Snapshots of Some Initiative Successes

A mother of two young children, Maria started babysitting to supplement her family’s income. Even though she worked hard, she barely made any money until joining a Latina support group of the Child Care Improvement Project. There she received instruction in business skills, signing contracts with parents, licensing, tax preparation, and creating policies. Today her business operations are a model for newer members, and her increased income has made it possible for her to buy her first home.

A father of four children, Nathan hadn’t worked in two years until he joined the Workforce Housing Alliance program. There his personal advocate identified Nathan’s skill set, tutored him on searching for the right job and on how to interview, and provided child care and transportation-support services when needed. Today, Nathan proudly manages the inventory section of the light industrial company that employs him.

Christie, a troubled teen who worked at minimum-wage jobs to support herself while attending alternative school, was having troublemaking ends meet. She joined the Corporate Connections program,which trained her in basic office skills and corporate etiquette before placing her in a law office. She is now earning a living wage as a receptionist and is about to start paralegal studies that will be paid for by her employer.

After dealing with exposure to toxic chemicals and bankruptcy from medical bills, Jennie – a sculptor by training – appeared an unlikely prospect for success as a microentrepreneur until she started working with the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs and Mercy Corps NW. They provided her business mentoring, training in marketing, and financial assistance to start a floral design and florist business. After some initial struggles, Jennie’s business is significantly exceeding growth projections and will soon move into a much larger retail space.

Darrell was unemployed, living on the streets or with friends, in a court-mandated substance-abuse program, and had a criminal background when he joined Central City Concern’s Access to Business Trades and Customer Service Occupations (ABTCSO) program in April 2006. After a year of intensive life-skills training and participation in a pre-apprenticeship carpentry program, Darrell started work in an entry-level position making $13.45 an hour plus benefits, moved into his own apartment, and – supported by ABTCSO staff – was able to complete the substance-abuse program, which resulted in his drug charges being expunged.

Howard Cutler oversaw Portland’s community economic development efforts between 1994 and 2004. He can be reached at .


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