2019 Year-end Review

Meyer staff and members of the Burns Paiute Tribal Council pause for a photo after an afternoon of dialogue, learning and connection.

When I spoke at the plenary session of the 2019 Philanthropy Northwest Annual Conference a few weeks ago, I remarked that although Meyer Memorial Trust’s course toward equity was set about six years ago, this was the year we really started sailing into the deep waters. That’s the story of 2019 at Meyer. We’ve been digging deep into the work of dismantling barriers to equity in education, housing and the environment and improving community conditions with our sights set on the horizon: a flourishing and equitable Oregon.

The final year of the decade was my first full calendar year as Meyer president and CEO, and it has been a formative time for the organization. I’m proud of what we have accomplished through the hard work and dedication of our staff and trustees and alongside our partners across the state.

Meyer’s Housing Opportunities team hosted an Equity Housing Summit that was two years in the making and brought together hundreds of housing-focused grantees and homeless service provider partners to share strengths, insights and lessons to advance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within the field. The Building Community portfolio shifted to a two-part funding strategy focused on supporting systems change to create a just, complex, multicultural society where everyone can thrive. The Equitable Education team hosted their second annual Teachers of Color Gathering, bringing together more than 30 educators of color from around the state. The Healthy Environment team added its first program officer, Mary Rose Navarro.

After 10 years and more than $18.5 million invested in the health of the Willamette River, Meyer’s Willamette River Initiative transitioned into the independent Willamette River Network to continue and expand the Willamette Basin restoration movement. We said a fond farewell to our longest-serving trustee, Debbie Craig, who retired in April. Our trustee, Toya Fick, became our new board chair. And a few months later, we were delighted to welcome our newest trustee, Alice Cuprill-Comas, who brings strong expertise and a well-versed background in business, nonprofit governance and corporate law.

We hit the road, determined to get to know the state of Oregon through the eyes of its original inhabitants. Between October 2018 and October 2019, Meyer staff and trustees visited all nine federally recognized Tribes in the state, seeking to forge new, strong relationships with these sovereign nations.

We hosted the fourth lecture in Meyer’s Equity Speaker Series with a riveting, powerful talk by the Rev. Dr. William Barber II. In collaboration with Literary Arts, the Equity Speaker Series will continue next March with award-winning author Tommy Orange, as the culminating event of Multnomah County Library’s 2020 Everybody Reads program.

We have also been looking to the future. Next year, Meyer will undergo an exciting transition when we move from rented office space in Portland’s Pearl District to our new and permanent campus, currently under construction in North Portland’s Eliot neighborhood. Preparing for the move across the Willamette River has inspired us to think deeply about what it means to be a neighbor. We are looking forward to deepening our connection to North Portland and the community of historic Albina. We are also committed to making the campus a physical embodiment of Meyer’s mission and values, which means using the new building as a resource that will provide us the ability to offer new types of support and further investment in communities across the state.

2020 promises to be a big year for Meyer and for Oregon. Each and every day we will be looking to do more, in addition to grantmaking, to invest in change at the systemic level to ease inequities and disparities. Stay tuned for more news in the coming months as we work with our peers in the Census Equity Funders Committee of Oregon to support efforts to ensure an accurate count in the 2020 census. Visit our website and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on all things Meyer in the new year.

Until January, all of us at Meyer wish you a warm, joyous holiday season.