwest Family Services was awarded $243,247 toward its Latino Family Empowerment Project. NWFS currently runs an after-school program that serves 60 middle school Latino/a students from three Portland schools: George Middle School, Ron Russell Middle School and H. B. Lee Middle School. Here students receive tutoring help with their homework, participate in interactive activities that promote positive lifestyles, exercise physical fitness, perform school service projects, and embark on fieldtrips in and around the Portland area to promote a successful transition to high school. Available to families of students participating in this program are parent training courses and family activities.

The Metropolitan Family Services SUN program at Harold Oliver Primary School in the Centennial School District received $209,000 in levy funds. SUN Community Schools are a collaborative partnership uniting an array of service providers, business partners, donors and volunteers under a mission “to support student success while building stronger communities.” It stages after-school programs, recreation activities, assist with homework, provide mentors, and facilitate access to health and social services.

$209,000 was also allocated to a SUN program to be run by Camp Fire USA at an undisclosed site in the David Douglas School District. Camp Fire USA Portland Metro Council administers after-school academic, recreation and service learning programs aimed to bolster students' success in school, at home and among the community.

The Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization received $160,073 toward its African Immigrant Mentoring Project. IRCO promotes the integration of refugees, immigrants and the community to help form a self-sufficient, healthy and inclusive multiethnic society. The African Immigrant Mentoring (AIM) Project will offer at-risk African immigrants or refugee youth asset-based one-on-one mentoring and small group activities. Goals include improving attitude and/or connection to school, advancing leadership skills, improving cultural identity and connection to culture, and increasing awareness of African culture.

The Latino Network's Juntos Aprendemos 'Together We Learn' early childhood program, currently operating at the Scott, Rigler and Glenfair schools, seeks to improve student success by helping young children and their parents prepare for kindergarten. It received $66,000 of the levy allocation funds. The Latino Network provides leadership to broad-based coalitions focused on reducing minority over-representation in the justice system and improving the educational achievement of immigrant students and students of color by developing programs that consciously foster leadership and self-sufficiency.

Also geared toward Portland's Hispanic population, Catholic Charities' El Programa Hispano, Parent/Child Involvement Project was granted $50,000 to provide services to children and parents/caregivers affected by domestic violence. Services are designed for Latino families with children ages 0-12. Part of a collaborative interagency program researched, designed and implemented by Listen To Kids, Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army's West Women's and Children's Shelter, the program's objective is to address the impact that domestic violence has on children as well as work to heal the parent-child relationship that may have been damaged as a result of exposure to domestic violence.

Catholic Charities' El Programa Hispano program provides academic support, skill-building activities, mentoring, and tutoring and recreation programs to Latino students in Parkrose, David Douglas, Centennial, Gresham-Barlow and Reynolds school districts.

Levy appropriations beyond the east Portland area include $137,500 to Northwest Portland's Friendly House Project Return, which provides after-school programming, recreational opportunities and safety net services for homeless Chapman Elementary School students. There is also the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center's mentoring program at Rosemary Anderson High School in North Portland, where OIC prepares at-risk youth for success through education, leadership, family outreach, employment training and placement services. OIC received $125,000 for its mentoring efforts to stabilize and reconnect alienated at-risk youth affected by poverty, family instability and homelessness.

Portland Children's Levy Allocation Committee meetings take place at the City Council Chambers of City Hall, 1120 S.W. 5th Ave., and are open to the public with time allotted for feedback. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 15 at 12:30 p.m. to resume discussions on leverage fund guidelines.
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