Place, permanence, purpose
A place of belonging and permanence is golden for foster children. The same can be said for a place of independence, support and purpose for senior citizens.
In August, Bridge Meadows — a multi-generational housing community serving youth in Oregon's foster system, adoptive parents and senior citizens — welcomed home the first residents of its newest location in Beaverton.
Bridge Meadows officially celebrated its grand opening Tuesday, Nov. 7, hosting hundreds of attendees and dignitaries. It was complete with a ribbon-cutting celebration featuring the organization's executive director, Dr. Derenda Schubert, and Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle.
"Individually we are one drop," Schubert said. "Together we're an ocean."
"I wish there was a Bridge Meadows in every city; in every state," Doyle said.
"When we welcomed our new residents home earlier this fall, several cried, sharing with us that they were so happy to live in a place where they could truly belong. There was a collective sense of joy and amazement," Schubert said. "As we look to our official grand opening, we're excited to extend this excitement to greater Beaverton and beyond, sending our thanks to everyone who has helped us to get where we are today."
Bridge Meadows' mission is to provide permanent homes for foster youth; support adoptive parents with resources; and give senior citizens purpose in their daily lives. Its Beaverton facility, which shares a similar footprint as the original property in North Portland, features an intergenerational community center and 41 total residential units, including nine family townhomes and 32 senior apartments.
Brian and Josie Parker moved into a three-bedroom townhouse in Bridge Meadows with their adopted son Victor, 3, along with a 5-month-old foster son in September.
The couple are publishers of youth material and have been fostering children for about a decade, after trying unsuccessfully to have children. Victor began as a foster child and has been with the Parkers since he was 2 months old. They were able to adopt him. Victor is among about nine children the couple have fostered over the years.
The Parkers were drawn to the multi-generational housing space for a number of reasons.
"We are active community members and this is a great community," Brian said. "Victor has so many grandmas here."
Brian added that housing costs were making it challenging to survive and that Bridge Meadows seemed a perfect fit for their family.
"From the beginning, we knew that a multi-generational community of this kind would be perfect for Beaverton," Beaverton City Council President Marc San Soucie said. "This is a unique model and we are very excited to be celebrating Bridge Meadows."
The Bridge Meadows development responds to the Beaverton-area's critical demand for safe, affordable housing and permanency-focused alternatives to foster care. Residents of Bridge Meadows Beaverton include senior citizens and families working toward permanency from the foster care system. The community is home to people from as far away as Virginia and from as close as across the street.
Therese Rose of Northern Virginia learned about Bridge Meadows on the "PBS NewsHour."
"I knew I had to move there," she said. The retired marriage and family therapist and special education teacher said Bridge Meadows aligns with all of her values and goals.
"I have a grandchild in England — a foster child who my daughter and her husband are in the process of adopting," Rose added.
"The new Bridge Meadows project is well-aligned with the Beaverton Community Vision Plan and has received explicit support of city residents, especially neighbors around the site," said Doyle, who initially approached Bridge Meadows about replicating its model in Washington County. "Bringing more affordable housing, particularly for seniors, is a top priority for the city, and the Bridge Meadows model of serving families who are in the process of adopting foster youth makes it all the better."
Among the attendees at the celebration event was the Portland Bridge Meadows first resident, Juanita Rivera Laush, 94. Once a columnist for The Times' sister publication, the Lake Oswego Review, Rivera Laush leads a weekly writing workshop. She also does tai chi. Rivera Laush enjoys her interaction with the foster youth. "I love to see them growing up so loving," she said.
A featured speaker at the event was the executive director of Washington County Housing Authority, Val Valfre, who described Bridge Meadows as more than just an affordable housing site.
"Bridge Meadows encourages safe interaction and welcomes everyone," Valfre said. "It just exudes inclusion and harmony and will have a transformative impact on our lives."
Bridge Meadows Community Support Specialist Hannah Green facilitates supportive groups and activities at the Beaverton location. She said seniors can share their wisdom and skills with foster and adopted youth and it's a wonderful exchange. "The children energize the seniors and it's mutually beneficial," she added. "There's a communal dinner each Wednesday and everyone participates. Children learn to cook and everyone sets up as well as cleaning up."
In support of the project, Bridge Meadows secured resources from the State of Oregon, City of Beaverton, Washington County, The Collins Foundation and Oregon Community Foundation, Spirit Mountain Community Fund and Windermere Stellar, resulting in nearly $14 million raised. The total project cost was $15.2 million, and partners include Walsh Construction, Carleton Heart, Washington County Housing Bureau, Beaverton Christian Church, Weinburg Foundation and Eisner Foundation.
The facility is at the corner of Southwest Allen Boulevard and Menlo Drive, across from the Beaverton Christian Church.
The Bridge Meadows nonprofit has one other existing location, which opened in April 2011 and can be found on the site of the former John Ball Elementary School in the Portsmouth neighborhood of North Portland.
For more information, visit bridgemeadows.org.
By Mandy Feder-Sawyer
Reporter, Beaverton Valley Times
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