Mother of Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding once lived in Bienestar housing, still volunteers there

COURTESY PHOTO - Esperanza Spalding helped rasie $11,500 for Bienestar.Grammy award-winning jazz artist Esperanza Spalding is used to playing her music to packed houses. But the Portland native recently held a much more low-key concert to support Bienestar, a local housing nonprofit that has projects in Cornelius and Forest Grove.

On Thursday, Sept. 7, Spalding held a small concert on Facebook that raised $11,500 to help the Hillsboro-based organization hire a development director. Bienestar has 12 developments housing roughly 2,200 people around Washington and Columbia counties and is helping to build senior housing in the Cornelius Place project that broke ground last Saturday.

The nonprofit focuses on low-income renters, including families who depend on agricultural work.

Spalding's mother was a resident in Bienestar housing years ago, said Nathan Teske, Bienestar's executive director, and continues to volunteer with Bienestar programs. When Spalding was searching for a way to respond to the current political climate, he added, her mother suggested working with Bienestar.

Spalding rose to notability in the jazz world when her second, third and fourth albums reached the top three in U.S. jazz charts. She won a Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011, beating out Drake, Mumford and Sons, Florence and the Machine and Justin Bieber for the award.PAMPLIN MEDIA FILE PHOTO - Esperanza Spalding, who grew up in Portland, has gained international acclaim as a jazz artist.

"I can't even tell you (what this means)," Teske said. "We are, in the grand scheme of things, not big fish. We're a moderate nonprofit. For us, 500 units sounds big, but a lot of (nonprofits) have way more units of housing. For us, it's just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not only make money but hopefully get some attention."

During the Facebook fundraiser, Spalding created music while Frank Gehry, a world-renowned architect, sketched on an easel. Gehry designed the Guggenheim Museum in Spain, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and other famous buildings.

"This will allow us to have more internal capacity on staff," said Teske, who hopes to raise around $80,000 for the position, including the Facebook fundraiser, a personal donation from Spalding and an additional fundraiser planned for November.

The sketches by Gehry and music composed by Spalding were auctioned off on, with the $11,500 proceeds going to Bienestar. The bidding opened at $2,000 and continued through Tuesday, Sept. 26.

Nine of Bienestar's 12 properties have at least one person with farm worker income, a crucial niche in the local housing market, Teske said.

"It's important to family stability," he said. "Housing is foundational for all kinds of other good outcomes."

Washington County is seeing fewer and fewer true migrant families, which follow seasonal agricultural work, and more permanent families who need stable housing year-round, Teske said. Bienestar, unlike many affordable housing developments, offers family-size units and averages four residents per unit.

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