Friends of the Children, Boys & Girls Club give Rockwood kids a boost

By Wendy Culverwell
Jun 11, 2013, 2:52pm PDT

Two of Portland’s leading advocates for youth will collaborate on a pair of projects to increase services to children in Rockwood, one of Portland’s poorest neighborhoods.

The Rockwood Boys & Girls Club and Friends of the Children East County will develop side-by-side facilities at the site of the former Police Activities League Center, 424 N.E. 172nd Ave., at Pfeifer Park in East Multnomah County.

The city of Gresham turned the neglected center over to the Rockwood Boys & Girls Club in March. It will remain open to about 200 kids through the summer. About 130 employees of the Portland Trail Blazers spent a day this week preparing the property for the summer program.

The building will be demolished in the fall ahead of a 2014 construction start.

“Poverty has moved east and as people have moved into East County the services aren’t there to help them. That is a tremendous challenge that we face,” said Jeff Cogen, Multnomah County Chair.

Supporters will hold a ceremony to formally launch the project at 3:30 p.m. today, June 11, at the site.

The two nonprofits will work with the city of Gresham to bring the project to fruition.

Both will launch capital campaigns by the end of the year.

The Rockwood area is home to some of the area’s poorest residents and is buffeted by gang-related violence. Supporters of the project note that 30 percent of the area’s residents earn less than the poverty level, yet the area is served by only 15 of the region’s 500 child development and family support agencies.

The Reynolds School District has an on-time graduation rate of just 46 percent.

“If there has ever been an unmet need in our community in my 50 years of being a child advocate it’s this need,” said Duncan Campbell, founder of Friends of the Children. “This community is lacking in a number of basic resources for children. This is the first step going in, in a meaningful way to address it.”