Building Community

Physically reconstructing a community, does not mean that a sense of commaraderie comes with the new construction. Building community takes time, energy and creativity. New Columbia’s theme of “Building Community Together” is a great vision for all of the programming in the 82 acres that make up the community.

Community Builders

When walking around New Columbia on a summer’s day, it is apparent that all staff are not just point people for resources or to answer questions about rent. New Columbia Community Builders create activities, events and programs that encompass the theme of creating an engaged community, one that is empowering, socially sustainable and positively driven. The overarching goal is that Community Builders will create programs, recruit residents to get involved, take on leadership and in time, lead the program. This process creates a leadership driven community that has pride and ownership in the projects and events taking place in the neighborhood. The overall goal of course, building community together.

Resident Community Builder Program

While having professional Community Builders as staff is a wonderful way to organize community projects, it is imperative to incorporate community residents to truly understand where the community wants to grow. The Resident Community Builder Program teaches residents about organizing events, volunteer recruitment & retainment, and project management.

The six month program is available for residents in Public Housing, who are in good standing, who are willing to take the initiative to work on community projects along with Community Builders and other staff to create a positive community. Residents must visit the Community Building Office, speak with a Community Builder, fill out an application and go through an interview process. If approved, the Resident Community Builder will be awarded financially for their community building efforts. This is a sliding scale and depends on the income of the participant. The Resident Community Builder is a representative of the community, and must be a leader and positive representation of New Columbia.

Resident Community Builders will assist in various projects, including:

  • Supervise and accompany the K-CHING! Youth Employment Program and Keep New Columbia Beautiful litter patrol.
  • Assist with compilation and distribution of the New Columbia Neighbor community newsletter.
  • Participate in the walking foot patrol
  • Attend and participate in the monthly Community Town Hall meetings.
  • Assist with the planning and implementation of large scale events, such as National Night Out, and McCoy Park Summer Concert Series.
  • Brainstorm and design future activities for New Columbia.

K-CHING Youth Employment Program

What kid wouldn’t want the chance to earn $500 over 10 weeks? New Columbia youth can’t wait until May rolls around so they can attend the K-CHING orientation to learn about the work program and how they might have the opportunity to earn $500 over the summer. This 10 week program not only builds a resume but self-esteem, confidence, work ethic, respect and responsibility. K-CHING is a work preparedness program for youth and teens aged 11-17 in New Columbia.

Once the youth have gone through the application and interview process, they are placed in a location on the New Columbia Commnity Campus – whether they assist the front desk at the Boys & Girls Club, or help serve lunch to senior citizens at University Park Community Center’s Loaves & Fishes – the youth are put to work. They must arrive in their “Building Community Together” uniform tee shirt, be on time, work well with others, and stay on task. If they don’t suit up and show up, then they will be speaking with the supervisor of the program, and have a conference with the K-CHING program manager and a parent.

After nine hours of work, and a one hour group meeting with all of the K-CHING participants to talk about the week’s activities, behavior, and any issues that have surfaced – the youth learn how to discuss work related problems or appreciations. Through the week it is the youth’s responsibility to record their hours on their timesheet which they keep until Friday, and then it’s cha-ching, payday! The youth visit the banker (aka New Columbia Community Builder Marjorie Harris-Shakier), who thanks the youth for their hard work and hands them a $50 Mastercard.

While some youth barrell over to Big City Produce to spend all of their money, others are learning to save it for something big. One student in the 2008 K-GHING Program, shared that he was saving all of his $50 each week so he could buy a piano. He took lessons at University Park Community Center, and practiced – but did not have a piano at home because his mom could not afford one. He learned that if he saved his money, he could buy one of his own. Our kids are learning more than how to turn in their timesheet, they learn valuable skills like financial management and strong work ethic.

This program began in 2006, has grown to incorporate another learning opportunity: parental engagement. In addition to the youth working 10 hours a week, a parent must sign the work application stating they will participate in the program by committing to ten hours of community service during the 10 week program. This parental involvement shows to the child that community service matters, and it is important in building strong families and strong communities. At the end of the week when the youth visit the banker, Miss Marjorie, they must have their parents’ community service hours completed, or else they will not receive their payment.

Clarendon at Portsmouth Running Club

When New Columbia Community Builder and Marathon Runner Molly Gray learned that North Portland had the highest obesity rate in Multnomah County, she knew she had to do something. With many of the 1,700 New Columbia youth attending Clarendon at Portsmouth K-8 School, Molly began talking with the MESD School Nurse, Principal and PE Teacher to create a running club.

In December 2008, Running Club was launched and Clarendon at Portsmouth Principal Antonio Lopez encouraged all 580 students to participate. Every Friday, Molly or as the kids call her, “The Running Lady” meets the kids on their lunch recess to run laps around the perimeter of the schoolyard. With each recess group ranging from 10-30 kids, Molly estimates that about 100 of the kids are running each week.

With five seperate lunch recesses for various class levels, there is a large emphasis on personal attention in Running Club. These kids are not only exercising their bodies, but it gives them a chance to connect with a positive adult in their community, in addition to their parents and teachers. They learn that during their run they can talk about their day, and problem solve issues they are having. If a child is generally upbeat, and comes to Running Club in a sad mood, Molly can run next to them and talk with them to learn what is going on.

Recently, Molly talked with a teacher at school about one her students’ stride and how great of a runner he is. The teacher explained that while the student loves to play sports, he is repeatedly tardy to class and had let

Programs like Running Club are key to building bridges with our school system. And while we are glad to build connections with teachers and school administrators, we are happy to have found some solid athletes.

Many of the youth had never run close to 3.1 miles before, but when PE Teacher Angel Humphrey saw kids running weekly with Molly, she asked them if they wanted to enter a 5k race. They jumped at the opportunity and piled into a van on an early Saturday morning - coming away a few short hours later with first, second and third place prizes! Read up on the first place winner, Libon Ali, in the “Residents” portion of the website under the category called, “Meet Your New Columbia Neighbor.”

While the goal is to encourage a healthy lifestyle by making exercise fun, it is also to prove to kids that although some life experiences are challenging, if they set goals, they can achieve them and it is very rewarding.

Molly is working on getting running shoes donated for the Running Club. Many participants are running in Vans (skate shoes), and other non-supportive footwear. To donate shoes or apparel, please contact Molly at or by calling the New Columbia Community Building Office at 503-285-0333.