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Equitable Giving Circle stimulates communities of color, giving without strings attached: Sharing Season 2021


The pandemic has put the life of most countries around the world on hold. But for Equitable Giving Circle, it was the catalyst that started it all.

Since its inception in the spring of 2020, the black women-led organization has collected weekly food boxes for thousands of families, distributed plants, and provided housing assistance and school supplies to families in the Portland area.

Driven by a philosophy of “give without conditions”, the organization’s mission is to economically stimulate communities of color and address inequalities created by institutional biases and discriminatory systems.

“We know the most ignored people are often the hardest to reach,” said AJ McCreary, executive director and one of the founders. “We wanted to take care of black and brunette people, women and women. “

McCreary said the group had evolved from pre-pandemic discussions about ways to support black and brunette women in professional settings. At an event called Black Growers Gathering, McCreary said, she met people who inspired her. The pandemic has prompted the organization to regroup more quickly.

“Farm-to-table produce has always been in fashion here,” she said. “And as business owners, moms, aunts, community caregivers, we were all worried about what was going on. So I said let’s buy CSAs from farmers in BIPOC and give them to black families. “

AJ McCreary is the Managing Director of Equitable Giving Circle.Randy L. Rasmussen / For The Oregonian / OregonLive

She and several others started fundraising and started delivering food in June 2020. The organization now delivers boxes of food to 325 households or families every week.

The nonprofit, beneficiary of the Oregonian / OregonLive’s 2021 Season of Sharing fundraising campaign, has an annual budget of around $ 1.2 million, with four and more employees of 50 volunteers.

> Donate to Fair Giving Circle or the General Fund of the Season of Sharing

The organization aims to provide three main services to BIPOC families: food, accommodation and welfare.

Every week, Equitable Giving Circle hosts a pop-up pantry where black and brunette individuals and families can pick up produce and packaged items. “We see an average of 75 families or households per week,” McCreary said.

The food comes from local farms and businesses. CSA director DeeDee Hopkins said she tries to get unique products every week.

“Bob’s Red Mill, Dave’s Killer Bread, Stumptown Coffee,” Hopkins said, “I got a lot more yeas than nays about what we do in the community.”

A sign reading "Fair Giving Circle"

The majority of Equitable Giving Circle’s funding in its first year was spent on food programs. But the organization is also helping families find stable housing and has provided backpacks and new clothes to more than 500 children.Randy L. Rasmussen / For The Oregonian / OregonLive

Although the organization has a social media presence, Director of Outreach Dyvisha Gordon said much of its work is spread through word of mouth and the connections it is already forming.

“I’m in the community, so we know what our community members need,” Gordon said. “It’s a very small BIPOC community, so we all work together and collaborate. “

Several founding members said that although they did not know each other before, they had heard about each other because they had all been active in helping their communities.

“We may be a new organization, but we’re not new to serving the Portland metro area,” said Housing Manager Lillian Green.

Leigh Bohannon of the Black Parent Initiative, a Portland-based organization that connects black families with community-specific resources and education, said that during the 2020 holiday season, Equitable Giving Circle has provided more than 150 gift baskets and boxes of food, including culturally specific foods, to families with whom his organization works.

“It tends to be a pantry problem that ‘you get what you get and you don’t complain’,” Bohannon said. “But you should feel valued. You shouldn’t feel like you are a burden or less than deserving of nice things because you need a little help. They made our families really feel special. “

The majority of Equitable Giving Circle’s funding in its first year was spent on food programs. But the organization also helps families find stable housing.

Over the past year, it has distributed emergency rents and three-month mortgage grants, which have helped prevent dozens of families from being evicted.

The organization hopes to expand the housing program.

“We really want a radical model of wealth and equity redistribution,” Green said. “We really want to buy an apartment complex and have cohorts of families – especially black and brown single parents – live there for a few years without rent, so they can live, heal, save and, in the end, have a competitive down payment. . “

Equitable Giving Circle has provided backpacks and new clothing to over 500 children. He also hosts a “Plant Jam,” distributing houseplants to community members by working with local stores like Birds and Bees Nursery and EcoVibe Style.

When buying food, the organization looks for companies belonging to BIPOC.

A man stacks crates of produce.

Pablo Muñoz, of Pablo Muñoz Farms in Dayton, delivers product for distribution by the nonprofit Portland Equitable Giving Circle on October 21, 2021 in Portland.Randy L. Rasmussen / For The Oregonian / OregonLive

Japhety Ngabireyimana, whose family owns Happiness Family Farm, said McCreary contacted last year and asked if they were willing to provide boxes of community supported agriculture. The experience prompted the farm to start its own CSA program and to seek partnerships with others as well.

“I think they do a good job supporting us as farmers and highlighting what we do,” he said.

Dr. Allen, co-owner of EcoVibe Style, said she appreciates the group’s commitment to BIPOC-owned businesses. His company has a “matching donation” program: every time a customer purchases a plant to donate to Equitable Giving Circle, EcoVibe Style matches that donation.

As the founders of Equitable Giving Circle seek to increase their impact, they are excited about the work they have done so far.

“I’m really proud of our intentionality in everything we do,” said McCreary. “I’m proud that we’re continually stretching organizations to be better and making those little pivots that really have a profound impact. “

What your donation can do

$ 55: Provides a box of local food to a food insecure family.

$ 250: Provides one month of local food (one box per week for four weeks) to a food insecure family.

$ 500: Provides two weeks of rent / mortgage support.

> Donate to Fair Giving Circle or the General Fund of the Season of Sharing

Read more Season of Sharing stories at oregonlive.com/sharing


Tags : executive director
Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.