AARP Challenge Grants Awarded to Local Non-Profits

By Nancy Tannler

The seventh annual AARP Community Challenge Grant worth $3.6 million is being distributed to 310 quick-action projects across the country. Three of these grants were awarded to non-profits here in Portland. The grants are intended to improve public places, transportation, housing, digital connections, diversity, equity and inclusion, with an emphasis on the needs of adults age 50 and older.
The East Portland Resilience Coalition (EPRC), DBA as Thrive East PDX, received a grant of $15,475 for a six-month project. Their focus will be on Live Well Cafe discussion sessions each month July through November 2023.
EPRC was funded by a grant in the Fall 2020 with the intention of teaching people survival skills and how to be resilient during the expensive and challenging times we live in. After publishing their first Community Resilience Report, they realized that most older or disabled people were already survivors and were resilient. What these people wanted most was to live in thriving communities where jobs, economic opportunity and connected neighborhoods are present, said Gayle Palmer, community organizer and volunteer. Thus, the name change.
Over the last few years they created “Resilience Hubs” where people gather to trade and share resources, get to know other people, network for family-wage jobs, learn about ways to make economic improvements in their community and learn emergency preparedness skills.
Palmer said that Thrive East PDX will use this same model for the Live Well Cafés. They will engage residents with disabilities aged 50+ in social and community events with the intention making neighborhood improvements that are age-friendly and welcoming to all residents.
Thrive East PDX offers programs that teach, inspire and connect people on the East side with events and classes. All events are posted on their website, thriveeastpdx.org.
REACH Community Development also received a quick-action grant that will support lower-income adults 50+ who are in need of larger, critical repairs that the REACH home repair program doesn’t have funding resources to cover.
Lauren Schmidt, Fundraising & Public Relations Manager, said they were awarded $10,000 by AARP for projects that include roof replacement, furnace replacement, chimney repair and sewer line repairs. Funds can also assist with renting equipment for more extensive yard cleanups that they don’t regularly use (i.e. brush hogs, lawn mowers and weed whackers) and other tools for staff and volunteers to complete repairs.
Schmidt said that program-eligible homeowners can fill out an application, found at reachcdc.org. It is the same protocol for REACH’s regular services as for the special AARP quick-action grants.
The REACH free home repair program focuses on serving those who own and occupy their own home in the City of Portland, earn 50 percent of median family income or less and are 55 years or older and/or have a disability.
Kindness Farm received a quick-action micro-grant for $2,500 from AARP. They will use this money to partially fund a pavilion they are building in the middle of their farm food forest.
Lou Lé, a founder of Kindness Farm, explained that the food forest is a portion of the acreage dedicated to group plantings of fruit trees, perennial and medicinal shrubs. The pavilion is being constructed in the center of it and will be used as a gathering area for people and, at times, classes and workshops.
Kindness Farm is located at 7101 SE 127th Ave. The land was received in 2021 and is on a donated lease. Lé said there is a well on the property for water and they don’t use much electricity so utilities are minimal. She added that people have responded positively to this project and a lot of things have been donated. They are very grateful for all the lumber Reclaim NW has provided for the different projects over the years and especially for the pavilion wood.
Kindness Farm is a welcoming place where everyone can come and experience growing their own food. So far they have logged 16,000 hours of volunteer time. There is work involved, but only as much as anyone wants to do. “We only want volunteers to give as much as they receive,” Lé said.
Kindness Farm offers educational classes to students at local schools, immigrants and anyone wanting to learn how to grow food. Everything they grow is either given to the volunteers or donated to food pantries throughout Portland so people can have fresh fruits and vegetables. For more on their work, visit thekindnessfarm.org.

Photo of Kindness Farm volunteers by Lou Lé.

AARP Challenge Grants Awarded to Local Non-Profits

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