This week I went to visit Mercy Corps Northwest, part of the U.S. economic development office of Mercy Corps, the Portland-based international relief and development agency. Mercy Corps Northwest is the assumed business name for the 501(C)3 non-profit, Mercy Enterprise Corporation, established in 1998. Mercy Corps Northwest is committed to assisting low-income citizens of Oregon and Washington to create more productive, secure and satisfying lives for themselves, their families and their communities. They support them in increasing their economic self-sufficiency and community integration by providing resources and support in their efforts to improve their lives.

The MCNW program that is most near and dear to our heart is the Reentry Transition Center (RTC). The RTC has several goals including assisting formerly incarcerated individuals in connecting with communities by providing for their immediate needs and navigation to essential services as well as foster safer and more stable communities for everyone by increasing the rate of successful reintegration. Over 2,500 individuals are released from jail back into the communities of Multnomah County each year, the highest of all Oregon counties. Former prisoners are often released with little or no assets, limited ties to the community, and low awareness of available services and programs to help. The current Recidivism rate in Oregon is over 50%! The bottom line for us here at All Star Labor & Staffing is – if you can’t get basic needs during reentry, you will likely end up back in the system because you have no tools to get the second chance that many ex-felons so desperately want and need. Sometimes all a person needs is help getting ID and a pair of workboats in order to get a labor job. The greatest needs for a successful reentry are housing, healthcare, immediate jobs, ID and Boots. The amazing staff at Mercy Corps Northwest is a beacon of hope for those who often feel totally hopeless.

Mercy Corps has so many success stories, as do we here at All Star as we strive to help people with backgrounds get jobs. Life is a daily struggle for so many during reentry, it’s hard work, so the least we can do is lend a hand. I sat at Mercy Corps on my visit, talking with Brian Judd Jr., navigator/Program Manager of the (RTC) and talked about the struggles they are facing as a fiscal cliff is looming over there head. They will run out of County funding in March 2017. They learned a very hard lesson this year – don’t take for granted that you serve over 1,000 people a year when you are contracted through the County to only serve 360. Unfortunately, the grant that Mercy Corps wrote for this last fiscal year did not include all the services and tracking of success that it should have and another non-profit won the grant with the help of a hired grant writing expert. They will survive, because they are survivors. They will get funding for a variety of community programs to survive the year and then they will not make the same mistake twice in writing an inferior grant. We need Mercy Corps Northwest RTC and right now, they need us. You can donate any amount to change a life right here in the Pacific Northwest, or you could volunteer your time, using your talents and expertise to help an aspiring entrepreneur, tutor or mentor someone returning to our community from incarceration, or help out in their office in downtown Portland. The easiest way to help is to go through your closets and pull out old coats and clothes you no longer need. They would love any size, male or female. If they don’t give away your donation at their center, they will make sure it goes to the domestic violence center so kids clothes and coats are much appreciated as well.

Please consider any type of help, especially through the next fiscal year. Join them in creating just, productive and secure communities in the Pacific NW.