By Nancy Tannler
When Leroy Eadie stepped into the position of the Director of SE Uplift Neighborhood Coalition last January, he had no idea business as usual was about to change dramatically. COVID–19 quickly had them going from an intimate gathering-oriented way of communicating to doing nearly everything remotely.
Fortunately for SE Uplift, they adapted quickly, sponsoring virtual Zoom meetings and working from home to keep the 20 Neighborhood Associations (NA) and the people they serve connected.
The neighbors who participated were quick on the uptake, too, and able to continue being involved in this form of civic engagement.
Eadie came from Spokane, where he worked for the local government in several different capacities; mainly Parks and Recreation bonds process, urban retail and city planning. He was especially interested in working for a non-profit and wanted to live in a new city, so applying to SE Uplift was a good choice all around.
Right away, he was impressed by the thoughtful way the interview process took place. He spoke with those doing the hiring and the community and, when he was offered the job, the team at SE Uplift went right to work bringing him up to speed. He was well-qualified but like anything new, he admitted there was a lot to learn.
When asked about the highlights of this past year, Eadie spoke highly of SE Uplift’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility (DEIA) document approved by the SE Uplift Board on July 6, 2020.
The DEIA statement allows the organization to better serve everyone in the community by: acknowledging that historical practices and policies have not fairly served under-represented communities; holding partners accountable for their conduct related to diversity, equity, inclusion and access according to the Code of Ethics and applying the Equity Lens, a tool SE Uplift staff and board volunteers use to evaluate decisions, activities and programming moving forward.
This document reaffirms and compliments the work SE Uplift staff has been doing for years to adapt their program to the needs of the under-served people in their coalition.
Recognizing the seriousness of COVID-19, SE Uplift along with other neighborhood coalitions, printed an informative brochure in five different languages and mailed it to the residents in their coalition.
It was very comprehensive and informative explaining how to stay virus free, what to do if you do get sick, what resources are available in the community, how to put bills on hold and how to access to food donations. It was reassuring and hopeful about how we will navigate this pandemic.
Figuring out the budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year was a process Eadie said went smoothly thanks to staff and board members.
They were tasked with figuring out how best to gather and spend the money they receive from the City and grants they apply for. It was adopted in July.
In the past, SE Uplift has made special efforts to honor Earth Day and this year was no exception. They celebrated with a week of livestream activities sharing information on recycling and waste-related topics, fun reuse tips, bee and tree stories, how to become an earth scientist and advocate, and directing people to apps that teach, educate and inform about what this planet needs to survive.
NA elections generally take place in the summer and fall with voting taking place at NA meetings where people have a chance to hear from the candidates. This year they were able to pull off a successful election using their online format.
60 people dropped off ballots and another 500 came in online. Eadie said, “It took a lot of coordination by the staff to change to a new system, but everyone adapted.” All 20 NAs SE Uplift serves voted.
Over the years, SE Uplift staff has given a lot of business support to help non-profits become legitimate and fiscally sound. This year they made an effort to include more small, independent organizations.
One of these new partners is Portland United Against Hate (PUAH), a coalition of more than 80 community organizations working together to support those targeted by hate.
SE Uplift opens applications for the annual Community & Civic Engagement Small Grants program this month. Last year, 16 community projects shared $27,165.00 in awards money. Anyone interested in applying should contact Christina Estime at firstname.lastname@example.org or Matchu Williams at email@example.com.
Rather than citizen participation diminishing during the COVID-19 pandemic distancing practices, Eadie said their numbers have increased. He thought it was in part due to the SE Uplift’s readiness to adopt technology that kept the lines of communication open and the efficiency of Zoom meetings where time was honored.
SE Uplift does a lot of the behind the scenes activities to support the stability and growth of our community. They offer educational workshops and events, advocacy for land use issues, fiscal sponsorship and grants, NA support and outreach.
They are an umbrella organization that sustains the needs of a growing community.
More about the organization can be found at seuplift.org.