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At Habitat, good things come back around

Executive director Rick Rogers will speak of his years of experience with nonprofits at the monthly Christian Chamber meeting Oct. 22


Newberg Area Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Rick Rogers is a firm believer that doing good things will come back around to you and believes his organization has proven to be a perfect example.

“I think that’s really important,” Rogers said. “We couldn’t do what we do without the plumber, the roofer, the electrician and so on. I’d like to think the people that support us would also support the businesses that support Habitat. That’s the way I think it should be.”

How he and others at the housing ministry balance their charitable mission and the realities of running a small business will be among the topics Rogers covers when he addresses the Christian Chamber of Commerce of the Northwest at its monthly meeting in Newberg Oct. 22. Rogers

Rogers has nearly three decades of experience working with nonprofit organizations in a wide variety of areas, from overseas development, grant writing, accounting, public health, transitional housing for the homeless and self-help housing.

Although he has spent the past 14 years in Newberg, raising three boys with wife, Lisa, and working 13 of those for Habitat for Humanity, Rogers’ passion for nonprofit work was kindled while living a significant portion of his childhood abroad. That may come as a surprise to some who have known him as a visible and stable member of the Newberg community over the past decade.

In addition to his work with Habitat, Rogers serves on two Newberg city government committees and will begin his seventh season as the Newberg Rugby Club high school boys head coach next spring. As a parent of three former standout swimmers/water polo players at Newberg High School, it’s fair to add that he’s been a vocal member of the community as well, considering he led chants of “NEW-BERG TIG-ERS here we go, New-berg Tig-ers HERE WE GO” from the stands at the Chehalem Aquatic Center over the years.

Rogers was raised in Hawai’i until seventh grade, when his father took a job with Dole and moved the family to a plantation in the Philippines for the next four years.

With no suitable educational options after his parents moved to the interior of Brazil his junior year, Rogers finished high school at the Deerfield Academy in Deefield, Mass.

Rogers jokes that the transition from attending a 100-student school on a plantation overseas to boarding at one of the most traditional prep schools in the country was not only a shock to his system, but explains his “psychosis to this day.”

It didn’t cure his desire to live abroad, however, as he took a year off after graduating high school to teach English in northeastern Brazil, which gave him his first brush with the development work that would greatly shape his career.

After college, Rogers had stints working in banking and journalism, including in Brazil, where he later worked with a small commissary business at the United States Consolate, which helped kindle his interest in nonprofit agencies.

Rogers briefly attended the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Ariz., but when an opportunity to take a fellowship evaluating an aid organization at the U.S. Embassy in the west African nation of Guinea Bassao, he changed course.

Traveling with Lisa and their two boys at the time, the original 90-day assignment led to job offers for both at two aid organizations — Lisa at USAID and Rick with Africare — that made the trip a semi-permanent move that was ended by a medical emergency that called for Lisa to be taken to London.

“The sad thing about it was all these aid organizations were in Guinea Bassao — there were Russians, Americans, Swedes and Chinese and all this — then all of a sudden, of course, there was a coup,” Rogers said. “The country is sort of a failed state now.”

The couple relocated the family to Arizona, where Rick worked in public health at a grant-writing organization and Lisa in housing, but they eventually tired of the climate and chose to relocate to Oregon, as Lisa had attended college at the University of Washington and enjoyed the region.

It was Lisa who started a job with the housing group CASA of Oregon that brought them to Newberg in 1999; a year later Rick signed on with Habitat to assist with grants. A year later he took over as executive director.

“It also opened my eyes that there is plenty of need here, too,” Rogers said of his time living and working abroad. “We don’t need to go very far to find need, even like in Newberg. Sometimes I think we’re drawn overseas because of all the differences, but there’s plenty of need here. Newberg is diverse in a lot of ways we don’t necessarily see. That certainly drew me to it.”



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