Improvement Grants Awarded to Nonprofits

By Nancy Tannler

In February of 2019 Portland City Council approved the Enhanced Services District (aka business improvement district), in the Central Eastside; a geographic area from the Willamette River east to SE 21st Ave and Powell Blvd. north to I-84.

It was the first ESD to be issued in the past 18 years. The Central Eastside Industrial Council (CEIC) calls the improvement plan, Central Eastside Together.

This year’s Central Eastside Together Community Grant program awarded $44,000 to six nonprofits.

According to Kate Merrill, Executive Director, CEIC, business owners went to City Council in 2019 and asked for the grant program. The grant program is supported by fees from property owners and other private donors. The grants will be distributed for three years and will then be revisited to apprise their effectiveness.

Merrill said the name Enhanced Services District is used because the City is already providing services to this area and this adds to what is already being done.

The intention of this grant program is to help the industrial sanctuary remain economically viable and safe.

“Due to COVID-19 this year’s grants were awarded to more service-based organizations that could still do what they do during the pandemic. In the future, we will consider event-based grants too,” Merrill said.

The core values and goals for this year’s awards are: increased cleanliness; improved safety; creating a brand to increase business customers and visitors; supporting innovative ways to work here and building a viable employment center; and ensuring that Central Eastside is a good place to create, work, live and visit.

Non-profits receiving the grants are Portland Street Medicine, Portland Street Alliance, Trash for Peace, Milagro Theatre, Architectural Heritage Center and Hygiene4All.

Molly Pringle, Executive Director for Portland Street Medicine (PSM), spoke about the services of the non-profit and how they are using the $6,000 awarded to them in June of this year.

PSM was founded in 2017 and consists of 90 volunteers. They are professionals in social services and/or medical fields. They work in teams of three or four and go out among the homeless population providing medical supplies, comfort, food and water.

Since many of the homeless rely on bicycle transportation, volunteers need to be able to reach them by bike. Pringle said they will be using their funds for bike maintenance, helmets, lights and supplies for those they treat.

The money from this grant will help PSM secure those essential items that make their job easier. To refer someone who needs a little help call PSM Triage at 503.501.1231 or

Trash for Peace was founded by Laura Kutner Tokarski. She was compelled to start this non-profit after living in Granados, Guatemala.

“People threw trash everywhere. Rather than just leave it lying about, we figured out ways to use it to build houses,” Tokarski said.

Upon returning to the US she saw our need to reduce and reuse trash by cleaning it up and teaching people to become more environmentally and socially aware.

According to Andrew Judkins, Metro Transfer station and supporter of Trash for Peace, there are 1.5 million people living in the Metro region. They throw away three million tons of garbage a day. “As long as we have so much garbage, we are not sustainable.”

One of the programs Tokarski will be using the grant money for is Ground Score. This program has a few different aspects.

They hire workers to collect litter in the Central Eastside as well as at events, then disperse it to either be recycled, trashed or upcycled (i.e. making it saleable).

They also pickup cans and bottles for deposit and give recycled crafts workshops. There are currently 80 potential workers and 20–30 involved consistently.

Currently they’re conducting a survey to show how effective this program is. So far they have collected 135,931 bags of trash, 6,198 needles and 7,245 items of drug paraphernalia. They use this information to share with businesses and others in the Central Eastside.

Another project is a partnership with Outside the Frame, who will make a video to share stories from Ground Score workers. Mostly about the People’s Depot, a community-led, independent bottle redemption service born out of the COVID-19 pandemic when access to bottle redemption became limited and people were in critical need of income.

Bottle and can deposits are a critical source of income for many members of our community to cover basic human needs such as food, housing costs, bus passes and laundry. Informal recyclers often exist on slim economic margins and the COVID-19 crisis has magnified their economic instability.

Jean Zondervan, from Architectural Heritage Center’s (AHC) Communications, spoke about how they were putting their grant money to work to enhance the Central Eastside.

The work they’ve been doing since Jerry Bosco and Ben Milligan first established the organization in 1987 is to record and preserve as much architectural history as can be salvaged from our city.

AHC has hired a local designer to create a physical map of the Central Eastside describing each of the buildings and the businesses there. It will tell the history and style of the older architecture as well as some of the unique history of this part of the city.

AHC reopened on July 24 with limited operating hours from 11 am-5 pm, Thursday-Saturday.

Currently on exhibit is Darcelle XV at Home; East Portland: A Changing Landscape and a Forgotten City; and Practical and Artistic: The Life and Work of Architect Charles Howard Kable.

Zondervan said they hope to build a stronger online presence so people can experience a virtual presentation the new ways museums are presenting their exhibits.

The Miracle Theatre Group, aka Milagro, 525 SE Stark St., was founded by José Eduardo González and Dañel Malán. This small non-profit theater features Latino shows, arts and culture, including bilingual performances.

The funding they received from the grant will be used for the Día De Muertos programming. They will be focusing on a virtual altar-making workshop and sharing the traditions of Día De Muertos with the community in a virtual capacity.

Portland Street Alliance offers professional and educational services promoting and maintaining street art. Funding from Central Eastside Together will directly support a new mural at All Service Moving, 66 SE Morrison St., paying for the artists, supplies and travel costs.

Hygiene4All is a bathroom, washing, basic first aid, bedding and clothing exchange and trash removal hospitality hub. Due to COVID-19 this service will not open until October 2020.   

Central Eastside Together will offer the next round of funding in Fall 2020. For more information on Central Eastside Together Community Grant Program visit

Improvement Grants Awarded to Nonprofits

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