Teamwork Makes the Dream Work – Branch Community Program

(8 Minute Read) – Our last blog touched on how the pandemic amplified the necessity for community connection and the healing power that comes from it. Whether we’re at work or at home, we have witnessed our local communities come together for the greater good.

Inaugural Branch Community Program

Unitus is excited to have introduced our inaugural Branch Community Program in 2021. The Branch Community Program’s purpose is to empower all Unitus branches to interact and connect more with their neighboring community through smaller, localized sponsorships that reach the community in ways corporate sponsorships cannot.

Additionally, the Branch Community Program will help Community Development identify key community needs within each location while staying aligned with Unitus’ commitment to DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) and our four giving areas: Arts & Culture, Financial Education, Health & Well-Being, and Youth Development.

How does the Branch Community Program work, you ask? All Unitus branches are given $1,000 annually to distribute to local 501(c)3 nonprofits decided at the discretion of the branch and Community Development team. In the spirit of teamwork and collaboration, branches can band together to create a larger, more impactful sponsorship that combines their allocated branch funds.

2021 Branch Community Sponsorships

Introducing this year’s nonprofits, as selected by each of our branches! We’ve provided a brief description for each as well as some information on how we can all get involved.

Elevate Him
Branch Partner: Tanasbourne

Elevate Him’s mission is to assist families that have experienced suicide and are not able to get the mental health assistance that is needed. With each donation, Elevate Him will be able to provide awareness materials and comprehensive support services for families that has lost loved ones to suicide. You can support their mission by becoming involved as a mentor or donating.

Family Promise of Greater Washington County
Branch Partner: Beaverton

Located in Beaverton, Family Promise of Greater Washington County’s mission is to equip families and vulnerable communities to end the cycle of homelessness. Family Promise offers many opportunities to make a difference in the lives of the families they serve. These include donating funds and supplies, volunteering your time, or becoming a host.

“With our donation, Family Promise is more able to provide shelter, showers, laundry, and transportation for children and their families.”

Ashkan Jafari, Beaverton Branch Manager

Fort Kennedy, True Housing, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metro
Branch Partner: Clackamas and Mall 205

Clackamas and Mall 205 branches have teamed up to combine their branch funds in support of three different nonprofits:

  • Fort Kennedy is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization developed to provide nutritious food, clothing, and resources for homeless veterans and their families living in the Portland Metro area, or within the state of Oregon. One of our Unitus’ members shared that they volunteer at this wonderful organization. You, too, can make a difference by donating or spreading the word on social media!
  • Located between the Clackamas and Mall 205 branches, True Housing provides individuals and families in our community with the opportunity to make positive and lasting changes in their lives. They’re in great need of items such as gym equipment and gift certificates for activities for teenagers. Donate today.
  • With five (5) clubhouses in the Portland Metro, the Boys & Girls Clubs are safe, positive places for kids to enjoy fun and engaging programs at an affordable price. There are plenty of opportunities to contribute your time and support the youth in our community through homework help, serving meals at the Kids Cafe, assisting with their food pantry, or general mission support. Get started by submitting your volunteer application today.

I have worked closely with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metro, Snohomish County, and King County since 2012. From 2015 to 2020, I served on the Associate Board for Portland Metro.”

Jessica Smith, Clackamas Branch Manager

Gresham Senior Center
Branch Partner: Gresham

The Gresham Senior Center’s mission is to increase senior citizens’ abilities to remain involved and active in the community. Key to its success are the volunteers that provide enjoyable activities and classes for seniors to enjoy. Get involved by becoming a volunteer or making a donation.

“We have been in partnership with our local senior center since Gresham opened in March of 2019. They are a place where local seniors can go to socialize, get a hot meal, and volunteer within their communities.”

Michelle Sumpter, Gresham Branch Manager

Llewellyn Elementary PTA and Sellwood Middle School PTA
Branch Partner: Westmoremand

The Llewellyn Elementary Parent Teacher Association (PTA)’s mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children. Ways to get involved include attending meetings, volunteering, or donating funds.

Unitus’ Westmoreland branch has partnered with Llewellyn Elementary since Westmoreland first opened.

“We would like to continue to build on that partnership. While we haven’t been able to volunteer in person as much due to COVID, we want to continue supporting the school.”

Rebecca Rich, Westmoreland Branch Manager

Moreover, Westmoreland will sponsor Sellwood PTA, which is the middle school that Llewellyn Elementary feeds into. With this additional partnership, Westmoreland hopes we can further expand our impact in the Sellwood Moreland community.

Multnomah Arts Center
Branch Partner: Multnomah Village

In the heart of Multnomah Village, and directly across the street from our Multnomah Village branch, is the Multnomah Arts Center (MAC). The MAC’s mission is to advocate for equity and access to arts education. They provide art classes to local students and host numerous events promoting physical activity in their covered outdoor gym. Make a donation today to leave a legacy of continued arts education for current and future generations!

“The MAC is a big part of our neighborhood community. We have a great relationship with them.”

Austin Anderson, Assistant Branch Manager at Multnomah Village

Neighborhood House
Branch Partner: Multnomah Village

Also in the heart of Multnomah Village lies Neighborhood House. Neighborhood House’s mission is to bring neighbors together to reduce hunger and homelessness and to educate both young and old, strengthening our community by providing resources to support self-reliance, economic independence, and dignity in people of all ages and backgrounds. Their Food Pantry is the largest food pantry program on Portland’s west side, serving over 1,400 local individuals each month. Support their work by volunteering or donating funds.

North Pole Studio
Branch Partner: Downtown Plaza and Salem

The North Pole Studio supports careers in the arts, and exists to increase opportunities for artists with autism and intellectual / developmental disabilities to thrive as active members of the arts community. They foster self-determination and facilitate meaningful connections through total engagement in the arts. Show your support for North Pole Studio artists and programs by donating. Good to know: a percentage of every art sale goes directly to the artist, while the remaining percentage goes towards the space, materials, and programming supporting that artist’s practice.

Inspired after attending Unitus’ DEI Advocacy Hour in which staff all became aware of North Pole Studio’s important work, the Plaza branch thought this organization would be another obvious decision for their 2021 community sponsorship.

“We were inspired to hear about the work they are doing with artists that have autism or intellectual/developmental disabilities and thought it might be nice to donate art supplies, tools, and materials, which we could coordinate with the organization. When things open back up, we would like to look for ways to volunteer.” 

Jorjia Fields, Plaza Branch Manager

Northwest Pilot Project
Branch Partner: Downtown Plaza

The Northwest Pilot Project’s mission is to offer opportunities for a life of dignity and hope to very low-income seniors in Multnomah County by solving housing and transportation needs. On a yearly basis, they help stabilize housing for 600 seniors. Donations of items to help their clients get settled in their new homes are strongly encouraged. The Plaza team is using this year’s funds to help purchase bedding and kitchen kits that can be given to seniors moving into their new homes.

In recognition for demonstrating a dedication to better serving older adults in Portland, Unitus and the Plaza team, received the inaugural Age-Friendly Business Award by the City of Portland.

Play It Forward (PIF)
Branch Partner: Virtual

The Unitus Virtual Branch chose to support two amazing nonprofits, the first being Play It Forward (PIF). PIF’s mission is to empower young musicians to realize their potential for greatness and creativity and to make the world a better place. PIF accomplishes this mission is by providing gently used musical instruments to low-income individuals and families through the Pacific Northwest. Donations of any amount are appreciated. You can also support PIF simply by sharing their artists’ projects on social media.

Self Enhancement Inc. (SEI)
Branch Partner: Virtual

The second choice for Unitus’ Virtual Branch was Self Enhancement Inc. (SEI). Working with schools, families, and partner community organizations, SEI provides support, guidance, and opportunities to achieve personal and academic success. Donate today or complete this form to be contacted with upcoming volunteer opportunities.

Stephen’s Place
Branch Partner: Mill Plain

Located in Vancouver, Stephen’s Place partners with families to provide a loving and supportive apartment community to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Help Stephen’s Place grow by donating here.

“Each and every one of us knows someone near and dear to our hearts living with an intellectual or developmental disability and we are proud to sponsor Stephen’s Place in an effort to help them continue their many programs that help foster a fulfilled and meaningful life.”

Shay Kealoha, Mill Plain Branch Manager

Trauma Intervention Program NW (TIP NW)
Branch Partner: N. Williams

Our N. Williams branch took a vote and decided to direct their branch funds to the Trauma Intervention Program NW (TIP NW). TIP NW is a group of specially trained citizen volunteers who provide emotional aid and practical support and resources to victims of traumatic events and their families in the first few hours following a tragedy. TIP Volunteers are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and are actively involved in the N Portland community. No call is too small for the TIP Volunteer. There is already one Unitus employee that volunteers with TIP, but they could always use some more help! Sign up to become a volunteer or donate funds.

“We decided to donate to TIP this year because we believe mental well-being is a top priority. Since the pandemic, it has been increasingly more difficult for people who are suffering to receive the support they need. During this time, TIP has trained over 60 more volunteers to accommodate for the higher demand.”

Amanda Triskele, N. Williams Branch Manager

Amanda adds, “My mother, JoAnn Bezodis, became a TIP volunteer a few years ago and continuously mentions it being the most meaningful position she has ever had. During our coordination with TIP, we also discovered that Unitus employee, Nicole Barlow, has also been a volunteer with TIP. It was amazing having everyone here together for the photo.”

Let’s Get Social

#TeamUnitus invites you to stay connected with the community! Follow us on social media and be the first to learn about our community involvement.

As always, we owe a heartfelt thanks to our staff and members for helping advance Unitus’ presence and connection to our community!

About the author: Laine Carrillo

Laine Carrillo (she/they) joined Unitus as a Social Media Strategist in June 2021. She grew up in the Philippines before moving to the United States at thirteen, then received a BA in German and MA in Human Rights.

She belongs to the Asian and immigrant communities. Her experience working in human rights nonprofits includes social media content creation and management as well as grant writing.

When she is not crafting content or scrolling through social media apps, Laine enjoys reading, volunteering, and exploring the Pacific Northwest with her partner.

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