From a chalk art festival in Forest Grove to fighting air pollution in Northwest Portland, residents around the region worked together in 2016 to improve their neighborhoods using grants funded by garbage and recycling fees.
The grants are awarded annually through Metro’s Community Enhancement Program. The program retains one dollar for every ton of garbage deposited at a participating transfer station or landfill in the greater Portland area, and then invests those funds in the surrounding communities.
“The money is used to improve the quality of life in communities that host garbage and recycling facilities,” said Molly Chidsey, Metro community partnerships project manager. Seven cities participate in the program, including Forest Grove, Gresham, Portland, Oregon City, Sherwood, Troutdale and Wilsonville.
North Portlanders expand tool library
On April 1, 60 or so Kenton residents gathered for “April Tool’s Day,” the grand opening celebration of the North Portland Tool Library Annex.
The North Portland Tool Library, located in the basement of the Historic Kenton Firehouse, stocks 3,500 tools available for free loan to their 6,000 members. Before building the annex, members had the difficult and dangerous job of carrying large items such as table saws, ladders and lawn mowers up and down the basement stairs.
Now, the tool library has an easy-to-access above-ground space for storing and repairing large tools.
“As a member myself, I love saving space at home, and saving time and money by renting tools instead of purchasing them,” said Metro Councilor Sam Chase, who serves on the advisory committee for North Portland community enhancement grants.
“But most of all," said Chase, “the community building that comes from people sharing and helping one another is a tremendous asset for our neighborhoods.”
“Community participation is essential to the process," said Chidsey. “They decide how to spend community enhancement funds in ways that are important to them.”
Neighbors living close to the Metro Central Transfer Station in Northwest Portland chose projects that reduced air and water pollution in the industrial district, provided nutrition for elderly, disabled and low-income residents, and enhanced parks and recreation for children and families.
The Sauvie Island Center received funds to provide a half-day farm excursion for students of James John and Chapman elementary schools, and teach them about healthy diets and healthy ecosystems. Many of these students come from low-income families.
“Tasting fresh food directly from a farm makes a powerful impression,” said Anna Goldrich, former executive director of the center. “Hopefully the kids will take these lessons home to their families, and carry them forward as they grow.”
North Portlanders living near the now-closed St. Johns Landfill focused their grant funds on projects that increased employment opportunities or provided job skills and training, improved neighborhood living conditions and safety, and preserved or enhanced green spaces in the area.
“The funding came at just the right time for us,” said Suzy Jeffreys, executive director at North by Northeast Community Health Centers, which provides primary care services for low-income adults. They used grant funding to increase staff hours and bring in new patients. “We knew there were many more community members in need of our services, but we just didn’t have the capacity.”
St. Johns Landfill in North Portland was one of the original program participants. It collected community enhancement funds until it closed in 1990. In 2014, the remaining balance was invested in a final round of projects, most of which concluded last year.
Learn more about the 2016 community enhancement projects in the interactive map at the bottom of the page and in the Community Enhancement Program Annual Report. 2017 grant recipients were announced in January.