Updates on our Executive Search

August 22, 2018

As many of you know, Friday, August 3 was Nichole June Maher’s last day as Northwest Health Foundation’s president. In case you didn’t know, here’s our original post about her transition to a new role.

Since Nichole’s departure, we’ve received a lot of questions about what this means for Northwest Health Foundation. We’re writing this post to answer some of those questions.

1.     Do you have an interim president?

We do not. Our board and staff agreed on a shared leadership model during the transition. Our Vice President of Strategy & Public Affairs Jesse Beason and Director of Programs Jen Matheson are leading program operations, and our Vice President of Finance Jason Hilton and Operations Manager Stephenie Smith are leading internal operations.

2.     How are you going about hiring a new president?

Northwest Health Foundation’s board of directors formed an ad hoc search committee to guide our search for a new president. The search committee solicited and reviewed proposals from executive search firms and selected Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group LLC. NPAG will conduct a search for NWHF’s next president with input and support from our board and staff.

3.     Are you accepting applications yet?

Not quite yet. Right now, the search firm is drafting and editing a new position description. They plan to open the position to applications in September and conduct outreach and interviews through December. [Now we are! Please see below. - 9/10/18]

4.     When will the new president start?

We hope the new president will start in early 2019.

We’ll continue to add updates to this post as we have them. Thank you for your patience as we work through this transition!


September 10, 2018

Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group is now accepting applications for Northwest Health Foundation's next president. The position description is available on their website.


November 19, 2018

The executive search is going well, and we hope to name our new president in early 2019.

Introducing our First Round of Health & Education Fund Impact Partners

The Health & Education Fund—a partnership between CareOregon, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Meyer Memorial Trust, Northwest Health Foundation and the Oregon Community Foundation—is pleased to award $1.2 million in grant funds in our inaugural Impact Partnership grant cycle to 21 organizations serving Oregon and Southwest Washington.

We invited applications from organizations and projects focused on family leadership and resilience to improve outcomes in education, healthcare and early learning. Together we seek to support whole families and opportunity communities, focus on the strengths and assets these communities already possess, and promote enduring change through multi-year investments from the Health & Education Fund. Learn more about the Fund here.

Funded through the Health & Education Fund Impact Partnership, these organizations will address barriers to health and education by building leadership and stronger relationships with parents and families, supporting parent and family organizing to change policy, and establishing partnerships with early learning, education and healthcare systems.

Organizations that are currently developing parent-led efforts and community leadership and need time to establish and build relationships with early learning, education and healthcare systems received capacity building grants. Organizations that have identified a system change goal and are currently developing their existing efforts to support parent and community leadership to affect change at the intersection of early learning, education and healthcare systems received implementation grants.

The following organizations received Impact Partnership grants this year:


  • Adelante Mujeres; $30,000; serving Washington County
  • Black Parent Initiative; $30,000; serving Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties
  • Centro Latino Americano; $30,000; serving Lane County
  • Coalition of Communities of Color; $30,000; serving all counties in Oregon
  • Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs; $30,000; serving Jefferson and Wasco counties
  • FACT Oregon; $30,000; serving all counties in Oregon
  • Familias en Acción; $30,000; serving Clackamas, Deschutes, Hood River, Jackson, Lincoln, Marion, Multnomah, Umatilla and Washington counties
  • KairosPDX; $30,000; serving Multnomah County
  • Micronesian Islander Community; $30,000; serving Marion and Polk counties
  • Native American Youth and Family Center; $30,000; serving Clark, Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties
  • Oregon Child Development Coalition; $30,000; serving Morrow County
  • Southern Oregon Child & Family Council, Inc.; $30,000; serving Jackson County
  • The Next Door, Inc.; $30,000; serving Wasco County
  • The Noble Foundation; $30,000; serving Clark and Cowlitz counties
  • United Community Action Network; $30,000; serving Douglas County


  • Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization; $125,000; serving all counties in Oregon
  • Latino Network; $124,991; serving Multnomah and Washington counties
  • Lower Columbia Hispanic Council; $125,000; serving Clatsop County
  • Oregon Community Health Workers Association; $125,000; serving Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties
  • Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality; $125,000; serving Marion County
  • The Family Connection, Southern Oregon Regional Parenting Hub; $100,000; serving Jackson and Josephine counties

Some examples of the work these grants support:

Latino Network's Culturally Specific Early Childhood project will engage more Latinx parents in policy advocacy work through their Juntos Aprendemos program by developing parent leadership groups focused on civic engagement skills and strategies.

FACT Oregon will develop a Family Leadership Training Program and establish strategies to identify emerging family leaders with children experiencing disability across the state to equip and engage them to serve as systems change agents.

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs will use funds to develop a P-3 Comprehensive Plan with an indigenous lens around prenatal to third grade initiatives for the Tribes.

If you're interested in learning more about these amazing organizations and the work they are doing, please follow us on Twitter (@northwesthealth)! We'll be highlighting each of our new funded partners in the coming weeks.

Our President & CEO Prepares for a New Role

 Nichole June Maher from the shoulders up, smiling.

We are sad, proud and thrilled to announce that Northwest Health Foundation’s President and CEO Nichole June Maher has accepted a new position as President and CEO of Group Health Foundation.

Group Health Foundation was founded in 2015 and funded in 2017 with the profits from Group Health Cooperative’s sale to Kaiser Permanente. GHF is a 501(c)(4) with $1.72 billion in financial assets. Their mission is to shape and accelerate efforts to improve health equity and advance community aspirations for a vibrant, healthy future in Washington.

We know Nichole is the right person to lead GHF’s work. Over the last six years at NWHF, Nichole led the Foundation through a significant transformation. After years of giving to healthcare systems, mainstream nonprofits and research institutions, we shifted our approach to partnering with community-led organizations that focus on changing policies and systems. We increased our giving to communities of color, rural communities and disability communities significantly, and started to make better use of our 501(c)(4) resources.

We will miss Nichole so much, and we’re incredibly thankful for all that she’s accomplished in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Health stems from all aspects of our lives: education, economic opportunity, a sound environment, a connected community and loving family and friends. I have been so fortunate to experience all of this here in Oregon.

It is hard for me to leave Northwest Health Foundation and for my family to leave the place we’ve called home for so long. I also know that while a river may separate us, Washington and Oregon face many challenges in health equity together. I look forward to working on those challenges in my new role at Group Health Foundation. And I know that the many friendships I’ve forged, and community partnerships Northwest Health Foundation has created throughout our region, will endure. The staff and board at the Foundation are such an inspiration to me. I’ll miss them all dearly.
— Nichole June Maher

Nichole’s last day at NWHF will be August 3rd. Northwest Health Foundation’s board will work with an executive search firm to select a new president and CEO over the coming months. Please stay tuned for more information.

Putting ALL our money where our mouth is with a contracting policy

 Chef Naoko describing the food at an NWHF board dinner at her restaurant Shizuku.

Chef Naoko describing the food at an NWHF board dinner at her restaurant Shizuku.

We are proud of everything we have done at Northwest Health Foundation to ensure our grant dollars go to the communities who have the most opportunity to create positive change for everyone in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Over 75% of our grant dollars go to organizations led by people of color. Half of our grants go to organizations outside of the Portland metro area. And one out of ten go to disability communities. It has taken long-term, intentional work to reach these numbers.

However, our budget is more than just grants. We spend quite a bit of money operating as an organization, hiring consultants to support our grantees, contracting with caterers and hotels, maintaining the Center for Philanthropy (our downtown Portland office space) and more.

In 2012, when Nichole June Maher took over as Northwest Health Foundation's president and chief executive officer, she requested an audit of our operating dollars. She wanted to know what percentage of our operating budget was spent on hiring racial/ethnic minority, disability, LGBTQ and Oregon-owned firms. We were deeply dismayed to discover that only one half of one percent went to minority-owned firms, and 100% of our paid consultants were white.

Eager to make a change, our leadership team and board immediately began to research philanthropic best practices around minority contracting. Unfortunately, at the time, they couldn't find a single example within our philanthropic network of an organization that had passed a policy to prioritize contractors from specific communities. 

 A Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities gathering at Kah-Nee-Ta Resort in Warm Springs, Oregon.

A Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities gathering at Kah-Nee-Ta Resort in Warm Springs, Oregon.

So we drafted our own policy centering minority, disability, LGBTQ and Oregon-owned companies, as well as companies that pay a living wage and provide quality health insurance and paid leave. We became members of the minority-led chambers of commerce in Portland and began to build our own list of vendors and caterers.

We also set a goal. Given that Northwest Health Foundation existed for almost 20 years contracting with majority white-owned businesses, we decided we should spend at least the next 20 years with a focus on supporting racial/ethnic minority-owned businesses, with a secondary goal of supporting Oregon-based, LGBTQ- and women-owned businesses.

Five years later, we have made significant progress. 95% of our consultants are people of color, and many are people of color with disabilities. Approximately 70% of our controllable business expenses go to minority-, LGBTQ- and disability-owned firms. (That's not counting women- and Oregon-owned firms.) This includes our plumber, our painters, our auditors, our lobbyist, Tribally-owned hotels across Oregon, amazing caterers and restaurants, photographers... We could go on.

The most important lesson we have learned is it's not hard to meet these goals. There are plenty of incredible businesses out there owned and operated by people who reflect all of Oregon and Southwest Washington's communities and support our values. 

Now, we challenge you philanthropic organizations and nonprofits across our region. Adopt a similar policy. Leverage all of your resources. Join us in supporting Oregon and Southwest Washington's opportunity communities.

A few tips for success:

  • You must have a long-term strategy and long-term commitment. Work at it every day.
  • Every member of your team can be a leader in this work. While it is critical for your board and senior leadership to commit to this goal, it's the staff who really make it happen through their day-to-day decisions and the relationships they build.
  • Use all of your influence. For example, anytime anyone calls to reserve one of our meeting rooms, we encourage them to use a minority-owned and -operated caterer.
  • Don't think of this as charity. It's a good business practice. At NWHF, every aspect of our operations and customer services has improved with this shift.

Erika Lopez and Felicita Monteblanco: Do you see your values reflected?

This blog is the fifth in a series of posts celebrating community leaders who reflect our equity priorities. At Northwest Health Foundation, we know communities need the power and resources to sit at decision-making tables, to help dispel beliefs and practices that do not promote their health, and to help shape those that do. From local school boards to the state legislature, parents and families should have a voice.

 Felicita Monteblanco and Erika Lopez with their mentor Maria Cabellero Rubio, the executive director of Centro Cultural de Washington County.

Felicita Monteblanco and Erika Lopez with their mentor Maria Cabellero Rubio, the executive director of Centro Cultural de Washington County.

Good friends and proud Latina women devoted to their families and careers, Erika Lopez and Felicita Monteblanco both ran for office in 2017. Neither had campaigned for an elected office before. Felicita had only tried canvassing once – in 2016. They both won their elections.

After the 2016 presidential election, when anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric increased across the country, Erika’s ten-year-old son came home one day afraid. He was concerned his mother, an American citizen and immigrant from Mexico, would be deported. Erika was hurt and concerned that this was something he worried about when he should be able to focus on his education. Of course, she could explain to him why she wouldn’t be deported, but he still didn’t quite understand why so much negativity was hurled at his Mexican heritage and community. And while she could comfort him, she worried about all the other students in her community who faced the reality of being separated from their families. She looked at the Hillsboro School District board and saw no representation of the diverse community she lives in. The Hillsboro School District has a majority minority student body, but the board did not reflect that. There were no board members from an immigrant, bicultural, bilingual community. She did not see herself or her community reflected. They didn’t have a voice in the governance of a system that impacts families and students in a monumental way.

Felicita also recognized the lack of diversity among local elected officials. In 2013, she joined Vision Action Network. As the coordinator for the Washington County Nonprofit Network, Felicita met many leaders and became more aware of the issues facing her community. In particular, she noticed the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation Department’s board was made up entirely of men, most over 40 years old. She didn’t see herself or her values reflected by them. She wondered what it would mean to have the lens of a 32-year-old mixed woman in that space.

 Felicita and Erika at Erika's swearing-in and first meeting as a Hillsboro School District board member.

Felicita and Erika at Erika's swearing-in and first meeting as a Hillsboro School District board member.

Erika and Felicita both participated in Emerge Oregon’s Class of 2017. While they were encouraged, and ultimately decided, to run independently of one another, they were thrilled when they found out the other had plans to run for office. Too busy with their own events and door-knocking to campaign for each other, they supported one another in a different, equally important way: empathizing through texts and phone calls. Felicita says their friendship was “life-saving for my mental and emotional health.” Erika described her campaign as “a whirlwind.” She doesn’t think she would’ve been able to get through it without her network of friends, family and coworkers.

It’s only been seven months since Erika and Felicita started serving in their respective elected offices. They’re still learning the ropes, getting to know their fellow board members and figuring out policies and logistics. Felicita said: You have 100 ideas when you campaign, but once you’re elected you have to celebrate the small wins. Change takes time. She’s most curious about expanding ideas around what Parks and Recreation can do and exploring how parks can be used to build community and connect people in the unincorporated neighborhoods surrounding Beaverton.

Felicita and Erika still support each other. They attend events together. They share their networks, as well as lessons learned in their respective roles. Recently, Felicita went to one of the Hillsboro School District board meetings. Parents from Hillsboro’s Latino Parent Advisory Committee presented at the meeting. Felicita described a moment when Erika, who is bilingual, asked them a question in Spanish. Seeing someone on the board who looks like them, who speaks their native language, was so impactful. Now they know there’s a leader on the school board who understands their needs and can communicate with them in their native language. Hopefully this will empower them to become elected leaders themselves and encourage their children to become elected leaders.

More than anything, Erika and Felicita want to use their new positions to lift up more women of color. They want folks to be civically engaged, to see that becoming an elected official is not only attainable, but incredibly important. Their voices are needed. You don’t have to be a certain age or have certain degrees. What’s important is lived experience and representation. If you look at a decision-making table and no one sitting at it shares your values, you should do what you can to sit at that table.

We are hiring a facilitator to lead UnWind

The Kaiser Permanente Community Fund at Northwest Health Foundation (KPCF) seeks a facilitator to lead UnWind. UnWind will convene two cohorts of leaders three times over a period of 18 months. These leaders will come from organizations that have applied to and/or been funded by KPCF and Northwest Health Foundation (NWHF). At the convenings, they will:

  1. Individually and collectively reflect upon movement longevity;
  2. Collectively identify and analyze challenges to collaboration, including both communications and relational challenges;
  3. Practice and develop the skills to address personal and organizational conflict in support of building unity, trust and a broader movement for change; and
  4. Build deep, trusting relationships across race, geography and disability.

To Apply: Submit responses to the questions asked in the Request for Qualifications (linked below) to Community Engagement Officer Eduardo Moreno at eduardo@northwesthealth.org by 3pm on Thursday, February 22, 2018.

Meet our new board members: Cyreena, Jorge and Mechele!

In December, we said goodbye to our board chair, Vanetta Abdellatif, and board members, Dr. Robbie Law and Carl Talton. They are incredible people. We can't thank them enough for their thoughtful guidance over the last eight years.

Fortunately, we have three promising new board members to take their place.

 Cyreena Boston Ashby

Cyreena Boston Ashby

 Jorge Gutierrez

Jorge Gutierrez

 Mechele Johnson

Mechele Johnson

Cyreena Boston Ashby is Oregon Public Health Institute's chief executive officer. She's worked with U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Governor John Kitzhaber, and most recently directed the Portland African American Leadership Forum.

Read more about Cyreena.

Jorge Gutierrez is the executive director of Lower Columbia Hispanic Council. He is involved not just with managing the organization but also participates in the day-to-day delivery of services.

Read more about Jorge. 

Mechele Johnson has served as a Shoalwater Bay tribal council woman and organized as a part of Willapa Bay Resistance, a grassroots cross-racial coalition that recruits candidates to run for office and builds the voices of low-income people of color and rural Washingtonians.

Read more about Mechele.

At Northwest Health Foundation, we believe the staff and board of an organization should not only be experts in their fields, but reflect the communities they serve. Cyreena, Jorge and Mechele are community leaders and strong advocates for health across Oregon and Southwest Washington. We look forward to the expertise and perspective they bring to our board.

In addition, board member Dr. Phil Wu will take over for Vanetta Abdellatif as board chair; Michael Alexander will take over as vice chair; and Donalda Dodson will serve as secretary.

Sita Symonette: Your Voice Matters. Speak Out.

This blog is the fourth in a series of posts celebrating community leaders who reflect our equity priorities. At Northwest Health Foundation, we know communities need the power and resources to sit at decision-making tables, to help dispel beliefs and practices that do not promote their health, and to help shape those that do. From local school boards to the state legislature, parents and families should have a voice.

 Sita Symonette laughs.

When Sita Symonette joined the Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette board of directors in 2012, only three out of 19 board members, including Sita, were women of color. Five years later, a lot has changed. Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette’s board includes Black, Latinx, Native, Asian and significantly more LGBTQ members, and Sita has been elected PPCW’s first  African-American woman chair.

As an acupuncturist and small business owner who prioritizes inclusivity and women’s health, Sita brings an alternative healthcare perspective to Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette. She also brings a history of community service and social justice work.

Growing up, Sita’s brother was close friends with the son of Billy Frank Jr., Native American environmental leader and treaty rights activist. Frank and his wife were like second parents to Sita. Seeing them center service in their own lives motivated Sita to center it in her own. She started volunteering when she was a preteen and never stopped. In graduate school, she became the first student ever to sit on Oregon College of Oriental Medicine’s board. And after graduate school, she worked with a group that brought Martin Luther King, Jr’s teachings of nonviolence into high schools through slam poetry.

When Sita joined Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette’s board, she had the background and willingness to quickly jump in on equity and inclusion. Considering 40 percent of the people PPCW serves are people of color, she knew the organization needed to do more to represent that community. She took part in hiring a Director of Equity and Inclusion, helped develop an equity lens and equity mission statement, and participated in equity trainings with board and staff.

In her new role as chair, Sita wants to keep PPCW rolling in the right direction, integrating equity into every aspect of their work. Recently, the organization began implementing telemedicine in Oregon’s rural communities. She’d like to see that expand over the next couple years, ensuring everyone has access to their services even if they can’t get to a brick and mortar location. She also wants to recruit younger voices to the PPCW board. Of course, priority number one is keeping the doors open, no matter what happens at the federal level.

For those who would like to take on leadership roles in the future, Sita has several words of advice: If there are people you look up to in the community, reach out to them. Become involved in your community. Show up at different events. Follow through with what you say you’re going to do. Youth, know that your voice matters; speak out. Lastly, seek out culturally specific leadership programs and take advantage of them.

Speaking of leadership programs, here are a few to get you started:

All Born (In) - Social Justice Youth Program

American Leadership Forum of Oregon - Fellows Program

Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon - API Community Leadership Institute; Climate, Health and Housing Institute; & Community Organizing for Advocacy and Leadership

CAPACES Leadership Institute - TURNO, Leadership Forum & more

City of Portland - Disability Power PDX

Disability Art and Culture Project - Reject Economic Ableist Limits

Emerge Oregon - The Emerge Program

Latino Network - Unid@s for Oregon

Lower Columbia Hispanic Council - Adult Leadership Program, La Voz de la Comunidad & La Cima

Momentum Alliance - Student Alliance Project & Leveraging Momentum

Oregon Health Authority - Developing Equity Leadership through Training and Action

OPAL Environmental Justice - Bus Riders Unite!, Youth Environmental Justice Alliance & Organizers-in-Training

Western States Center - Western Institute for Leadership Development & We Are BRAVE


Announcing the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative

 A woman pauses her conversation with two other people to smile at the camera.

Northwest Health Foundation is excited to announce the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative.

The Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative will convene leaders from across our region to discuss how to ensure the voices and experiences of people with disabilities, particularly people of color with disabilities, are represented by decision-makers. They'll also discuss how disabled people can build collective power in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Over 100 people applied to be a part of the Collaborative, demonstrating the need for investment in this area. We invited 16 of them to meet four times over the course of the next six months.

We sought leaders who expressed an interest in exploring and learning more about Disability Justice, who are already involved in efforts to build power in their communities, and who bring lived experience around intersectional identities and want to be part of a larger conversation about intersectionality. All the Collaborative participants identify as disabled people of color, representing Asian-Pacific Islander, Black, Latino, Muslim and Native communities. Our participants also identify in other ways, including queer, transgendered, gender non-conforming, youth, houseless, multi-racial, immigrant, refugee and rural.

The work of this Collaborative will center around Disability Justice, a movement-building liberatory framework created in 2005 by Sins Invalid. Disability Justice centers Black and brown, majority queer disabled people to address the whiteness and single-issue focus of the mainstream disability rights movement. Disability Justice acknowledges that ableism works hand-in-hand with other forms of oppression and stresses that multiply marginalized disabled people get to create movements and organize out of their strengths, vulnerabilities, body/minds and genius. We’ve engaged two established Disability Justice movement leaders, Stacey Milbern and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, to facilitate the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative.

 Stacey Milbern

Stacey Milbern

 Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

The Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative will:

  • Discuss visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of disabled people are centered in decision-making;
  • Deepen and collectively build their understanding of disability justice; and
  • Discuss how disability-led organizations can work together in new ways with:
    • Organizations led by communities of color;
    • Existing and new disabled, Deaf, sick and neurodivergent communities and organizations;
    • Leadership programs and funders.

Over the long-term, we hope this effort will influence organizations led by people of color to learn about the Disability Justice framework and apply it to their work. We also hope these leaders will contribute to ensuring our region’s leadership includes disabled people and people who understand, and are committed to, Disability Justice.

This Collaborative is a joint effort supported by Northwest Health Foundation and the Collins Foundation. We are eager to learn from these leaders and share our experiences with other funders and community leaders.

Read more about Northwest Health Foundation's journey to understand and incorporate a disability equity lens in our work on Medium. Stay tuned for updates over the next few months!

Why We Endorse Measure 101

 Measure 101 protects healthcare for 350,000 Oregonians.

Everyone deserves the chance to lead a healthy life. That includes affordable healthcare, and that's why we’re proud to join over 60 groups in endorsing Measure 101.

We know that:

  • Mothers with access to affordable healthcare have healthier babies.
  • Students with health insurance miss fewer days of school.
  • Employees with access to affordable healthcare for themselves and their families are more productive and happier.
  • All Oregonians benefit when friends, family, coworkers and neighbors can see a doctor or nurse, and don't have to visit the ER for routine care.

Voting yes means that, for the first time, every child in Oregon will have healthcare.

350,000 Oregonians rely on the funding that Measure 101 secures in order to keep their healthcare. I hope you’ll join us in voting YES on Measure 101 for healthcare this January. If you agree that every Oregonian deserves healthcare, no matter who they are or where they work, pledge to vote YES

James Manning: I'm Not a Politician; I'm a Public Servant.

This blog is the third in a series of posts celebrating community leaders who reflect our equity priorities. At Northwest Health Foundation, we know communities need the power and resources to sit at decision-making tables, to help dispel beliefs and practices that do not promote their health, and to help shape those that do. From local school boards to the state legislature, parents and families should have a voice.

 Photo portrait of Senator James Manning.

Senator James Manning doesn’t think of himself as a politician. He’s a public servant, and he’s been a public servant for a long time.

Before becoming involved in Oregon government, Senator Manning worked as a state corrections officer, police officer, railroad special agent and private investigator. In 1983, he enlisted in the United States Army. After 24 years of active duty, during which he filled many roles, including everything from Military Diplomat to the Australian and New Zealand Special Forces to Postal Supervisor to U.S. Army Assistant Inspector General, Senator Manning retired in 2007 and moved to Eugene.

In retirement, Senator Manning felt the urge to give back to his community. He quickly got involved with nonprofits like United Way for Lane County. He also served on the City of Eugene’s Police Commission and was appointed by two Oregon governors to the Oregon Commission on Black Affairs. Then, in 2016, he campaigned to represent District 14 in Oregon’s House of Representatives.

Senator James Manning lost in the primaries to Representative Julie Fahey. However, he didn’t consider his campaign a waste of time; he enjoyed it. He liked going door to door, taking the time to hear from community members. In particular, he appreciated the opportunity to talk with elderly community members. He recalled one woman who took a while to get to the door, who he soon realized hadn’t been eating and set her up with Meals on Wheels, as well as a man who he spent 20 minutes with, although he was only supposed to take three minutes with each voter.

After his loss in the primaries, Senator Manning assumed he’d go back to doing what he’d been doing: serving on commissions and committees and working towards a doctor of education in organizational leadership. That’s what he did, for a while. At least until the Lane County Board of Commissioners unexpectedly appointed him to replace outgoing Senator Chris Edwards in December 2016.

What are Senator James Manning’s priorities as an elected official? Listening and responding to people’s needs. Living wages. Good jobs. Quality, affordable healthcare. Refusing to leave senior citizens and children behind. Senator Manning has pledged not to make a vote that will hurt people.

As a child, Senator Manning sometimes went to bed hungry. At times, he was homeless. Now, he wants to be an inspiration to people who feel like there is no hope. He wants to inspire people to seize opportunities and give back to others.

His advice to others who are think about running for office: It has to be about helping people, not about personal gain. Visit places that don’t feel familiar to you. Visit schools. Pay attention to the kids huddled outside, waiting for their first meal of the day. Build up name recognition, and then just do it.

We're making some staffing changes

We like to say that we are a small but mighty foundation. After a bittersweet goodbye to our friend and colleague Suk Rhee, we set about retooling some roles to make Northwest Health Foundation that much mightier.

Today, we're excited to announce those changes.

 Jesse Beason

Jesse Beason

 Jen Matheson

Jen Matheson

 Eduardo Moreno

Eduardo Moreno

Jesse Beason is now our Vice President of Strategy & Public Affairs. Jen Matheson is our Director of Programs, providing oversight for NWHF's grantmaking initiatives and programs. Michael Reyes Andrillon and Eduardo Moreno will be our Community Engagement Officers, and Laura Nash, Communications Manager, will increase her hours, joining us full-time to lend support to our program team.

We can't think of a better team of ten to drive our vision for health and our foundation for action!

Denise Piza: We're All Just People

This blog is the second in a series of posts celebrating community leaders who reflect our equity priorities. At Northwest Health Foundation, we know communities need the power and resources to sit at decision-making tables, to help dispel beliefs and practices that do not promote their health, and to help shape those that do. From local school boards to the state legislature, parents and families should have a voice.

 Close-up of Denise smiling.

"It sounds scary," said Madras City Councilor Denise Piza, "It's not that scary."

Denise ran a write-in campaign for Madras City Council in November 2016 and won. All it took was a Facebook post. She'd decided to run too late to be included on the ballot, but thanks to social media and a supportive community, it wasn't too late to get elected. It also didn't hurt that she's been representing her community as a leader for years.

At age 25, while acting as an advisor to the Jefferson County Education Service District board, Denise was asked to fill the seat of a board member who had passed away (after waiting a period of time in respect of the member). Later, she ran for the position — successfully. She served on the ESD board for six years. In addition, Denise has served on the Kids Club of Jefferson County board and the City of Madras Planning Commission.

 Denise stands with her five children, baby evalyn on her hip. Everyone smiles.

Denise stands with her five children, baby evalyn on her hip. Everyone smiles.

Denise wants to emphasize that elected leaders are all just people, like anyone else. There are no special requirements or trainings anyone has to go through to serve their community. She herself went into City Council not knowing exactly what to expect. She understood budgeting, reviewing ordinances and examining policies would be a part of it, but otherwise figured she'd learn as she went. And she has.

So far, she's participated in establishing an annual budget and allocating grants to community programs. She and the other councilors heard presentations from 24 local organizations and decided which ones to fund and how much to give them. During the experience, folks raised questions about the process. Since then, she, another board member, the City's finance director and a community member have been working to streamline it.

 Denise and her husband smile for a selfie. Baby Evalyn is sleeping in a sling, her face pressed against her mother's neck.

Denise's top priority as a city councilor is to pass equitable and inclusive policies, as well as to call out policies that aren't. First and foremost, she wants Madras to pass an inclusivity resolution to protect undocumented community members, as well as establish an advisory group to the mayor made up of community members that represent the city's full diversity.

Born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, Denise moved to Madras, Oregon with her family when she was seven-years-old. She became a U.S. citizen at 18. As an immigrant and woman of color, she appreciates the opportunity to represent her community in a position that has historically been held by white men. She wants to encourage other women and people of color to run for office, too. The more people who get involved, and the more reflective our democracy becomes, the more change will happen. For the better.

Denise is happy to talk with anyone who is considering running for office, especially in rural communities. You can contact her at denise.piza@gmail.com or through Facebook.



Goodbye, Suk Rhee

 Photo portrait of Suk Rhee, sitting in front of a window.

Friday, August 11, is our Vice President of Strategy & Community Partnership Suk Rhee's last day at Northwest Health Foundation. Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly recently appointed Suk to direct the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, and she begins her new job in two short weeks, on August 21.

Here at NWHF, we couldn't be more proud of and excited for our friend and colleague's next step. Suk is deeply committed to the health and well-being of everyone in our region; always asks difficult, big-picture questions; fosters a welcoming and inclusive environment wherever she goes; and understands the importance of community-led change. We know she will impact the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, and the whole City of Portland, in positive and meaningful ways.

Suk started working at Northwest Health Foundation in January 2005, more than twelve years ago. She's been a part of some big decisions and transitions here, as well as most of our favorite memories. We are sad to see her go, but we're happy she won't be moving far!

A few words from Suk:

When my family immigrated to this country, we landed in North Carolina. There are many reasons to love NC, yet, I never gained a sense of belonging or home there. This feeling is captured in a passage in The Moon and Sixpence (by W. Somerset Maughn): 

I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings, but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not...Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here at last he finds rest.

 Suk and the rest of NWHF's Program Team take a selfie next to a river.

There have been a few places where I have found such rest. This region, its communities and the work we have pursued together through my many years here at Northwest Health Foundation have felt like home. 

I leave NWHF this month to join the City of Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement as its Director. Thank you to everyone who has walked some part of this journey with me—for the actions you have taken, the lessons you have taught me and simply, for being your brilliant self.  You have graced my time here with your leadership, humor and optimism, for which you have my endless gratitude and love.


Helen Ying: Connecting the Dots for a Better World

This blog is the first in a series of posts celebrating elected leaders who reflect our equity priorities. At Northwest Health Foundation, we know communities need the power and resources to sit at decision-making tables, to help dispel beliefs and practices that do not promote their health, and to help shape those that do. From local school boards to the state legislature, parents and families should have a voice.

 Helen Ying stands in front of a crowd of her supporters, arms outstretched.

Helen Ying stands in front of a crowd of her supporters, arms outstretched.

Helen Ying's personal mission is to engage and empower people to improve their communities, something she's been doing her whole life. As a young teen and recent immigrant, Helen served on Marshall High School's student senate. It didn't matter to her that she was still learning English. She wanted to improve her community, and she'd found a way to do it — becoming a leader. This desire continued through adulthood, bringing Helen to where she is now: a member of Multnomah Education Service District's elected board of directors, National Vice President of Membership for the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, and a force for change in our region.

Of course, Helen's journey wasn't a straight path from student senate to county-level elected official. First, she became a leader in her church, volunteering to coordinate the choir at age sixteen and superintending Sunday school at eighteen. For thirty years, she worked as a math teacher, school counselor and vice principal. During this time, she realized how few laws and policies truly support health, particularly the health of children and youth. When Helen retired, she knew she wanted to do one of two things: become a missionary or run for office. Lucky for all of us, she chose the latter.

 Helen marches in the St. Johns Parade, waving with one hand and holding a campaign sign in the other.

Helen marches in the St. Johns Parade, waving with one hand and holding a campaign sign in the other.

Helen didn't win her first campaign for office. In 2011, then Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder approached her and suggested she run for his soon-to-be-vacant seat. Helen campaigned for six months and came in second. But she doesn't consider her campaign a failure. She ran against four white men and received more votes than three of them combined. Furthermore, the connections she made and visibility she gained during that campaign led to dozens of other opportunities.

After her loss, several community leaders approached Helen and invited her to serve on boards and committees. These included the Creation Committee for the Office of Equity for Portland and the Oregon Health Policy Board Coordinated Care Organization Criteria Work Group, among others. She also chairs the Asian American Youth Leadership Conference and serves as a board member for We Can Do Better. So, when Northwest Health Foundation President & CEO Nichole June Maher suggested Helen run for Multnomah Education Service District, Position 2 in 2017, Helen was ready. And this time, she won.

As a Multnomah Education Service District board member, Helen is committed to taking MESD to the next level. She strongly believes she and her fellow board members have the skills they need to succeed, to promote policies that will support health for children and youth.

In Helen's opinion, it is incredibly important for elected officials to reflect the communities they serve. As a young person, she couldn't understand why there weren't any leaders who looked like her. This year, at the Oregon School Board Association Conference, she and the other school board members of color (the most ever in Oregon's history) met to start a caucus to support one another and ensure their voices are heard. Helen wants today's students of color to be able to envision themselves in leadership roles, and seeing school board members who come from their communities making a real difference is part of that.

More than anything else, Helen Ying wants to inspire others, especially young people, to become involved in their communities and strive to make the changes they want to see in the world. Her advice? Start small. Consider your skills, where you can have influence, what needs to change. Make a commitment to yourself. It could be as simple as encouraging family members to vote. Continue taking tiny steps, working your way up to bigger actions. Participate in an issue campaign. Meet with your legislator. Join a committee or board. One day, you might even decide to run for office.

If Helen's story motivated you to get engaged, check out the partnership and learning opportunities on our Open Opportunities page. Maybe you'll find your next small step toward improving your community.


Q&A with our SummerWorks Interns, Hawi and Elisa

 Hawi Muleta

Hawi Muleta

Q. How do you relate to Northwest Health Foundation's mission and vision?

Hawi: When I was a kid, I used to tell my parents I wanted to open a hospital one day in my country (Ethiopia), so people would have access to healthcare whether they could afford it or not. I even made a poster with little drawings of what my hospital would look like. My parents kept the posters to push me in my dreams. Even though I don’t have that exact dream now, I still feel very passionate about working with others to improve the societies we live in. I thank my parents for teaching my siblings and I from a young age that what we have in this life, however big or small, is a blessing, and to appreciate it, as well as work hard to change the things we want to see. Those lessons lessons they were taught from their parents, passed down from the generation before them, which were finally passed down to us  showed us the importance of learning from the past, the value of community and doing what we can to help each other grow and thrive. Northwest Health Foundation's promotion of health for everyone, including physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being, easily ties into my own values of advocacy, equity and opportunity for everyone in our communities near and far.

Elisa: I’ve always felt compelled to do everything in my power to improve the quality of life for the members of my community. Growing up, I wasn’t sure how my actions could directly influence the world around me, but through my high school years I have realized that my voice matters, and there are many different ways to get involved in social justice and advocacy. Northwest Health Foundation’s work to build connections between individuals and groups who seek to affect change resonates with me profoundly. I admire the fact that NWHF uses its platform to work with different regional communities and uplift local advocacy groups working for health equity. Many people (myself included) want to make a difference in the communities they call home, and NWHF not only understands this, but encourages the involvement and leadership of community members in their work towards health equity.

Q. What have you learned from your experience at Northwest Health Foundation?

Hawi: What I have learned from working with the staff at NWHF is looking at all the ways in which health can be promoted, as well as pushed to another level, as we learn new things. Life is not static, nor should health be or how we work with others to change, inspire, build and provides different avenues to support one another.

Elisa: My experience here even though it’s not over yet  has given me so many opportunities to learn about social justice issues present in Portland and the world as a whole. It has also been amazing to work in a building that houses so many other nonprofit organizations. Even through just daily activities, I have been able to meet and speak with so many people from so many different walks of life, and learn about what their organizations are working towards. Interning here is also the first job I’ve ever had, so I’ve learned how a real office functions, and how to dress and act in a professional environment.

 Elisa Suarez

Elisa Suarez

Q. If you could make one change in your community, what change would you make?

Hawi: If I could make one change in my community, I would make higher education more accessible for students from all walks of life. Education in any form is important, but due to the rapid increase of tuition, many are unable to pursue higher education, especially people of color who are tokenized for “diversity” purposes instead of seeing the systemic issues that have played a part in their lives in seeking education.

Elisa: If I could make one change in my community, I would make it possible for the students at my school to remain in the district, as opposed to being forced out due to the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. I transferred into my school from a different neighborhood, but I have witnessed too many of my friends from around Northeast have to leave their childhood homes and move to Troutdale, Fairview, or Gresham (a.k.a. “The Numbers”). It is enraging when the infrastructure of a neighborhood improves, yet the original members of the community are unable to reap the benefits, because it is no longer financially possible for them to lay claim to the place they call home.

Q. What are you going to do next, after this internship?

Hawi: After this internship, I will return to Willamette University to finish my last year of undergrad and see where life takes me next.

Elisa: After this internship, I will be going into my senior year of high school and dancing full-time when I am not in school. I will also be taking courses at Portland Community College in order to complete some of my prerequisites for my freshman year of college. I plan on majoring in English and minoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies at a four-year university, most likely somewhere warm and sunny.

Q. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what food would you choose?

Hawi: I don’t think I could only eat one food for the rest of my life. Life would get boring, at least food-wise.

Elisa: If I had to eat one type of food for the rest of my life, it would be Thai food for sure. But if I had to pick just one actual food item, I would probably go with rice, because it’s very versatile and gluten free!

Meet more of Northwest Health Foundation's staff.

Jefferson County School District 509-J's Board Should Reflect Its Students

In Oregon, we value everyone’s voice; we believe democracy only works when everyone’s point of view is represented. That means decision makers, from school board members to city councilors to state legislators, need to reflect the communities they serve. We know our communities are healthier when elected leaders can truly speak to their neighbors’ experiences and needs.

Unfortunately, that rarely happens. For example, fewer than 30% of Jefferson County School District 509-J's 3000 students are white. The majority are American Indian (34%) and Hispanic (34%). Nearly all of 509-J's American Indian students live on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. And yet, 509-J's five-member school board has generally only had one board member from Warm Springs at a time. Most have come from Madras, which is 66% white.

509-J's school board hasn't reflected its students, and that shows in the school district's graduation rates. In Oregon, which ranks 49th of 50 U.S. states for its high school graduation rate, 509J is in the bottom 15% of school districts. Only 57% of its students graduate in four years.

Why is this, and what can be done to change it? According to KWSO Station Manager Sue Matters, who is running for position 2 on 509-J’s school board this May, the district has focused too much on test scores and not enough on communicating with, listening to and considering input from teachers, students, families and the community. The people who don't show up at family nights, who aren't represented by the school board, are the ones the school district needs to reach out to the most and try their hardest to engage.

Warm Springs Chief Operations Officer Alyssa Macy, who is campaigning for position 3, agrees communications between the board and community could improve. She also believes education is strongly linked to communities’ wellbeing.

Sue Matters, whose two children went through 509-J schools, served on a number of school site councils, so she is familiar with the schools’ strengths and challenges. As Warm Springs Radio's station manager, she's also grown comfortable interacting with community leaders and communicating what they say and do to her fellow Warm Springs residents.

In Sue's opinion, Jefferson County 509-J schools, the school district's board members and administrators, worry about the wrong things. They punish students for trivialities like wearing hats to school, when they should foreground students’ academic achievement; be aware of students’ family life, mental health and other individual needs; and ensure their schools are a place youth feel welcome. They think conventionally, attempting to apply methods that have worked to boost other schools' test scores and graduation rates, when they should realize that their community and schools are unique and one size does not fit all.

Alyssa Macy grew up in Warm Springs, and she now has two foster children who are students in the Jefferson County School District 509-J. Alyssa has plenty of experience advocating for indigenous peoples nationally and internationally. She wants to improve graduation rates for students in her community and expose them to as many opportunities as possible.

With the May 2017 election, Jefferson County School District 509-J faces a pivotal moment. Three of five school board seats are up for grabs, and a Warm Springs resident is running to fill each of those seats. This year, 509-J's school board could reflect its student body. Hopefully voters will make that happen.

Request for Proposals: Oregon Active Schools Evaluation Partner

Northwest Health Foundation, Kaiser Permanente Northwest and Nike, Inc. seek an evaluation partner to help us design and implement an evaluation for the Oregon Active Schools (OAS) fund. The evaluator will work collaboratively with OAS funded schools, fund partners and other evaluation partners to:

(1) Assess the contribution of OAS funds on the amount of time schools dedicate to physical activity

(2) Assess the contribution of OAS funds on school culture around physical activity

(3) Produce evaluation findings useful for the fund’s communications strategies

The evaluation partner will assess OAS’s contribution in schools by engaging with three cohorts of grantees representing schools who received OAS funding from 2014 to 2019. NWHF seeks to engage an evaluation partner as early as June 2017. 

Celebrating Local Social Justice Heroes

We know that community building happens in shared spaces. Here at Northwest Health Foundation, we are privileged to have large, well-equipped meeting rooms and excited to be able to offer these rooms on a daily basis to nonprofit organizations serving our region.

Recently, we realized we can do more to welcome and recognize the communities who use the Center for Philanthropy's spaces. With this in mind, we've renamed our meeting rooms after local social justice heroes. While the rooms' previous names (Bamboo, Jade, Orchid, Ming) nodded to the Center for Philanthropy's address in Portland's Old Town Chinatown district, the new names celebrate leaders who contributed to our communities' health in a big way.

These are the rooms' new namesakes:


 Photo from The Oregon History Project

Photo from The Oregon History Project


Beatrice Morrow Cannady was a civil rights activist and founding member of Portland’s branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She used her position as editor of the Advocate, Oregon’s largest African American newspaper, to defend the rights of African Americans in Oregon and southwest Washington.

Read more about Beatrice.

 Photo from OregonLive.com

Photo from OregonLive.com


Arthur Honeyman was a prolific essayist, poet, publisher and disability rights activist who did things his own way. Among his life adventures: running for Oregon’s state legislature twice on a platform of “Spastic Power,” shuffling his wheelchair from Portland to Salem along the freeway to protest the lack of disabled access on buses and springing his mother out of a mental institution.

Read more about Art.

 Photo from The Oregon Historical Society

Photo from The Oregon Historical Society

IWAO OYAMA (1886-1952)

Iwao Oyama edited and published Oshu Nippo, the primary Japanese language newspaper in Oregon, from 1917-1951. On the afternoon of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Iwao Oyama was arrested and his printing press confiscated. Nevertheless, as soon as World War II ended, he returned to Portland and resumed publishing Oshu Nippo with a typewriter and mimeograph machine.

Read more about Iwao.




Melissa Sarabia was studying to be an immigration lawyer at Lewis & Clark Law School. She acted as an advocate for educational justice for undocumented youth and would often testify on behalf of DREAMers. Melissa’s family believes she was motivated to protect others’ rights and help them overcome their life obstacles due to her own experience with cystic fibrosis.

Read more about Melissa.

 Photo from day1.org

Photo from day1.org


Reverend Ramona Soto Rank was an enrolled member of the Klamath Tribes of Oregon and the first Native American woman to be ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. As a leader in both American Indian/Alaska Native communities and the Lutheran Church, Ramona strongly supported Native American rights for sovereignty and self-determination.

Read more about Ramona.


We hope to see you at the Center for Philanthropy sometime soon!


Introducing Our New Board Member, Kenneth Hart

In 2017 we welcome one new member to our governing board as three step down. We are inexpressibly grateful to Leda Garside, Becky Graham and Helena Huang for their years of service and the mark they have made on Northwest Health Foundation. Needless to say, we are sad to see them go. However, we are also excited to welcome Kenneth Hart.


Ken Hart is a certified public accountant and President of Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario. He is deeply involved in his eastern Oregon community.

Read more about Ken...

We look forward to learning more about Ken's perspective and the impact he will make on the Foundation!

In addition, board member Bill Thorndike will take over for Becky Graham as Treasurer, joining Chair Vanetta Abdellatif, Vice Chair Phil Wu and Secretary Michael Alexander as a board officer.