By Michelle Frost
Southeast Uplift is a community center tucked into the neighborhood just a block from Hawthorne and around the corner from SE 35th St.
The sidewalk in front has been chalked with the message “Love is a Verb” and the sign board at the building’s entrance announces classes and workshops available to anyone in the community.
By outward appearances, this is an ordinary, quiet, tree-lined street, but inside the doors of SE Uplift is a hive of activities, including a new executive director.
Molly Mayo advocates for community integration, “Integration is more than inclusion – creating a new community where everyone brings their unique voice to the table. The more people at the table, the more comfortable everyone can be.”
Mayo started at SE Uplift on May 8, working for two months alongside the former Executive Director Anne Dufay. A community celebration was held June 29 to say farewell to Dufay and to welcome in Mayo as the new Executive Director.
When asked about her goals in this new position, Mayo replied, “I would like to increase the number and diversity of people who are involved and volunteering in their communities and neighborhoods.”
SE Uplift operates under the umbrella that is the Office of Neighborhood Involvement. “There are now 95 distinct neighborhoods in the city and 7 district coalitions,” says Mayo.
SE Uplift is best known as a community center that hosts a full schedule of workshops and classes. Additionally, they offer a Community Small Grants Program. “We help to generate ideas for the funds and other support that is available for community projects that build relationships between people or in some other way enhance the neighborhood,” Mayo explains.
Moving to Portland in 1999 after living in New Mexico, Montana, and originally, Louisiana and Kentucky, Mayo’s background includes working as a teacher in Special Education, and Assistant Director at a camp for children and adults with developmental/intellectual disabilities.
She has traveled extensively and taught in Syria before coming west and settling in Oregon. Studying abroad, Mayo realized the diversity of human experience and made it her aim to pursue a career in public service and community building.
Mayo founded On The Move: Community Integration in 2007; a nonprofit celebrating 10 years of community connections for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, creating positive experiences and partnerships, and increased awareness.
Frustrated by the lack of meaningful activities for adults with IDD, Mayo started On The Move to provide more meaningful experiences for participants and to model diversity within the broader community.
Mayo’s passion for community is evident and her focus is clear as she guides SE Uplift into the future, “by promoting community engagement so that all voices are valued members of the community.”
SE Uplift is at 3534 SE Main St. 503.232.0010. For a schedule of classes and upcoming events see seuplift.org.