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Thirty-eight organizations will benefit from commission's program in its 12th year

More than two dozen nonprofit organizations were awarded funds this month as part of Clackamas County's annual small grants program.

The county announced Monday, Oct. 5, that 38 separate groups were given a slice of the $250,000 in the 12th consecutive year of the program.

In 2020, the Board of County Commissioners gave preference to organizations helping to fill gaps in service caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly those that work with underserved populations such as the county's communities of color. These grants were particularly welcome this year as the pandemic forced many of these organizations to cancel their regular fundraising events.

For instance, the Canby Center was awarded $10,000 to cover the cost of installing a new walk-in refrigerator donated to the group so that it can begin accepting food donations from local businesses and community members. COURTESY PHOTO: THE CANBY CENTER - The Canby Center serves a wide range of families and inviduals in the Canby area with food boxes.

Steve Nelson, development manager, said that The Canby Center (TCC) is looking to expand its services to an additional 200 families in the Canby area with food boxes through weekly drive-thru distribution events.

"With this award from Clackamas County Small Grants, TCC is well on its way to meeting its goal for 2021: supply 2,160 individuals in their sustainable, sufficiency-focused programs with fresh, perishable foods at no cost," Nelson said. "Expanding refrigeration space to accommodate increasing needs is yet another step we're taking toward our vision for a community where each individual has a sense of dignity, has achieved self-reliance and is a contributing member of society."

Another $8,500 was awarded to the Clackamas Service Center to help the group rebuild its website so that its clients can use an online marketplace to pick out their groceries on a weekly basis for free. The food and health resource nonprofit usually welcomes community members into their distribution center each week to shop for themselves, but COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into that process and they've had to quickly pivot to the web and offer home delivery to keep people at home.

According to Debra Mason, executive director, this grant will allow them to make their website more user friendly.

"Really it's about accessibility," Mason said. "We know with this pandemic that marginalized communities are being affected way more than others, and part of that is just access to care and access to services."

The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Clackamas County were also awarded a grant this week of $7,500 to provide a variety of training opportunities for new volunteers, as well as providing additional support for established volunteers.

According Robin Christian, executive director, the support from the county's small program CASA of Clackamas County will allow them to continue to recruiting, training and supporting CASA volunteers to provide a voice in court and advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the foster care system who need safe and permanent homes.

"Children with a CASA volunteer have significantly fewer placements than a child without a CASA volunteer," Christian said. "Additionally, a child with a CASA volunteer is more likely to achieve permanency and less likely to reenter the child welfare system. The proportion of rentries (into the foster system) is consistently reduced by half."

Clackamas Fire District No. 1 was also awarded a grant of $5,000 to help fund the district's community paramedic program. The program is run by the district's resident community paramedic AmyJo Cook who works to help fill gaps in medical services for residents of the North Clackamas and Estacada areas. PMG FILE PHOTO - Clackamas Fire District No. 1 community paramedic AmyJo Cook (left) assists Penny Irvin connect with resources for prevention of homelessness.

"The small grant grants program has been a perfect avenue for me to be able to help them help the most vulnerable in the community. I'm able to put 100% of it directly back to those who need it most," Cook said.

According to Cook, community paramedicine doesn't look like what you'd typically think of when you describe what a paramedic's job is. Cook's program helps community members in a number of different ways outside of medical care such as providing short-term housing for a domestic violence victim who has no place to stay, transporting someone to a doctor's appointment because the don't have a way to get there, covering a $50 copay for someone who can't afford their medicine, or simply helping a person cover an overdue bill that threatens to put them on the street. It also helps connect people with primary care services and specialists so that people can get the care they need.

"I kind of tout (this program) as being able to say 'Yes' to all of the service demands of the community," Cook said.

Cook said the idea behind community paramedicine is that she's helping people in ways that hopefully prevents a future 911 call and frees up those services for more pressing emergencies.

Another recipient of the 2020 Small Grants Program is the Children's Center in Oregon City. The nonprofit organization received a $9,000 grant which will go toward helping them connect with the county's Spanish speaking community to share important information about the warning signs of child sexual abuse and how to talk to kids about staying safe from predators.

According to Rebecca Nickels, interim executive director, the Children's Center's program uses a curriculum called "Stewards of Children." The program is aimed at helping adults learn how to notice those warning signs and educates them on how to take action to prevent it.

"Our workshops are offered in Spanish and English, and they've been going strong over a virtual format," Nickels said. "We're actually hosting more workshops virtually than we were able to do in person, and it's allowed us to create wonderful relationships across the county."

You can find a full list of the 38 grant recipients here.

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