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Good Neighbor Center is riding high these days

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The Tigard shelter is the recipient of this year's Summerfield Women's Golf Club's charity fundraiser along with other blessings

BABARA SHERMAN - Standing in the Good Neighbor Center's multi-purpose room where classes are held, homework is completed and donations are sorted and stored, Heidi Guffey (left), the Good Neighbor Center's volunteer coordinator, talks to Sandy Brewer, who is in charge of this year's Summerfield Women's Golf Club's charity fundraiser, and Jack Schwab, the center's executive director.Drum roll, please: The Summerfield Women's Golf Club has announced that the recipient of this year's Charity Golf Tournament and Fundraiser in July is the Good Neighbor Center in Tigard.

The Good Neighbor Center might be the area's best-kept secret. Since 2000, it has provided transitional housing for up to nine families at a time along with support services. The facility includes nine private room with beds and bunk beds, a commercial kitchen, a dining room, day room and fenced outdoor yard, and in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016, it sheltered 90 families (135 adults and 190 children).

Its mission is to provide safe, emergency housing with supportive and empowering services for families.

Families can stay at the Good Neighbor Center for six weeks, during which time they are provided with three daily meals and snacks, case management services, access to a children's program, life skills classes, opportunities to participate in the Rent Well program and much more.

On Feb. 8, Sandy Brewer, who is chairwoman of the golf club's fundraiser again this year, visited the Good Neighbor Center to meet with its executive director, Jack Schwab.

He explained that GNC is part of a network to help families that also includes Family Promise of Washington County and Community Action in Hillsboro that offer an additional eight private rooms. "Here, people have their own room, beds and linens, the kitchen, free laundry facilities and classes," Schwab said. "Every family meets with the case manager, and some need help getting basic ID. We clothe people and buy shoes if they need them – we offer a wrap-around program. We have a liaison to the school districts and get the kids enrolled in Tigard-Tualatin or Beaverton schools.

"In the summer, we offer a 10-week, all-day summer school and take the kids on field trips to places like OMSI and swimming. We work with the parents to develop resumes and get them professional clothes for job interviews."

COOURTESY OF THE GOOD NEIGHBOR CENTER - Almost every night of the month, a church or community group hosts dinner at the Good Neighbor Center for the residents, and volunteers donate food for breakfast, lunch and snacks, which means the center has virtually a zero food budget.The GNC works with the Public Housing Authority of Washington County to utilize its housing stabilization program that contracts for six apartments at Bonita Villa and six at the Colonies. The families must have an income to qualify to live there and start off by paying one-third of the rent; by the end of the first year, they must pay the full subsidized housing rate.

"Our success rate is well over 90 percent," Schwab said. "Rotary clubs and other groups provide the families with holiday gift baskets and an occasional food box. Many continue to live in the apartments on their own, but for other families, we don't know what happens to them."

Luckily for the GNC, their food budget is almost zero, even though they are providing meals for dozens of people every day.

"Trader Joe's and New Seasons give us lots of food, and Target gives us items like diapers and toiletries," Schwab said. "Double Tree donates sheets and blankets, and the Tualatin Valley Quilt Guild gives every child and many of the adults their own quilts. Lots of groups collect toys or toilet paper or canned food for us."

And almost every night, a church or social or fraternal organization provides dinner, with most of them committing to the same night every month.

"One of my favorite things about this job is the relationships and partnerships we've built with the community," Schwab added. "Another favorite part is getting the kids stabilized in school. Many are not registered when they come here, and they have had a lot of absences. According to statistics, homeless kids are far behind their peers in school and nine times more likely to drop out."

And not every family suffers from chronic homelessness, according to Schwab, but they just need temporary help.

Heidi Guffey, the GNC's volunteer coordinator, gave Brewer a tour of the facility, which was fairly empty at the time because all residents must be gone between 9 a.m. and noon.

"Volunteers ask, 'What can I do?' and I answer, 'Organize,'" Guffey said. "Some groups adopt a room once a year. They will paint it and clean the carpet, repair or replace furniture, and decorate. We have a 24-hour turn-around window. Right now we are in the process of replacing all the carpet in the bedrooms with linoleum, which will be much easier to keep clean."

In the dining room, Guffey pointed out the nine tables, one for each family, who make their own breakfast and lunch, have snacks available and get dinner from a community group.

According to Guffey, 99.99 percent of the food is donated, including from Whole Foods, "which donates 4,000 to 5,000 pounds of food a month," she said. "Sometimes catered food gets dropped off. We don't have to hunt for food."

Along a hallway leading to the day room, Guffey pointed out two computers for use by residents and bookshelves lined with books for children and adults, with donations of more always appreciated.

COURTESY OF GOOD NEIGHBOR CENTER - Volunteers organize food baskets in the Good Neighbor Center's dining room for families who are moving out or have recently moved out, which is part of an ongoing program of support for families as they transition to permanent housing.In the day room or living room, there are couches and a TV but no cable, so the only channels received are the local stations, and donations of VHS tapes are always welcome.

And with 36 beds in the facility (28 twin and eight full-size), "we always need linens – any size – and towels donated," Guffey said.

She added, "The residents do all the cleaning, and everyone has tasks, and once they get ID, they are expected to go to the library to job search."

A lot of blessings have rained on the GNC recently, starting with the Home Builders Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Home Builders of Metropolitan Portland, which is building a 375-square-foot Education Center on the front of the facility.

Currently the staff is using a corner of the 360-square-foot multi-purpose room for classes and homework, but the room is where donations are received and sorted, and bins of hygiene items, diapers and other items are stored.

The room is noisy and not conducive to a quiet learning environment, and the new addition will provide space for an office for the children's program coordinator, a classroom, and a wall of cabinets for storage.

Although the value of the addition is about $110,000, it will cost the center about 75 percent of that because of donations of materials and other contributions the foundation will provide, and the GNC board is committed to raising the amount, according to Schwab.

The groundbreaking was set for Feb. 15, and the project should be completed by mid-June.

The sixth annual "In Other Words... Storytelling for Grownups" fundraiser is coming up, set for Friday, March 10, at 7:30 p.m. at the Broadway Rose Theatre in Tigard; tickets cost $50.

Royal Moore Subaru is currently running a "Share the Love" campaign in which the GNC is one of several programs that buyers of new vehicles can choose for a $250 donation. "Nationwide, Subaru has four charities, and each local dealer can choose one local option, and they chose us," Schwab said.

And Fred Meyer shoppers can donate their reward points to GNC.

Listening to Schwab and Guffey, Brewer said, "It's amazing what this community can do."

Last year, the women's golf club switched from a silent auction to a raffle in which people could purchase tickets for one of several themed gift baskets. This year Brewer is concentrating on having businesses donate gift cards, which will be bundled together and raffled off.

So if Brewer comes knocking at your door asking for a gift card that will ultimately be used to support Good Neighbor Center programs, she hopes you will say yes.

For more information, call Brewer at 503-317-0728.

The Good Neighbor Center is located at 11130 S.W. Greenburg Road in Tigard; the phone number is 503-443-6084.