Youth Non-Profit Expands to East County. Building $5M 8,500-sq-ft Youth Center on Former PAL Site

Youth Non-Profit Expands to East County. Building $5M 8,500-sq-ft Youth Center on Former PAL Site
Friends of the Children, Gresham OR
Artists rendering. Click to enlarge.

Focus on At-risk Youth. New Facility Opening Fall 2015.

Friends of the Children, a Portland non-profit, is making a significant investment in the East County community.

The non-profit agency Friends of the Children has begun the final planning phase of their budgeted $5 million project—an 8,500-square-foot youth center located next to Pat Pfeiffer Park on NE 172nd Ave. Construction is set to begin in February, and the facility opens in the fall of 2015.

Founded in 1993, Friends of the Children is a mentoring program dedicated to transforming the lives of children in need. Youth are selected in kindergarten and paired with a “Friend,” a full-time professional mentor. Youth’s benefit from this strength-based relationship through high school graduation.

The organization currently serves over 425 youth, half of whom live east of I-205. According to Friends of the Children’s COO, Mark Young, the organization anticipates enrolling many of each year’s new class of kindergartners from East County elementary schools. The program focuses on enrolling youth whose life challenges put them most at-risk of school failure, juvenile delinquency and early parenting.

As a way to support children and families in the surrounding neighborhoods, the City of Gresham is making available the former Police Activities League site to Friends of the Children through a 99-year lease for $1 per year.

“The new facility will allow Friends to better serve their East County youth where they live,” says Young. “Youth told us what they wanted was a home-like and calm environment, and that’s how we’ve designed the building.”

Demolition of the previous building was underway when a recent fire broke out at the site. “This was a very harrowing moment for our project, since the existing gymnasium is included in the plans for our new facility,” Young explains. “Thankfully, the Gresham Fire Department responded very quickly. We’ve been working closely with the City so they were aware of our plans and were able to save the gym and our project.”

According to Young, the new space will also serve the wider community through collaboration with multiple service organizations which include Boys and Girls Club, Rosemary Anderson/POIC and Rockwood Pathways Collaborative. Through a significant investment of $250,000 by the Windermere Foundation, the space will include an integrated, centralized learning kitchen leveraged as a place for community activIties in partnership with Zenger Farm and the National College of Natural Medicine.

“We are pleased to welcome Friends of the Children to the City of Gresham. This highly respected organization will fill a crucial gap in services for children in our com-munity, and we are thrilled to partner with them,” says Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis.

President of Friends of the Children, Terri Sorensen, says the project demonstrates the organization’s commitment to serving those most in need: “We serve the most vulnerable children, wherever they may be. Investing in a strong East County collaborative effort will improve the lives of our children and, just as importantly, the neighborhoods in which they live.”