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Homeless shelter offers night of storytelling

Annual event hopes to put the fun back in fundraising through inspirational tales


by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Ken Iverson and Jack Schwab, right, director of the Good Neighbor Center in Tigard, are planning a special evening of storytelling, March 9. Everyone has a story, Schwab said. The event will be a fundraiser for the Tigard-based homeless shelter.Jack Schwab calls his idea the “antithesis” of a traditional fundraiser.

“It’s different,” said Schwab, the director of Tigard’s only homeless shelter, the Good Neighbor Center on Southwest Greenburg Road.

On March 9, the shelter is hosting its second annual “In Other Words” night of storytelling.

It’s a fresh idea in the world of charity fundraisers, Schwab said, offering an evening of entertainment more akin to a play or a performance, instead of a traditional "pass the hat" fundraiser.

“I’ve been around fundraising for a long time,” said Schwab, who worked as a professional fundraiser for years. “The one thing it won’t be is a dinner and auction. Everyone is tired of those.”

Instead, Schwab has teamed up with the Portland Storytellers Guild for a night of stories at the Broadway Rose Theatre Company.

“In Other Words: An evening of storytelling for grownups” will feature five Portland-area storytellers — and a few special guests — telling original tales as well as traditional folktales and personal stories.

The idea is to entertain and enlighten, Schwab said, not just ask for money.

Schwab, who worked as a fundraiser for several Portland-area nonprofits over the years, said he got bored with the traditional fundraiser tropes of silent auctions and fancy dinners.

Schwab wanted to plan something people would come to year after year that would be inspirational.

“There is always hope for a brighter future,” Schwab said. “Our stories will reflect that.”

‘It’s how we connect’

Ken Iverson, one of the night’s storytellers and a member of the Portland Storytelling Guild, said that along with being entertaining, telling stories is an important part of community building.

“It’s how we get to know each other,” he said. “It’s how we connect. When you meet someone for the first time, you chat — we all tell stories in one form or another.”

This year’s selection of stories vary, but they all share one common message of hope — something the Good Neighbor Center knows a thing or two about, Iverson said.

“When you realize that someone is not giving you a hand out but actually helping you get up on your feet, that inspires hope in people,” Iverson said. “The stories all talk about that in one way or another.”

At last year’s event, Schwab told the story of a pregnant woman who gave birth while staying at the shelter.

In the future, Schwab said he’d like to have current or former residents of the shelter attend the event to share their experiences.

“Everybody has a story,” Schwab said, particularly those who find their way to the Good Neighbor Center. “The people who come to us are in desperate circumstances, and we provide a safe harbor where things can get better.”

‘We’re always full’

The Good Neighbor Center first opened its doors in 1998, but closed within three months due to financial troubles. When it reopened in September 1999, it had only a few thousand dollars in the bank and was reliant on volunteers for everything.

The shelter has come a long way since those early days. Today, it is one of the most well respected homeless shelters in Washington County.

And with an seemingly endless stream of people in need, the shelter is busy.

“We’re always full,” Schwab said. Every room at the nine-bedroom shelter is full, providing a roof and meals to up to 36 residents, who stay for up to six weeks.

Last year alone, the Good Neighbor Center sheltered 112 adults and 138 children, he noted. 

“Here, people have shelter, three square meals a day and case managers to help them find resources to stabilize their housing. Hopefully, we can help people find a path to a better future,” Schwab said.

The power of storiesis is that people remember them long after hearing them, Iverson said.

“The hope is that these stories will come back to people for a long time, and that when they think of them, it will bring them back here to the shelter and the families who are being served,” Iverson said.



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