Campaigning for a United Warm Springs

With 50% of our Tribal membership under the age of 30, we strongly believe that we need leadership that represents our demographic and ensures that decisions today honor our ancestors and future generations.
— Unite Warm Springs
Jaylyn Suppah stands in front of a tree smiling.

Northwest Health Foundation knows when elected officials look like their constituents, the policies they create work better for all of us. So, when a community leader connected to one of our funded partners is running, we want to spotlight them. This does not constitute an endorsement.

 

Jaylyn Suppah (Warm Springs, Wasco, Shoshone Bannock, Yakama) is running for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Tribal Council as part of the Unite Warm Springs campaign, a group of four candidates dedicated to a common goal: “help build our People and our Nation.” Although tribal members will vote on each candidate separately, the four chose to campaign together, because they believe in a Warm Springs united across voting districts.

Several community members had encouraged Jaylyn to run for Tribal Council in the past. So, when Unite Warm Springs approached her to join them, she said yes. A slate of candidates with a common platform has never run in Warm Springs before, and that excited her. Although technically she’s running for a seat as Simnasho District representative, she emphasizes her intent to serve the whole Nation of Warm Springs.

Besides the few years Jaylyn spent at college attaining her associate’s degree, she’s lived her whole life in Warm Springs. Currently, she works for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs as a community planner, managing the Papalaxsimisha program, which supports Native youth. As a freshman in college, Jaylyn struggled with finances and debt. Now she’s creating a financial management program for youth, so others will know what she didn’t as a teenager.

Before working for the Tribes, Jaylyn worked for the nonprofit Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition, one of Northwest Health Foundation’s grantees through the Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities initiative. Thanks to Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition, Jaylyn started getting into advocacy, policy change and cultural awareness. Jaylyn currently attends Evergreen State College. She’s working toward a B.A. through the Native Pathways Program, with an emphasis on tribal government.    

Jaylyn wants Warm Springs to start talking about their historical trauma. She says they need to talk so they can start healing. She also wants to empower youth to get involved in advocacy and government.  

No matter whether she’s elected or not, Jaylyn plans to continue this work.


Who represents Centennial School District's ESL and refugee students?

“We all want our friends, families and the next generation to have a secure future.” – Sumitra Chhetri

Sumitra stands in a park smiling.

Northwest Health Foundation knows when elected officials look like their constituents, the policies they create work better for all of us. So, when a community leader connected to one of our funded partners is running, we want to spotlight them. This does not constitute an endorsement.  

In the last decade, Centennial School District in east Portland went from 16% students of color to 54%. That’s a huge demographic shift in a short amount of time. It’s a safe bet the schools, particularly the students of color, are feeling those growing pains.  

Sumitra Chhetri, a leader in our Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Cohort, is running for Centennial School Board, Position 3, because she believes these students deserve representation. As a Bhutanese refugee who moved to Portland with her family in 2008, graduated from David Douglas High School as an ESL student, and now works for Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, she hopes to bring first-hand experience to the position. 

Sumitra’s brother, a current Centennial High School student, is enthusiastic about his sister’s campaign. He and his friends have been eager to share their input. At Sumitra’s Campaign Kickoff, her brother and two other students stated their support for Sumitra, because she will represent their voices as students of color.

Sumitra graduated from Portland State University with a degree in political science, and she’s actively participated in the political process since high school. As a college student, she traveled to Washington, D.C. to advocate for tuition equity. She also interned with a group lobbying in Washington, D.C. for paper bags instead of plastic in stores. She’s since spent lots of time in Salem advocating with the immigrant and refugee community, is currently vice president of the Oregon Bhutanese Community Organization and a community engagement liaison with the City of Portland, and was recently appointed to the Metro Citizenship Review Committee.

“I understand what students of families of color face,” wrote Sumitra on her campaign website. “Over the years, I have worked with immigrant and refugees families and communities advocating for issues such as access to education, health care, transportation, language, and affordable housing. Lack of health care, transportation, and affordable housing all impacts the learning ability of students in school.”

We wish you luck, Sumitra!

Learn more about Sumitra at her website and on Facebook.

Learning from the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund

Fifteen years ago, Kaiser Permanente and Northwest Health Foundation created a fund to support community-led and collaborative efforts to improve health. The Kaiser Permanente Community Fund invested $32 million total in 207 projects led by 146 different organization in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Together, we learned what worked and what didn’t, adjusting the Fund based on our learnings. Now, as the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund is paying out the last of its grants, we want to share those learnings. We know we’re better grantmakers because of this years-long process. And we hope other funders can benefit from it, too.

Over the next few months we’ll share stories, infographics, data and analysis that encompass our Kaiser Permanente Community Fund journey and the lessons we’ll carry forward into future initiatives.

Sign up for our enews list, and/or follow us on Facebook and Twitter, to follow along with our learnings.

Q&A with our President Jesse Beason

Jesse sits in the audience at a crowded event.

Q. What first drew you to work at Northwest Health Foundation?

A. Honestly? The chance to work with our previous president, Nichole June Maher. I believed in her leadership and commitment to equity. Still do.

Q. What’s something you’ve learned working at NWHF?

So much. It's my first look at philanthropy from this vantage point. Before that, I was an executive director focused on getting philanthropy's attention and resources, trying to make payroll and advance the mission of my nonprofit through policy and programs. Now, I've the luxury of money and a broader perspective. And yet, I've learned that the work is similar in so many ways. I just don't worry about payroll—which, I'll repeat, is a luxury.

Q. What are you most looking forward to in your new role?

More meetings! Just kidding. I'm looking forward to working with partners on building more reflective democracy and decision-making practices. We know a big part of health stems from public policy decided by voters and elected officials, so the ability for everyone to participate in that policymaking is fundamental to our mission.

Q. What do you see as our region’s greatest obstacle to health?

I think our greatest obstacle is the ahistorical and individualistic narrative that dominates the context of our civil society. We like to pretend all policy begins from this point forward (as if history is irrelevant) and that hardworking people are more in charge of their opportunity than they really are (as if they simply must choose to be successful). But, in reality, we begin with so many wrongs from our collective past that require repair and a false sense of individual choice for too many of us. To create opportunity for ourselves and our neighbors, we have to keep this true context in mind.

Q. What do you see as our region’s greatest strength?

We have no shortage of amazing leaders across our communities. Compared to plenty of other regions, our bad behaviors are less entrenched and our politics are milder. Plus, we have an abundance of resources and a strong sense of possibility.

Q. What do you think you’d be doing if you didn’t work for a nonprofit or philanthropic organization?

I'd probably be fixing computers and gadgets. Don't get me wrong, I love working with people on big, thorny, intractable issues. But I also like tinkering with problems that I can solve with just my brain and my own two hands.

Q. Are you looking for someone to fill your prior role—Vice President of Strategy & Public Affairs?

We don't have plans to fill my old position as of yet. In fact, we're taking the next six months or so to figure out what's the right size staff for us, given the winding down of grant programs we've run on behalf of other donors. That simply means less money, and so we have to figure out what we want to do about that. We've got time to figure it out, but also the responsibility to get it right.

Announcing our New President

photo portrait of Jesse Beason smiling

On behalf of the board of directors and staff of Northwest Health Foundation, I'm excited to announce that Jesse Beason has been named, effective immediately, our new President and Chief Executive Officer. 

Jesse has been with Northwest Health Foundation since August 2013, most recently as Vice President of Strategy and Public Affairs. He was selected to be our next president after a thorough national search conducted by Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group with guidance from the NWHF board of directors' Presidential Search Committee. NPAG connected with hundreds of community partners and potential candidates before developing a short list of finalists.

Jesse's experience and expertise in policy and electoral work, his established relationships with community leaders and organizations throughout our region, and his bold vision for the Foundation's future, among other qualities, distinguished him as the best candidate to lead NWHF.

As we start 2019, the board and staff of Northwest Health Foundation will follow and work alongside Jesse in pursuit of our vision of health for everyone in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

 

Warmly,

Phil Wu’s signature
 

Phil Wu, NWHF Board Chair

 

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.

January 2, 2019

Happy New Year! We’ll announce our new president on January 22.

January 23, 2019

Our new president and chief executive officer is Jesse Beason! Read the announcement from our board chair.

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:

CAPACITY BUILDING

  • 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

IMPLEMENTATION

  • 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.