School children from St. Johns walk through Baltimore Woods accompanied by their biology teacher. They lightly grasp white oak saplings and make notes in their journals. Meanwhile on Killingsworth Street, the Momentum Alliance starts a summer leadership camp, offering free mentorship and coaching to youth.
These are some of the community enrichments that might come out of the North Portland Enhancement Grants. Friends of Baltimore Woods and the Momentum Alliance join 12 other community organizations to receive a grant from Metro during the program's last – and biggest – round of awards. This year's grants invest $594,000 in organizations that serve North Portland.
Funding for the grants came from a 50-cent surcharge on each ton of trash disposed at the now-closed St. Johns Landfill. The program was established in 1985 by the Oregon Legislature to compensate communities affected by the landfill.
For nearly three decades, the grants have funded projects that increase livability, improve public safety, preserve wildlife, or provide service to the youth and elderly.
But as funding from the former landfill dwindled, administrative costs grew in relation to the support available for the community. The Metro Council approved the committee's recommendation to spend the remaining principle on the North Portland Greenway Trail and one-time, capacity-building grants.
Metro Councilor Sam Chase, who chaired the North Portland Enhancement Grants committee, said these grants are community investments and the grant committee focused on programs that would have a long-lasting impact.
"What we are trying to do is invest these resources because we are using them one time," Chase said. "We want to invest them in ways that will provide a sustained, long-term benefit for the neighborhoods in that area."
Howard Harrington, a member of Friends of Baltimore Woods, said the grant will help expand efforts to protect and celebrate this 30-acre stretch of wild nestled in North Portland.
"It would help take another step forward in the development of the organization," Harrington said.
This step would include hiring an organization development consultant who can help them project their plans into the next five years, such as developing a way for local schools to use the woods as a learning lab.
In addition to hosting native plants and wildlife, the Baltimore Woods have historic and archeological value. The area was once a densely populated Native American community and a Lewis and Clark historical site, according to Harrington.
At the Momentum Alliance, the Student Alliance Program allows youth of differing backgrounds such as undocumented, indigenous, HIV positive, gang-affected and low-income collaborate and support one another's leadership goals.
Diego Hernandez, 26-year-old co-executive director of the Momentum Alliance, said the grant will help the organization expand services, offering more training and opportunities.
"One of the things this grant will allow us to do is more one-on-one with the youth we are working with," Hernandez said. "We are building that capacity to be able to serve students with more resources as well as expanding opportunities."
One example of the expanding opportunities is launching the Leveraging Momentum program, which was a pilot project to build a network of 200 leaders younger than 30. The program provides leadership coaching and connects these young people to organizations seeking diverse leadership on their board of directors, while giving these boards training to handle differing viewpoints.
Chase considers the grants program an example of good governance, with the significant impact of the St. Johns Landfill used to enhance the affected community.
"This was a major disruption to that community, having this dump, that was a very large operation, right basically in the middle of our region," Chase said. "I think that this has been a very successful way to alleviate and remediate some of those negative effects and turn them into positives."
Rebecca Shine, co-executive director of Momentum Alliance said the North Portland Enhancement Grants reflect the talent and potential of North Portland.
"North Portland has incredible talent and there is incredible work being done in North Portland," Shine said. "With funds like this this, work can be sustained into the future and have a legacy."
- Columbia Slough Watershed Council
- Community Alliance of Tenants
- Friends of Baltimore Woods
- Friends of the North Portland Willamette Greenway Trail
- Friends of Trees
- Golden Harvesters, Inc.
- Historic Kenton Firehouse Committee/North Portland Community Works
- Janus Youth Programs
- Momentum Alliance
- North by Northeast Community Health Center
- North Portland Tool Library (NPTL)
- Roosevelt High School
- St. Johns Main Street Coalition
- St. Johns Farmers Market