Franchise Opportunities in Portland, OR

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Baby Boomers and The Need for An Independent Lifestyle

Statistics show that most baby boomers have a strong desire to remain independent as they age. These hardworking Americans are turning their noses up at the idea of spending their golden years in a strange nursing home. They have an unshakeable yearning to live life at home as long as possible. This factor, combined with advances in modern medicine that are helping seniors live longer, has set the stage for more home care franchise opportunities than ever before.

Millions of Americans Need Home Care Right Now

Research by the University of Alabama shows that more than seven million people in the U.S. need some form of home care. This fact is bolstered by the rising trend of "aging in place." Seniors not only want to be self-sufficient - they wish to remain at home, where the surroundings are familiar and family is near. Always Best Care nurtures this need by providing quality in-home care that helps both the seniors in need and their families.

When you implement Always Best Care's proven business model, your senior care franchise in Portland, OR will become a pillar in your community. You will be part of a highly regarded, reputable organization that others will respect. While you refine your reputation and earn respect, you'll be living an entrepreneurial lifestyle that lets you make a difference in other people's lives.

Recession Resistant, Essential, and Rewarding

Great entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for recession-resistant franchising opportunities. In light of the COVID-19 Pandemic, in-home care is now an essential service -- one that will continue to be needed, regardless of the economy. No matter what hurdles we must overcome, one thing is for sure: people will always need care.

At Always Best Care, our proven franchise model enables hundreds of dedicated franchisees the opportunity to achieve financial freedom in the most uncertain times. Our award-winning training program provides franchisees with the tools to succeed and the stability they need.

Always Best Care is one of the fastest-growing senior care franchise systems because our franchisees are more than just business owners, they are compassionate professionals dedicated to helping others. Perhaps most importantly, their home care business lets them care for people in their community while building a rewarding business for themselves.

Corporate-support

Corporate Support

Our experienced corporate team works with new in-home care franchise owners to provide comprehensive training for you and your staff, marketing resources, performance metrics, turnkey operating tech, systemwide benchmarking, national accounts, and customer satisfaction support.

Local-suppor

Local Support

Your local Area Representative and our National Directors work with all new franchisees to arrange mentoring opportunities, communications and team-building strategies, and ongoing strategic planning. That way, you have a leg up in your market and access to key resources to build your confidence as you develop your business.

Assistance-with-state-licensing

Assistance with State Licensing

Your Always Best Care franchise development specialist will make sure you have contact information in your state to complete any state licensure requirements. We link you to the nation's top health care licensure consultants, thus allowing you to discover the most cost-effective and time-efficient procedures to get your license, launch your business, and begin serving your community.

Exclusive-protected-territories

Exclusive, Protected Territories

Each Always Best Care franchise territory is protected and exclusive to you using zip codes in your state.

Our powerful combination of corporate and local support paves a clear and proven path for new Always Best Care franchise owners to succeed. And with your initial training, field training, and ongoing support, you always have access to Always Best Care repesentatives as you grow your senior home care business.

Get Started on Your Journey

If you have made it this far, it's now time to learn more about Always Best Care and the enriching opportunity that lies ahead. If you are ready to turn your dreams of living an entrepreneurial lifestyle into reality, you're closer than ever before. By downloading our free E-Book , you're taking the exciting next steps towards building a home care business that makes a true difference in your community.

Learn More About this Opportunity

Latest News in Portland, OR

Beer, food stars Whitney Burnside, Doug Adams to open Grand Fir brewery, supper club in SE Portland

One is among Oregon’s most well-known and respected brewers. The other is a celebrated Portland restaurateur and “Top Chef” finalist.Now, the wife and husband team of Whitney Burnside and Doug Adams will team up in their first professional endeavor together: opening Grand Fir Brewing in Southeast Portland’s Buckman neighborhood....

One is among Oregon’s most well-known and respected brewers. The other is a celebrated Portland restaurateur and “Top Chef” finalist.

Now, the wife and husband team of Whitney Burnside and Doug Adams will team up in their first professional endeavor together: opening Grand Fir Brewing in Southeast Portland’s Buckman neighborhood.

“I’ve had the dream of starting my own brewery from very early on, and it’s had a lot of different iterations of what that would look like,” said Burnside, who with Adams sat down this week for an interview with The Oregonian/OregonLive.

“It became real when Doug saw the vision,” she said. “We thought about it, worked it out and came up with a plan we feel people will really enjoy.”

The couple envision a brewery and restaurant with approachable brewpub fare from Adams crafted to go well with Burnside’s beer. The food menu will reflect Adams’ roots in Texas and Montana, starting with dinner, then adding brunch and, eventually, a secluded supper club for elaborate beer-pairing dinners, themed steakhouse nights and other ticketed affairs.

Grand Fir will take over the current location of West Coast Grocery Co. when it closes at the end of August. West Coast Grocery recently announced it was closing after being unable to recover from the economic strain of the pandemic and a sexual harassment incident in its first six months after opening in 2018.

Culinary power couple

Adams is as well known in the food world as Burnside is in beer. But when it comes to formal training, Burnside – who at the end of August leaves her position as brewmaster at 10 Barrel Brewing in Portland – might have him beat.

After growing up in the Seattle area, Burnside earned a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University in Denver in 2008. Back in Washington, she landed a position at The Herbfarm, a celebrated farm-to-table restaurant in Woodinville.

“My first job at Herbfarm was as a cheesemaker,” Burnside said. “They gave me the circulator and a manual, and I just went for it, making cheese for service. (Now head chef) Chris Weber, on one of our off days, he homebrewed, and I was like, ‘what in the hell are you doing?’ I just had never seen it before. I had never seen hops in their raw form. I had never smelled them.”

Burnside went straight from work to the homebrew store, where she bought a deluxe starter kit.

Her fascination with fermentation continued to grow, and after landing an internship at Laurelwood Brewery in Northeast Portland, her brewing experience began to pile up. She would hold positions at Upright Brewing in Portland and Elysian Brewing in Seattle. Those led to Pelican Brewing in Pacific City, where she became head brewer before eventually heading to 10 Barrel.

While Burnside was studying in Denver, Adams was dropping out of journalism school in Montana, then snagging his first cooking job, working the line at a Missoula dive bar. After moving to Portland, Adams rose through the ranks at Paley’s Place, eventually moving to Imperial, Kimberly and Vitaly Paley’s downtown restaurant, where he was promoted to executive chef in 2014.

Outside of Portland, most fans will know Adams from his run to the finals on the 12th season of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef,” where he appeared alongside fellow Portland chef Gregory Gourdet.

In 2018, Adams was able to parlay that success into a place of his own with Bullard, an upscale downtown restaurant and sister cocktail bar named for the town where he was born and featuring dishes inspired by Oregon and Texas.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Adams and business partner Jen Quist were in the final stages of opening Sellwood-Moreland fried chicken spin-off Holler. Adams hung on for more than a year, then announced in August 2021 that “he had made the difficult decision to simplify my life and step away from Holler Hospitality.”

“There’s a million factors that went into (why I left),” Adams said. “But it just really felt like it was time to do something different. After ‘Top Chef,’ it felt like the train left the station, things kept going and kept going and then, with the pandemic, I was finally able to stop, take a breath and think, ‘Is this what I really want to do?’”

Adams soon launched The Royal Coachman, a “fly-fishing pop-up series” featuring casting lessons and menus that might look a little like Grand Fir’s upcoming supper club, which will allow Adams to work with smoked meats too pricey for a brewpub.

“I don’t see how I could even put a ribeye on the menu at Grand Fir for what people would spend,” Adams said. A ticketed dinner for 12 to 14 people offers more flexibility. Among the first themed meals: A 1950s steakhouse with Texas red chili loaded baked potatoes.

Beer, food, ambiance, location

Burnside said her beer plan at Grand Fir was in step with what she created at 10 Barrel and Pelican, beers that have developed a following and stuck with the beer community.

“I plan to have the whole gamut of styles,” she said. “I will focus on West Coast IPAs, I’ll have a classic Northwest pale ale, I’ll have a coconut stout, export stouts, a Texas lager, culinary-inspired sours, a Bohemian pilsner.”

She also plans barrel-aged beers, but balks when asked about trendier styles.

“There will never be a smoothie beer at Grand Fir,” she said. “I’m hesitant to even put out a hazy. I have put out some hazies, and they’ve done well. You’ll have to wait and see.”

Burnside said the beer program would grow in stages.

“We haven’t figured out cans at all yet,” she said. “We’re in an area that’s very walkable, it’s got a great neighborhood vibe, so we plan to do a lot of sales from tank-to-tap. We will do most of our distribution from kegs, starting modestly, and we will be self-distributed.”

Burnside recognizes the highly competitive market in Portland, but she said it’s time to jump out and chase a dream. She and Adams are confident they have the right formula.

“We want it to be a place where families are thinking, ‘OK where can we go for dinner?’ Where can mom and dad relax and have a really great beer, and a really great dinner, and have a really good option for our kid, and not break the bank.”

Whether competing on “Top Chef” or running fancy downtown hotel restaurant kitchens, Adams was always at his best when his food was most-approachable. Some of the dishes he’s best known for wouldn’t be out of place on a brewpub menu — fried chicken, Texas red chili, thick-cut bologna sandwiches.

“I like smoke, I like chilies, I like a lot of acid,” Adams said. “We want to be a place where people can go and get a really good roast chicken dinner. Or a Reuben, or a fried chicken sandwich, or some iteration of a fish and chip situation.”

“And your salads,” Burnside said.

“Yup,” Adams said. “And the one thing we’re in total agreement on is we’re going to have our Grand Fir wings dialed in.”

Adams and Burnside said they were drawn to the space because of its location and potential. Music venue Revolution Hall is cater-corner, and Portland sandwich darling Meat Cheese Bread and sister bar Beer are directly across the street. The interior affords a 15-barrel brewhouse for Burnside, a small kitchen for Adams, plus a downstairs space that will serve as the supper club.

They also plan to eventually add a take-out window for food and packaged beer sales, and they have tossed around the idea of coffee and breakfast to-go. Adams said they planned to open in the fall, and he envisions offering smoked turkeys for the holidays.

Grand Fir’s decor and branding, the couple said, is still in its nascent stages, as they work with independent designer Corinne McNeilly, who has done artwork for Seattle’s Elysian Brewing and Cloudburst Brewing. Burnside said the aesthetic might subtly reflect the Grand Fir name, but “not forests and fir everywhere.”

They have big dreams and plans, but the couple said they also want to be respectful of the businesses and services already offered in their neighborhood.

“We have full intention of taking advantage of that beer and food window to-go,” Burnside said. “It’s a great strip for food, and we want to be really thoughtful about coming into that community. Across the street is one of the most-beloved (sandwich) spots in town, and there’s Beer next door.”

They plan a full liquor bar plus full-service staffing, rejecting the recent trend toward table-side phone ordering.

Grand Fir will have “direct, face-to-face service,” Burnside said. “We understand the app is very convenient in many ways. We don’t like it. I don’t ever want to come back to a place that’s like, here, order on this app. (Full-service) is relatable, it’s familiar, it’s comfortable, it’s intimate.”

Still, Burnside acknowledges that launching a new project is “always a risk,” especially with “potentially a recession looming, the pandemic.”

“It’s always scary leaving a secure job with a secure company,” she said. “But you only live once and I think — I know — that Doug and I have what it takes to create something really special and from the heart. It’s what we offer. My beer, his food, the ambiance, the location.”

Andre Meunier; sign up for my weekly newsletter Oregon Brews and News, and follow me on Instagram, where I’m @oregonianbeerguy

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Every night, roughly 260 shelter beds for Portland homeless aren’t being used

Advocates have pushed to increase the supply of shelter beds for people experiencing homelessness in Portland. Existing shelters aren't full.PORTLAND, Ore. — Despite a record number of people living in tents and RVs throughout Portland, hundreds of the city's shelter rooms and beds aren’t being used.In June, publicly supported shelters in Multnomah County had an occupancy rate of 81%, according to ...

Advocates have pushed to increase the supply of shelter beds for people experiencing homelessness in Portland. Existing shelters aren't full.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Despite a record number of people living in tents and RVs throughout Portland, hundreds of the city's shelter rooms and beds aren’t being used.

In June, publicly supported shelters in Multnomah County had an occupancy rate of 81%, according to data from the Joint Office of Homeless Services. The county has a total of 1,402 shelter units, which means on any given night, roughly 264 spaces are vacant.

“I don’t want to go to a shelter,” explained Dave Cooper, an unhoused Portlander who sleeps outdoors at Sewallcrest Park in Southeast Portland or other public spaces.

Cooper said shelters aren’t a viable option because of concerns over privacy, personal safety and a strict curfew.

“I couldn’t do it,” said Cooper, sitting next to a shopping cart filled with his sleeping bag and other belongings. “Being out here, it’s freedom.”

Publicly funded shelter beds can include both traditional congregated sleeping spaces and alternative unit styles such as tiny homes or converted motel rooms.

In June, thirteen shelters in Multnomah County had occupancy rates below 75%. Walnut Park had an occupancy of 55%, which means on average 27 of 60 available beds were not used on any given night at the Northeast Portland shelter.

Arbor Lodge Shelter, operating out of a former Rite Aid in North Portland, had an occupancy rate of 64%, meaning 25 of 70 units weren’t used.

“Ideally, we’d like shelters to be at 100% utilization. We also realize that is not going to be the average,” said Shannon Singleton, interim director of the Joint Office of Homeless Services.

Some beds might sit empty because they’ve been reserved for the night and the person didn’t show up, Singleton said. Many shelters operate on a reservation system, similar to a restaurant or hotel.

“This system means if we put somebody on a waitlist, they get assigned a bed. We give them time to show up. There are going to be nights when a bed is assigned to somebody, but they may not show up,” she said.

For many years, homeless shelters required people to line up for a bed each night on a first come, first served basis. That system has been phased out because it was deemed inequitable and unfair, Singleton said.

“A lot of people who were more vulnerable, maybe had disabling conditions, didn’t get a bed because they weren’t able to push to the front of the line,” she said.

Many people experiencing homelessness have expressed skepticism about the shelters.

“I have not been in a shelter since a warming shelter four years ago, when it snowed so hard,” said Timothy Varner, who has been sleeping outside in Portland for 15 years.

“I prefer to be outside because that way I can get up and move,” Varner said, while resting in the grass at Sewallcrest Park. “I can sleep in a nice area.”

A 2019 survey of 180 people experiencing homelessness in Oregon, conducted as part of an Oregon Statewide Shelter Study by Oregon Housing and Community Services, found that the top barriers for using shelters were personal safety and privacy concerns, restrictive check-in and check-out times and overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.

A 2017 KGW investigation titled “Tent City, USA” identified similar concerns, including worries about shelter conditions and rules. A KGW survey of 100 people living in tents in Portland found 89% would rather stay in a tent over a shelter.

Michael Brunner’s sprawling tent encampment sits next to Edwards Elementary in Southeast Portland. The 54-year-old Portlander said he prefers living in outdoor conditions, even during the cold, wet winter months.

“I think that shelters are too temporary and there’s too much stimulation. I’m high functioning autistic. I just couldn’t. It’s not something for me. There’s too much going on,” he said.

In 2021, Oregon had one of the nation’s highest shelter occupancy rates at 82.3%, behind New York at 88.3%, New Jersey at 84.7% and Vermont at 83.9%. All five states with the highest occupancy rates on the night of the point-in-time count were in colder climates.

Nationwide, the number of shelter beds remained relatively flat between 2020 and 2021, although occupancy rates declined. 73% of shelter beds were occupied in 2021, down from 82% in 2020, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Community leaders and advocates have pushed to increase the supply of shelter beds for people experiencing homelessness in Portland.

In June, Multnomah County approved a $3 billion budget for fiscal year 2023, including $130 million for shelters and outreach to support over 2,000 beds of year-round adult shelter services.

Advocates admit creating more shelter beds doesn’t automatically mean people will use them. Instead, the government and non-profits running shelters need to make them more accommodating. Many shelters allow pets, allow residents to stay for extended periods of time and let them securely store their belongings during the day.

Instead of large rooms, where people sleep on cots or mats, many congregate shelters now have rooms divided by private bays and offer spaces like kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms.

Multnomah County also has a variety of alternative shelters, including private sleeping pods.

The Kenton Women’s Village offers small sleeping pods — each is roughly the size of a household shed — for 20 women. The village offers a kitchen and shower facilities, water delivery and garbage pick-up, access to legal and financial services, along with mental health and physical healthcare.

In June, Kenton Women’s Village had 4 of 16 units utilized, or 25% occupancy.

“What we hope to really look at now that we have these multiple types of shelters is, what is the length of stay by different shelter type? What is the outcome by different shelter type? How many people go into permanent housing versus transitional or back to the street?” explained Singleton.

Several people experiencing homelessness told KGW there should be less emphasis on emergency shelters and more focus on affordable housing, mental health and drug treatment.

“I just think that if they focused more on prevention, instead of post — what do we do now, it could turn around. It’s the only way it could turn around,” said Brunner, outside his tent.

Housing advocates agree that shelters are only a piece of the puzzle in helping to curb homelessness.

“I think over time that is the goal. It is a system that is much more about keeping people in their affordable housing and our shelter system should start to shrink,” said Singleton. “We’re just not at that point.”

Match Recap: Ordoñez Nets Second Straight Brace in Courage Draw at Portland

PORTLAND, OR (Aug. 5, 2022) — The North Carolina Courage drew 3-3 against the Portland Thorns on Friday night at Providence Park in Portland, OR. The match featured Courage goals from Diana Ordoñez and Jaelene Daniels, while Sophia Smith and Morgan Weaver scored for the Thorns.The Thorns got off to a fast start Friday with Smith and Weaver scoring in the 8th and 24th minutes, with their 2-0 lead holding through halftime. Courage rookie Diana Ordoñez saw her first opportunity to strike back in the 6...

PORTLAND, OR (Aug. 5, 2022) — The North Carolina Courage drew 3-3 against the Portland Thorns on Friday night at Providence Park in Portland, OR. The match featured Courage goals from Diana Ordoñez and Jaelene Daniels, while Sophia Smith and Morgan Weaver scored for the Thorns.

The Thorns got off to a fast start Friday with Smith and Weaver scoring in the 8th and 24th minutes, with their 2-0 lead holding through halftime. Courage rookie Diana Ordoñez saw her first opportunity to strike back in the 61st minute, sending a header to the back of the net off a corner kick from Carson Pickett. Just 11 minutes later, Ordoñez would tally another with another header, this time scoring off a ball in from Ryan Williams.

“I had a fire in my belly after those first two [Portland] goals,” Ordoñez said. “This team is very motivated by seeing each other work hard – they make it really easy for me to score goals when they put them up on a platter the way that they do. When we all band together and feel that sense of togetherness when we’re playing, it just helps us come out stronger and perform better as a team. … We knew we could get ourselves out of the situation we’d put ourselves in in the second half. That’ll be huge for us moving forward.”

While Sophia Smith tallied one more goal for the Portland side in the 77th minute, Jaelene Daniels came through for the Courage with the third goal of the evening. In her first goal since 2019, Daniels kept her cool as a ball found its way to her possession from the right side of the pitch, sending it home to tie the game up in the 85th minute.

“Portland is obviously an extremely challenging place to come play,” Carson Pickett said. “You can’t hear much, it’s a bit chaotic. In the beginning of the game, we gave them all their chances. I don’t think they technically earned any of their chances, they were just kind of silly giveaways from us. In the second half we came out and absolutely dominated. We had a lot of attack, we were defending well.”

Up Next: The North Carolina Courage head home to take on the Kansas City Current for the first time this regular season on Saturday, August 13 at 8 p.m. ET. Tickets can be found here and the match will be streamed on Paramount+ and Twitch.

Match Notes:

Box Score:

NC: Casey Murphy, Carson Pickett, Abby Erceg ©, Kaleigh Kurtz, Ryan Williams, Denise O’Sullivan, Malia Berkely (Meredith Speck — 46’), Brianna Pinto, Debinha, Brittany Ratcliffe (Jaelene Daniels — 73’), Diana Ordoñez

POR: Bella Bixby, Tegan McGrady (Natalia Kuikka — 46’), Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelli Hubly, Meaghan Nally, Samantha Coffey, Morgan Weaver (Yazmeen Ryan — 73’), Christine Sinclair © (Olivia Moultrie — 73’), Raquel Rodríguez (Janine Beckie — 65’), Hina Sugita, Sophia Smith

Score:

NC: 3

POR: 3

Goals:

NC: Diana Ordoñez — 61’, 72’; Jaelene Daniels — 85’

POR: Sophia Smith — 8’, 77’; Morgan Weaver — 24’

Cautions:

NC: —

POR: —

Ejections:

NC: —

POR: —

One heat wave finished, another right around the corner

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Portland is now a few days removed from one of the warmest stretches of heat on record.This heat wave brought in eight days at 90 degrees or more, and a new record for consecutive days of 95 degrees or above at seven days, besting the six-day record from 1941 and 1981. The heat wave started on Sunday, July 24, but we didn’t reach the excessive heat warning criteria until July 25 when we pushed into the upper 90s. We jumped up to the...

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Portland is now a few days removed from one of the warmest stretches of heat on record.

This heat wave brought in eight days at 90 degrees or more, and a new record for consecutive days of 95 degrees or above at seven days, besting the six-day record from 1941 and 1981. The heat wave started on Sunday, July 24, but we didn’t reach the excessive heat warning criteria until July 25 when we pushed into the upper 90s. We jumped up to the triple-digits on Tuesday, July 26, also breaking a record for the daytime high.

There were a handful of broken records throughout the heat wave with pressing heat in The Dalles and south into Medford.

We then had two days that hit the mid-90s, with humidity levels that jumped. Dew points around the valley reached the upper 60s, creating a “feels like” temperature that was in the lower triple-digits. That was both on Wednesday and Thursday, which also limited the overnight temperatures from falling much lower than 70 degrees. This was moisture that was pulling in from the Pacific as a southwest flow kept conditions moist.

Usually, during these types of heat waves, we have a dry east wind that will warm us up. That shows you the strength of our air mass that was over the top of us.

It should also be noted that there was a thin veil of wildfire smoke moving through the upper-level layers of the sky from the wildfires in California.

Right behind that stint, we brought back the triple-digits. This was the first time that we had back-to-back triple-digit days in 399 days. Both Friday and Saturday hit marks that were impressive, but they weren’t record-breaking. Yet, the last time we had adjacent 100-degree days was during the heat dome of 2021! The excessive heat finally broke Monday, albeit not a drastic cooldown. Daytime highs hit just below 90 degrees both Monday and Tuesday this week. Not only did we live through some serious afternoon heat, but we didn’t get the cool summer air in return. We had both ends of the stick, where it was sweltering in the afternoon and warm overnight. This didn’t allow for most buildings around Portland to cool down. Temperatures stayed above 66 degrees from July 25 through August 1. We finally broke the warm overnight temperatures Tuesday morning, as lows dipped back to the lower 60s.

When it was all said and done, Portland completed the month of July above average. We wrapped up the month with 12 days at 90 degrees or above. That was the most since 2018, when we had 15, which was a record total for the month of July. If you’re wondering, Portland usually averages about five. That data is going all the way back to 1940.

Another Pacific Northwest heat wave

Portland has tackled two heat waves this summer. One was a three-day stretch at the end of June, the other, the prolonged serious heat that we just endured. If you’re wondering, a heat wave is generally described as three days of 90 degrees or above around here. Most of the time we have one hot day, with the hottest on day two, then a third day when we bring the heat back down. That was not the case for our second heat wave, as temperatures seemed to get warmer more than once, creating two peaks.

The forecast for our upcoming heat wave is expected to resemble more of a traditional heat wave than a drawn-out heat wave. It is possible the back end of this heat wave is still going to be on the warm side. The forecast is calling for lower to mid-90s Saturday through Monday. We didn’t have to wait long for our next period of heat. It’s possible we work some of our warmer days of August out of our system now, but August is still our warmest month of the summer, with an average mean temperature of 70.6 degrees (an average of the high and low). It will be a ridge of high pressure that returns this weekend that will scoot the temperatures into uncomfortable territory.

We nearly have a rex block setting up as well, as a fairly stationary upper-level low holds west of California and the ridge develops over the top. This is one reason for the slow cool down on the back end of the weekend heat.

Local community center plans $6 million expansion to grow mission

Ben McCanna/Staff PhotographerWearing clear safety goggles, his hair tied in a ponytail atop his head, a teenager practiced hitting a small black ball against the wall in front of him.The ball created a steady three-count rhythm as it moved from the player’s racket to the wall to the floor and back again. In the room next door, more than a dozen students chatted before heading outside to play kickball.The walls of Portland Community Squash, a multi-generational community center in Portland’s Oakdale ne...

Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Wearing clear safety goggles, his hair tied in a ponytail atop his head, a teenager practiced hitting a small black ball against the wall in front of him.

The ball created a steady three-count rhythm as it moved from the player’s racket to the wall to the floor and back again. In the room next door, more than a dozen students chatted before heading outside to play kickball.

The walls of Portland Community Squash, a multi-generational community center in Portland’s Oakdale neighborhood, are covered with pictures of the students who play there and facts about them, such as where they were born, when they moved to Portland, and their dream college.

• Born in Djibouti, moved to Portland at 7 years old, Yale University • Born in Iraq and raised in Portland, Harvard University • Born in Portland, raised in Munjoy Hill, Bates College

Portland Community Squash is raising $6 million to increase the number of courts from four to seven and build a café and add more community spaces, all with the goal of growing its roster of services, encouraging people to spend more time there and strengthening community cohesion. Four million dollars has already been raised for the expansion, largely from individual donors.

Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

It is more a holistic family community center than a sports facility. It provides tutoring, mentoring and wellness classes, runs a summer camp and holds community events. Although certain programs are open only to students, membership is open to people of all ages.

Gayl Anglin’s son Matthew Okulski has been playing at Portland Community Squash for five years. Anglin and the rest of her family don’t play squash, but they’re members anyway. They use the fitness equipment and attend community events.

Anglin said her son spends hours a day at Portland Community Squash – practicing, doing homework and spending time with friends.

“It’s not really just a squash program, it’s more of a personal development program,” she said.

Her family’s experience underscores the expansion campaign motto: “The kids call us their second home, let’s make it a second home for the whole family.”

A DIFFERENT VISION FOR SQUASH

The current executive director and one of the founders, Barrett Takesian, laid out his vision for the upstart community center 10 years ago, scratching out his ideas on a legal pad with crude drawings of squash courts and notes neatly written in pencil. An insurance professional, Takesian had been volunteering with youth groups and realized he wanted to focus more of his attention on youth development.

The program quickly moved from an idea on paper to the local YMCA and later to a retrofitted synagogue. Along the way, it challenged preconceptions of the game.

Squash has historically been a sport of the elite. It was invented in England and first popped up in the United States in boarding schools before moving to private city clubs. But Portland Community Squash renounces the exclusive bubble surrounding the sport. Portland Community Squash is for everyone.

The program annually serves 200 students in grades three through 12 and 225 additional people through family memberships. Of the students, 67 percent are people of color, 63 percent are low-income, 27 percent are immigrants and refugees, 56 percent are multi-lingual and 60 percent are aiming to be the first in their family to go to college.

The program comes at no cost to those at or below the median state income – $51,435 for a single person and $98,914 for a family of four. Seventy percent of the youths and 30 percent of the adults who attend do so for free.

Following in Portland’s footsteps, community squash centers have popped up in cities around the country. The sport’s national governing body, U.S. Squash, in 2020 started its community initiative to grow inclusivity in the sport.

Takesian is the program’s senior adviser. To be accredited as a community facility, programs must demonstrate that they are committed to increasing access to the sport. There are 12 community squash centers up and running in the United States in cities including San Diego, Atlanta and Houston, and 40 more in the works. Once a sport reserved almost exclusively for the wealthy and elite, around 5,000 people are now part of community squash programs.

AFTER-SCHOOL BONUS

Public school students in the U.S. spend 20 to 25 percent of their waking hours in school. How they spend the rest of their time depends on the individual, their families and usually their socioeconomic status, with students from higher-income families having greater access to high-quality after-school, break and summer programs than students from lower-income families.

Studies consistently show that how students spend their out-of-school time affects their success in life. Students who participate in enriching and engaging activities outside of school are less likely to miss school and more likely to do better in class. Out-of-school programs also provide a safe place for students to go when their parents must work and school is not open. But these programs are often expensive, hard to get to and hard to find.

In 2020, 25 million students – half the school-aged children in the United States – sought after-school programing but were unable find it, according to the After School Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group working to increase access to after-school and summer programs.

Low-income, Black and Latino families were less able to find suitable after-school programs than other groups, the After School Alliance said. Those unable to find programming cited prohibitively high enrollment costs, a lack of transportation and limited programs with available slots. Portland Community Squash often has a waitlist of around 20 students for its after-school programs, said Takesian.

Back in 2012, Takesian knew transportation and cost could be major barriers to accessing Portland Community Squash.

At the start of the program, when it was still being run out of the YMCA, Portland Community Squash staff picked up students from the two public schools closest to the facility – Portland High School and King Middle School – and walked them to the YMCA.

Later on, Portland Community Squash bought a van to transport students, and now it owns three 14-passenger vans and transports around 50 kids a week. Everyone on staff takes turns driving – picking students up from schools around the city in the early afternoon and dropping them off at their homes at the end of the night.

COME FOR SQUASH, STAY FOR THE RELATIONSHIPS

Meeting Portland Community Squash staff at student drop-off time is how Meirgani Alaari first got involved in the program. Three of his children joined in 2018. They had always been good students, he said, but after they joined the squash program they started to excel, becoming more disciplined in school and with their homework.

Over the past four years, Alaari became increasingly involved in the program. Now he is the event director.

“What makes this place different is that it’s a whole family thing,” said Alaari. “A place where everyone can find a way to get involved.”

One goal behind the expansion is to get more families involved the way Alaari is, to continue Portland Community Squash on its path to becoming a tight-knit, diverse and multi-generational community in which people come for the squash but stay for the relationships.

Summer camp members said they feel like they can be themselves at Portland Community Squash. Alexa Bell, a rising seventh-grader at Lincoln Middle School, said she enjoys playing squash but likes the community even more. “You can just be yourself here and have fun,” she said

Mariam Hasson, a rising eighth-grader at Lyman Moore Middle School, has been going to Portland Community Squash since fourth grade. Hasson said she would like to play squash in college.

“It’s great coming here because everyone is your friend and it’s super welcoming,” she said. “It’s just awesome here.”

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