Project Return

In early 2009, Friendly House was selected to operate a vital program called Project Return that provides after-school programming and a wide range of recreational opportunities and safety net services for Chapman Elementary School students whose families are experiencing homelessness or are at-risk of experiencing homeless. The successful program was previously run by PPS, in part through funds raised by the Street of Eames fundraiser created and run by Chapman Elementary volunteers.

In December 2009, Friendly House was awarded $137,500 for the next 2 ½ years from the Portland Children’s Levy* to help fund Project Return. Since then, Project Return has been successful each year, largely due to support from foundations and individuals. Below is the testimony of Dan Hupala, our wonderful Project Return Coordinator. He shared this information with the Portland Children’s Levy council just before they voted to approve the grant.

High quality after school care and positive adult role models help children learn to make positive decisions and stay out of trouble after school.

I believe the students enrolled in Project Return benefit from the program in many ways. First off, students have a safe place to go after school. The Project Return after school program provides a place where caring adults will help them with their homework, in turn providing students with a greater opportunity to be successful in school. Students learn to solve problems with their peers and learn to advocate for themselves. Many children living in crisis situations don’t experience enough support in their home lives. I work very closely with the teaching staff and school psychologist at Chapman to better understand each individual student, and provide extra support to meet their needs. I meet with the teachers on a weekly basis to discuss each student’s academic progress and strategies to improve success. Along with the academic support our program provides, the students receive additional services. Through a partnership with NW ministries we send backpacks full of food home with the families every week. The families also have access to Friendly House’s safety net services program. And thanks to volunteers and donors we are providing holiday services that include gifts, food, clothes and shoes for the kids.

One of the biggest benefits of the Friendly House Project Return program is the integration into the Friendly House After School program. The previous model of Project Return that was run by Portland Public Schools isolated these students. The students stayed in the basement of the school, while the other after school kids went to Friendly House. Our model of Project Return allows students the opportunity to participate in fully in Friendly House After School including Club Days, visits from the librarian, and other enrichment activities. The kids also have opportunities for social interactions with a more diverse population of children. The best part for the parents is they receive high quality after school care with extra benefits, all for free which allows extra time for parents to work.

I would like to thank you for your consideration of our program, and thank you for supporting all the great programs this levy has funded over the years.

If you’d like to become involved or donate to this program, you may contact Monique Eldridge at 503-228-4391 or click here to make a secure donation of any amount. Your gift of $2,500 will provide after-school programming, access to special interest clubs such as photography, violin, basketball and more, plus access to counseling and services, for one child for the school year. Another $2,500 would allow this child to attend Summer Camp for 10 weeks of the summer.

*The Portland Children’s Levy was created by city voters in 2002. It was renewed twice, once in 2008 and again in 2013. The Levy annually invests over $11 million in programs designed to help children: arrive at school ready to learn, support student success in and out of school and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in children’s well-being and school success.

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