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Oregon City's Parrott Creek Child & Family Services receives $168K; Lake Oswego's Children's Literacy Project awarded $122K

Two nonprofit organizations in Clackamas County were recently awarded nearly $300,000 in grant funding from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to help further their missions to help children both locally and across the nation.

The Murdock Charitable Trust is a Vancouver, Washington, organization that has given more than $1 billion in grants to both new and established nonprofits throughout the Pacific Northwest since 1975. This spring, the group awarded 32 grants totaling $4.9 million to organizations in Oregon, including Parrott Creek Child & Family Services in Oregon City and the Children's Literacy Project based in Lake Oswego.

Oregon City

Parrot Creek received $168,000 to expand its mental and behavioral health programs for children. The nonprofit helps children and families caught in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Established in 1968, Parrott Creek has helped more than 25,000 children by supporting them with an array of services including counseling and life-skill development that helps provide more nurturing, educational and healthier outcomes.

According to Simon Fulford, executive director, the Murdock grant will allow Parrott Creek to hire new staff members specifically trained in helping counsel children who have exhibited sexually inappropriate behavior and get them help that diverts them from a life labeled as a sexual offender.

"The Murdock Trust is providing us with funding to expand and develop services for youth before they enter the juvenile system, and to use these services as more of a preventative treatment so behavior doesn't become more problematic," Fulford said. COURTESY OF PARROTT CREEK CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES - Simon Fulford, executive director of Parrott Creek Child and Family Services.

According to Fulford, much of the treatment for these types of cases is reactive rather than preventative, so the organization's pitch to Murdock was to expand its staff and develop those preventative treatment programs with the goal of preventing children from entering the system as sexual offenders.

Fulford said that although COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into their recruitment of new staff, but a general lack of workers within the behavioral health care sector here in the Pacific Northwest has also been an issue in finding the right hires.

"There just aren't enough candidates right now," Fulford said. "It's quite challenging finding someone with the right types of experience, particularly since this is quite niche."

Despite that, Fulord and staff are continuing to move forward and they're excited to be using this grant to move in the neeld in terms of developing programs that help children before they enter the juvenile justice system rather than after.

"Really what we're trying to do here is make sure these kids aren't stigmatized for the rest of their lives," Fulford said.

Lake Oswego

The Children's Literacy Project, which received $122,000, was founded in 2014 by Jeff Martin with the goal of curbing illiteracy in communities across the country. According to the Children's Literacy Project, children who are not reading at grade level in the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than children who are reading at level. Conversely, the group also suggests that children who are reading at grade level in the third grade go on to graduate high school at a rate of 89% or better, and therefore have the potential to be fully functioning citizens who add to the vibrancy and success of their communities.

The organization's approach is to use filmmaking as a way to connect their message to faith-based communities and avid volunteers across the country to local literacy programs in a number of cities including Portland, Detroit, Memphis, Sacramento, Fort Worth, Phoenix and Seattle. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHILDREN'S LITERACY PROJECT - A screenshot from a film made by the Children's Literacy Project for SOAR Detroit, a local literacy project based in Michigan.

According to Martin, so far, the short documentaries the group has produced about its efforts have called thousands of churches and schools to action and helped raise money for books and literacy programs in dozens of cities. But their larger goal is to help connect the literacy movement to many other issues plaguing the country such as mass incarceration, racial injustice, poverty and much more. PHOTO COURTESY OF JEFF MARTIN - Jeff Martin, founder and president of the Children's Literacy Project.

"We believe we can impact not only our region, but the nation," Martin said. "We're going to do a film that covers this issue comprehensively that plants the seed of truth inside the heads of viewers."

Martin adds that he's not seeking to make a film that's "churchy" or explicitly talks about Jesus and kids that can't read. Rather, Martin's organization is seeking to introduce the Children's Literacy Project to a wide array of people, including those in the faith community, and invite them into the cause.

According to Martin, he and his production crew are about halfway done with filming — although COVID-19 has slowed them down a bit — and about a third of the way done with editing. This is Martin's fourth project of this magnitude, so he's in familiar territory despite coronavirus posing new challenges. They expect to be done with filming by the end of the year, along with most of the editing.

According to Martin, he hopes the film will be impactful enough to be used by many nonprofit organizations that deal with literacy, poverty, America's prisons and many other topics when it's finished.


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