Introduction to Friendly House

2018 Fall Lunch

Mya Chamberlin, Assistant Director

Friendly House is a non-profit neighborhood center and social service organization that promotes the interdependence of people from all walks of life across the Portland Metropolitan area. Friendly House creates opportunities for people of all income and age groups to increase social capital, which we define as the bonds that encourage mutually beneficial support. We meet all the members of our community where they are in order to support their educational, recreational and human-service needs and assure their inclusion in the fabric of our society.

Founded in 1930, Friendly House has remained true to its settlement house roots, giving special attention to the needs of people facing extraordinary challenges, including children, low-income families, people from communities of color, older adults and LGBT older adults. In order to equalize opportunity for all, services are offered free or on a sliding fee scale based on household income.

Keeping nimble to respond to the changing needs of a community is one of the hallmarks of a successful settlement house. Over time our programs and services have grown, contracted, and evolved to ensure that we’re meeting community needs as efficiently, and effectively as possible, and with the interests of those we serve at the heart of each decision.

Today, we operate two major programs; Children’s Programs and Community Services.

Friendly House has helped to raise generation s of children in the past 88 years. In fact, we see multiple generations coming through our preschool, afterschool and summer camp programs, later serving on our board of directors, staff, and volunteering to make our community a better place for all its residents. As I sat in the board meeting last Tuesday, I realized that three of our board members this term, Aaron Lande, Miranda Waigler, and Annie Bernie all started at Friendly House as youngsters.

Last year I told you that we’d just launched a full day, year-round preschool class and I’m thrilled to report that this year, we’ve expanded our half day class into a second full day classroom with help from our partners at Neighborhood House, Oregon Head Start, and Oregon Community Foundation. These changes ensure that we’re better able to support working families on Portland’s westside. These partnerships allow low-income families to participate alongside families who pay on a sliding-fee-scale. Our families are appreciative of this mixed-model, where parents and children alike benefit from a rich and diverse experience, and the alliances formed between families, regardless of language, income or ethnicity, often last a lifetime.

For 36 years Friendly House’s after school program has partnered with Chapman Elementary School to bring affordable, high quality childcare to kindergarten through fifth grade students. In addition to a lot of play, a hardy snack, homework club and tutoring our kiddos are given the opportunity to explore their interests. Staff and community partners bring in STEAM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) and specialty clubs where children can choose an area of focus, such as music, cooking, and community service clubs, where they volunteer for various activities, including mentoring younger kids, graffiti removal, or performing random acts of kindness for each other and the community.

During summer months, the program transforms into a summer day camp. One week it’s Outdoor Adventure, the next is Rock & Roll Band. They attend swimming lessons, and field trips where children go on adventures to the Gorge, the coast, Ape Caves in Washington, and other destinations. For some of our kids, this is their first trip to the ocean, and seeing rural communities.

Thanks to the Rebecca Longaker Scholarship Fund, houseless and low-income families at risk of homelessness may receive full and partial scholarships to attend. And in case you didn’t hear, the Longaker’s recently procured over $200,0000 to sustain our scholarships into the future.

I’ve had the privilege of spending more time in our Children’s Programs lately, and I can tell you that like Aaron, Miranda and Annie 30+ years ago, these kiddos are honing their lego building skills in preparation for our facilities committee, their math skills to be ready for the finance committee, and their power of persuasion to lead up our marketing efforts! Friendly House’s future is in very good hands!

And Community Services:

Community Services takes a strengths-based approach to supporting and inspiring health and wellness, independence, and community.  Community Services has four primary components;

Our longstanding Senior Program is thriving. An expanded contract with Multnomah County Aging, Disability and Veteran Services has allowed us to add staff and increase capacity to provide case management and recreation services to South West and the downtown core.   Friendly House is now the sole provider of Information and Referral services, transportation scheduling and coordination, and case management for vulnerable older adults and their caregivers on the west side of Multnomah County.

We’ve also added staff and are expanding offerings through SAGE Metro Portland, our program for LGBT older adults who are at greater risk for isolation, discrimination and poor health outcomes. LGBT older adults throughout Multnomah County now have greater access to culturally specific Information and Referral services, Case management, and we are broadening our geographic reach for recreational, education and community building opportunities to meet their specific needs.

We are in the third year of a partnership with EngAge, a non-profit out of California, where we’re transforming a subsidized housing complex in North Portland into a center for art and learning.  Our staff coordinate teaching artists to teach ceramics, and storytelling, fitness experts for yoga and hula hooping, meditation teachers, musicians and historians, all working towards the goal of giving people a reason to stay engaged in life and learning. This partnership has opened new doors for Friendly House, and Vaune has more about other opportunities on the horizon.

And the fourth component, is Community Recreation and Education. CRE includes our fitness room, gymnasium, internet center, Low- and no-cost classes, Town halls with Oregon political leaders and other opportunities for public discourse and where members of our community come together to learn and play, to share information and to feel included.

The Volunteer Program is the linchpin of our enterprise. It brings together people from the community with time, talent, and the will to give of themselves to tutor children, visit frail older adults in their homes, teach computer skills, educate the public about LGBT older adults, to serve on boards and committees, and much more.



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