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Working in the basement of a former church nearly lost to a fire in 2017, staff members and volunteers with The Clackamas Service Center stuff large boxes with groceries bound for local residents who’ve fallen on hard times. Others pack dozens of to-go bags with shelf-stable and ready-to-eat food for people living on the streets, a shift from the full meals that they once served visitors in the building’s outsized dining room before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Clackamas Service Center, which is headquartered in this church building in Southeast Portland, works hard to meet the most basic needs of its low-income and unhoused neighbors. In addition to food, hot showers are also available here, as are hygiene items, clothing, mail services, and housing and medical referrals.
For The Portland Clinic Foundation and its contributors, all of these services are right in line with the foundation’s mission: to advance community wellness throughout the greater Portland area.
“We interpret that holistically,” explains Kris Anderson, the foundation’s executive director. “We support everything from accessible health care and housing to education equity, the arts, the environment and social justice initiatives” — in other words, the many and various social determinants of good health. The foundation provides that support in the form of grants, made possible by donations from The Portland Clinic’s providers, staff members, patients, families and friends.
As a three-time recipient of unrestricted grants from the foundation, the Clackamas Service Center has been able to extend its services further, to thousands of struggling individuals and families. The grants also have increased the center’s stability, says center director Debra Mason.
“They mean everything,” she says. “When things change and we need to pivot to meet needs that aren’t in the budget, having those extra dollars come in really makes a difference.”
The Clackamas Service Center is a prime example of the grassroots nonprofits that the foundation is dedicated to helping.
The Portland Clinic Foundation began in 1963 and was revived in 2016 to support under-resourced communities in the tri-county area. Since then, contributions and grants have increased every year.
In 2020, the foundation awarded a total of $75,000 to 31 nonprofit organizations. They included a volunteer grocery delivery service for isolated seniors; writing workshops for adults and youths in treatment centers, hospitals and correctional facilities; and an animal welfare team that provides free veterinary care for the pets of people experiencing homelessness.
“Donating to The Portland Clinic Foundation is a really powerful way for people to contribute to multiple organizations at once,” Anderson says. “With one gift, donors can reach across a whole range of sectors and communities to really do good.” And with The Portland Clinic covering the foundation’s overhead, contributors are assured that every dollar they give goes directly to well-chosen nonprofits.
The Portland Clinic serves about 90,000 patients each year through its clinics, “but we don’t want to stop there,” says Dick Clark, the clinic’s CEO. “The foundation is an opportunity to serve our community in a different way, through strategic partnerships with quality nonprofits doing their own good work. It’s become an extension of our mission to serve the community and support wellness.”
Since 2016, The Portland Clinic Foundation has awarded grants totaling $210,000 to 59 organizations. For the clinic’s 100th anniversary year, it has set an ambitious goal: to give out $100,000 in grants. “After a challenging year, many of our neighbors are still struggling to access the food, shelter, safety and care they need to survive and thrive. We want to provide more help,” says Anderson.
“I’m really proud that we are able to target historically under-resourced communities,” she adds, “including organizations that are led by and serve low-income folks, people of color, LGBTQ people and women. We try to prioritize organizations where our grant dollars will really make a difference. For our donors, that means that even small gifts to the foundation can have a big impact.”
To learn more about The Portland Clinic Foundation and how you can contribute, visit theportlandclinic.org/foundation.