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October 30, 2015

Oregon Innovation Goes National

Friends of the Children, which started in 1993 serving a handful of students, is ready to take its evidenced-based model to the next level in an ambitious plan to close the opportunity gap for thousands of youth facing multiple systemic obstacles across the nation.

With the help of AT&T, what originally started in Portland, Ore., is now making waves across the United States. With U.S. Senator Ron Wyden in attendance, Friends announced a $400,000 grant from AT&T to help launch a $25 million expansion fund, which will enable Friends to expand our national network.

“We are so grateful for AT&T’s support of our work here in Oregon and around the nation,” said Megan Lewis, executive director of Friends of the Children–Portland. “AT&T’s generous gift is a wonderful validation of our proven impact on children and our entire community.”

“At AT&T, we are committed to supporting programs that create pathways for our youth to reach their potential,” said George Granger, president of AT&T in Oregon. “Graduating from high school is a critical step on this path to success. We are proud to be the first company in the nation to stand behind Friends of the Children and support their national expansion.”

Our expansion plan was central to the Friends being selected as the winner of the Social Impact Exchange Business Plan Competition last year. Our three-pronged growth strategy includes:

Expansion of current chapter offices in New York, Boston, Seattle, Portland and Klamath Basin (Ore.). Friends’ new Rockwood youth center east of Portland will be the first step when its doors open in early 2016. The state-of-the-art youth center was made possible by an innovative public, private and community partnership and serves as a prototype to replicate in other cities.

Addition of new chapters in other cities where local social investors or public and community organizations have an interest in bringing the Friends model to serve youth in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods. A local group of social investors recently unveiled plans to bring the Friends model to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2016, and fundraising has begun.

Guests were also treated to a hard hat tour of our new 8,500 square feet facility in Rockwood as our youth and their mentors painted pumpkins and played basketball in the newly renovated gym. Before the big reveal, Senator Wyden gave his support of Friends and our mission. Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis followed and shared about the city’s role with the addition of the new complex. One of our graduates, Jimmy Tyrrell, also got the chance to share the story of his experience with Friends of the Children all the way from childhood to now being a husband and father.

Join us on January 21, 2016, for our grand opening celebration as we open the doors of our new facility to the community!