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PCC Foundation, Central City Concern receive $400,000 from Bank of America
Photos and Story by James Hill
The Portland Community College Foundation and Central City Concern have been named this year’s Bank of America Neighborhood Builders awardees for Portland. The nonprofits were selected for their work to address issues fundamental to economic mobility by providing housing and workforce development services.
Annually, the bank’s selection committee chooses two organizations to receive the Neighborhood Builder’s award that includes a $200,000 grant in flexible funding, a year of leadership training for the executive director and an emerging leader, a network of peer organizations across the U.S., and the opportunity to access capital to expand their impact.
“Central City Concern and the Portland Community College Foundation are reaching disadvantaged communities through housing and workforce development programs, which align with Bank of America’s commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity,” said Roger Hinshaw, Oregon and Southwest Washington market president, Bank of America. “As we consider many of the challenges that our communities are facing – from the health and humanitarian crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic to the need for progress on racial equality and economic opportunity – the Neighborhood Builders program continues to be a relevant and timely initiative to support the communities we serve.”
The Foundation will use its funding to establish an Opportunity Center at the college’s Willow Creek Center, where prospective students and job seekers will find a one-stop-shop location for workforce development and re-skilling courses, access to support services and will have the opportunity to meet with potential employers.
The start of the pandemic saw a dramatic 10.8 percent increase in unemployment from March to April, and many people realized they needed to pursue new careers.“We’re excited to launch our Opportunity Center initiative with the Neighborhood Builders grant from Bank of America,” said PCC President Mark Mitsui. “The Opportunity Center at Willow Creek will be one of several centers aimed at reversing racial and economic disparities accelerated by the pandemic by providing a gateway for students and community members to find family wage jobs. We can help people who have been displaced by the pandemic’s toll on hospitality and retail jobs by re-skilling and connecting them to healthcare, manufacturing and trades courses: all high demand industries in Washington County.”
Even before the pandemic, 28% of households in Washington County were low-income, with 10.3% of households living below the poverty line. Of those low-income, 44% are people of color. For these underrepresented communities and families, the pandemic exacerbated opportunity, education and economic gaps. The Neighborhood Builders grant will enable the Opportunity Center to provide participants with enhanced services and new pathways, helping them to survive the pandemic, recover and thrive.
The college will also be adapting its courses to fit more schedules by delivering curriculums in shorter chunks. Support from community partners, including a $75,000 coronavirus response grant from Bank of America given earlier this year, is helping to provide laptops and resources for internet services so students have equal access to online learning.
Central City Concern, a nonprofit focused on ending homelessness and helping clients achieve the dignity of self-sufficiency, will dedicate the dollars from the bank to expand its unique “Flip the Script” program, which serves men and women who were recently incarcerated by providing integrated housing, employment and peer support services. The organization will move its physical location to make it easier for clients to access information and services, with a goal of doubling the number of people receiving housing and workforce training after two years in the new site.
Since the start of the pandemic, Central City Concern has seen a dramatic increase in demand for their services that address different levels of housing insecurity, health disparities and homelessness. For example, the need for rent assistance has increased by more than 200 percent since the same time last year. In response, the organization has pivoted operations to provide relief to more people. One of the changes includes moving the physical location of “Flip the Script”, a key program, to a more accessible space for visitors and in closer proximity to the Justice Center. This move and program expansion is supported by the Neighborhood Builders grant and will help more applicants leaving the justice system learn about “Flip the Script.”
Since 2004, through the Neighborhood Builders program, Bank of America has invested more than $260 million in 50 communities, partnering with more than 1,300 nonprofits and more than 2,600 nonprofit leaders. The work of nonprofits is especially important this year, as even more people find themselves relying on their much-needed services. Since 2004 in Portland and Southwest Washington, Bank of America has invested five million dollars in 25 local nonprofits through the Neighborhood Builders program and provided leadership training to more than 50 local nonprofit leaders.