City leaders take action to help youth program operate independently

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Gretchen Young, who is the educational coordinator at the Beaverton Police Activities League center, watches Landon Ashcraft, 9, work on his math homework.Community leaders are rallying to keep the Beaverton Police Activities League doors open to at-risk youth.

The program, which has operated under the umbrella of the Police Activities League of Greater Portland since June 2006, is in the process of applying for nonprofit status that will allow it to once again run independently as an organization.

The move was prompted last week as the financial plight of the Portland PAL came to light on Feb. 12, when leaders said without additional funding the organization would be forced to close its centers in Portland and Gresham on Friday, Feb. 15.

A press release cited the reasons for the center closures as “the ongoing reduction of governmental funding and the economic times have placed the organization in the position to need to make this difficult decision.”

Beaverton Police Chief Geoff Spalding, Beaverton PAL Director Jocelyn Simpson and Mayor Denny Doyle quickly came up with a plan to ensure Beaverton’s PAL Clubhouse at the Beaverton Resource Center would remain open for the next three months.

More than 400 PAL members ages 8 to 18 have come to think of Beaverton’s center as a safe haven and second home. by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Sam Loredo, 10, plays chess on a computer at the Beaverton Police Activities League center.

It’s the place they go to after school to get homework help, use the Intel Computer Clubhouse’s cutting-edge technology to create projects, socialize and play games with peers, enjoy a snack and recreate. It’s a place where they can belong as a member of PAL’s popular boxing program, homework club, teen leadership club and girls’ empowerment group. It’s where they can take hip hop and zumba classes, explore Lego robotics, befriend Beaverton police officers and attend spring and summer camps.

“It’s a safe place they can come after school, while their parents are working, to be around positive adult role models and get their homework done so that they can spend quality time with their parents when they do get home at night,” Simpson said. “It’s just a really important place for them.”

“PAL can’t close again” like it did for three months in 2006, she said. “This area needs it so badly.”

Local business and civic leaders TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ -  Luke Loomis, 8, and Dakoda Robedeau, 9, play foosball at the Beaverton Police Activities League Clubhouse.

“In light of the direction Portland PAL may be going, we want to make sure Beaverton PAL’s doors remain open to our kids,” said Spalding, who is leading the effort to apply for PAL’s nonprofit status. “We have received tremendous community support and city support. We all value what PAL does for the community, and we want it to remain a viable program.”

Beaverton’s program is fortunate to have infrastructure in place, a dedicated staff managed by Simpson and community leaders willing to step up to support ongoing fundraising efforts and volunteer for a new Board of Directors, the police chief added.

“We’re very confident Beaverton PAL can once again operate on its own,” Spalding said.

His confidence in the program’s future was reaffirmed Saturday night during the Mayor’s Ball.

“In light of our plight, the mayor invited me to come up and talk to help people understand what was going on with Beaverton PAL,” Spalding said. “As I told them we were in crisis mode to keep Beaverton PAL alive to serve our community’s many at-risk kids, paddles starting going up.”

Before he knew it, the event’s auctioneer returned to the stage and guests began bidding hundreds of dollars to support PAL programs. The total pledges quickly grew to $5,200.

“It was really inspiring and encouraging,” Spalding said. “It was really an indicator of the high-level of support in this community to have a program like PAL.”

Lorraine Clarno, president and CEO of the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce, agreed and said the show of support that night was something special to behold.

“It’s not a surprise,” Clarno said. “That is the Beaverton community. I have never seen it fail to rise to action when there is a true need.

“We always see individuals, businesses and government agencies step up to find a solution and solve the problems.”

The chamber’s Leadership Beaverton Class of 2013 has already mobilized for Beaverton PAL.

For months it has been working to help organize a luau auction and dinner as part of its class service project. The Beaverton PAL benefit event will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. April 13 at the Jenkins Estate. “They were off and running and then learned last week that PAL was facing a much bigger problem,” Clarno said. “They are committed and on board to work with Chief Spalding and PAL to make sure the program gets back on its feet as an independent Beaverton PAL.

“I would not be surprised to see some members of this class on its Board of Directors.”

For more information about how to support Beaverton PAL, visit, call 503-469-9137 or stop by the clubhouse at the Beaverton Resource Center, 12500 S.W. Allen TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Samantha Ramirez, 10, and Anna Abraham, 9, practice dance moves during a hip hop class at the Beaverton PAL center.

PAL's history in Beaverton

The Beaverton PAL chapter was initially formed in 1997 as the result of a partnership between the Beaverton Police Department, area businesses and concerned citizens. It later changed its name to the Westside Police Activities League to reflect its regional membership. Westside PAL briefly closed its doors in March 2006, when activities were suspended due to lack of funding. At the time, its Board of Directors worked closely with the city, Beaverton Police Department, Washington County Commission on Children and Family, Beaverton Together and the Police Activities League of Greater Portland to find a way to reopen. The Beaverton PAL reopened June 19, 2006, just in time for its popular summer day camp and drop-in programs. It has operated under the umbrella of the Greater Portland PAL since that time.

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