$1 isn’t a lot of money, but it can make a big difference to a family facing crushing medical debt. Jared Walker, founder of Dollar for Portland, joined us to talk about the power of a dollar and how the organization is helping families in need.
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Portland has an impressive array of nonprofits serving a variety of needs in the city. It can be overwhelming to know where to invest time and money when you want to give back; if your resources are limited it’s especially difficult to know where to start. One fairly new non-profit, Dollar for Portland, is looking to help an underserved group of people while making it easy for members of the community to contribute.
The organization was started in April 2012 by Jared Walker when members of his family were left with a mountain of medical bills. He desperately wanted to help relieve his family of the debt but didn’t know how, so he organized a small fundraiser. After Jared’s efforts had brought in $2,500, he started to think about other members of the Portland community who might be dealing with the same problem. Jared discovered that although Portland does have a lot of wonderful non-profits, none of them are meeting the need of relieving medical debts, and outstanding medical debts can often result in dangerous kind of need–such as homelessness and poverty.
Jared decided to fill this gap, so he gathered a team and registered as a nonprofit. He and his team are asking the people of Portland to give just one dollar a month. They’ve made the process fairly simple for community members looking to participate: after signing up on the website, the organization automatically pulls one dollar a month from participants’ accounts.
100% of the contributions go toward relieving medical debts for families in need. Dollar For Portland identifies these families by partnering with local organizations (such as the Epilepsy Foundation Northwest). One family is featured a month; their story is captured on video and shared on social media, and they receive a check based on contributions (right now that’s around $3,000).
The Disterhoft family, helped by Dollar for Portland in October
Although the idea for the organization was birthed in April 2012, Dollar For Portland was officially launched last August–with a large event in Pioneer Square. Since that time, the organization has helped five families; they’ve also partnered with lots of Portland businesses–such as Pip’s Donuts, Ruby Jewel Ice Cream, Barista, and Water Avenue Coffee–to raise money for, and bring awareness to the issue of medical debt.
The good news for frugal readers who want to help: if you’re already over-budget in the giving department, Dollar For Portland is also looking for volunteers–they need people to assist with fundraising gigs and community events. To sign up to either help or contribute money, check out the organization’s website: www.dollarfor.org.
MILWAUKIE, Ore. (KOIN) — Two years ago, Leah Merklin was diagnosed with one of the rarest forms of brain cancer, both inoperable and incurable.
She was given less than a year to live — but she’s beaten the odds so far. Now 5, Leah continues to battle and a new non-profit is working to help raise funds for her family.
The Merklins are the beneficiary this month of that non-profit that began in August. Dollar for Portland was founded by Jared Walker after his own family experienced the loss of a loved one.
“Dollar for Portland came to me about three-and-a-half years ago,” Walker told KOIN 6 News. His aunt died from cancer and he felt the need to do something.
“It was just kind of like, well, I don’t have the resources to give these people thousands of dollars, but I think I can get thousands of people to give $1.”
The goal for the non-profit is to “give families hope and community support, let them know they’re not alone.”
The Merklin family is the beneficiary of the efforts of Dollar for Portland during September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Dollar for Portland partners once a month with an organization that nominates a family. They shoot a short video of the family, then “blast it out to social media and say, ‘Sign up for a recurring monthly donation of a dollar,” Walker said.
“Every single dollar that comes in for that month goes to the family we’re featuring that month.”
In this instance, Good Roots Community Church nominated the Merklins, who will use the money for alternative treatments.
On Thursday night, a group of people will gather at The Warrior Room in downtown Milwaukie to call their personal contacts to donate $1 per month.
The kettleball studio is hosting the event in partnership with Dollar for Portland.
In September 2014, Bethany and Erik Merklin told KOIN 6 News Leah was diagnosed with DIPG a year before. It’s one of the rarest forms of pediatric brain cancer and is both inoperable and incurable.
At that time, her parents credited cannabis oil for helping Leah, which they said helped slow the tumor’s growth.
On this day, her mom said Leah is stable.
“It’s incredible. I mean, we hoped for it but we try not to expect it,” said Leah’s mother, Bethany Merklin.
She said an MRI in August revealed the tumor is the same size it’s been since January 2014.
“We use cannabis oil as her medicine,” she said. “We decided to try it and she’s still here, two-and-a-half years later.”
“Each day means a lot,” Bethany said. “We didn’t expect it, so it’s special and exciting.”
Bethany said Leah “loves to be a mommy. She’s very caring and empathetic toward other people and animals and baby dolls and anything. Right now,” she said, laughing, “we have a pet caterpillar.”
My name is Jared Walker, I wanted to introduce a project I have been working on for the past 3 years, its called Dollar For Portland.
Dollar For Portland is a nonprofit that seeks to revitalize philanthropic giving among the Millennial and Gen X population by demonstrating that small donations can make a difference. This explains our mission: activating generosity, one dollar a time. Dollar For Portland will create crowd-sourced campaigns that attract numerous small donations by showing how much of a difference they make.
Nearly three of every five bankruptcies in the United States are caused by medical debt. More consumer debt is collected for healthcare than for any other reason. The amount of medical debt is the same as the amount of student loans and credit card obligations combined. Ten million American adults have health insurance yet are unable to pay off their healthcare costs. This is a big problem!
Unfortunately, the Portland area does not have any charitable services that target the problem of medical debt or who seek out the families that suffer its effects as potential beneficiaries. Portland does have nonprofits – such as food banks and low-income housing assistance – but not one specializes in relieving the debt that may lead to bankruptcy, homelessness, and hunger. This is why the area needs Dollar For Portland.
Dollar For Portland will implement an ongoing, social-media driven fundraising campaign that targets young or first-time charitable givers who do not yet make charitable donations due to the perceived ineffectiveness of modest giving. Dollar For Portland will identify beneficiaries who are most in need and will tell their story, showing how every dollar makes a difference to them. Dollar For Portland will also give 100% of donations from individual donors to the families in need.