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|Thursday, October 01, 2009|
No. 1 Best Small Nonprofit: Oregon Rehabilitation Association
STORY BY LUCY BURNINGHAM // PHOTOS BY ANTHONY PIDGEON
Every Monday morning, the 10-person staff of the Oregon Rehabilitation Association huddles around a conference table in a windowless room filled with a large brown fridge, ping-pong table and 7 Habits of Highly Successful People posters. For an hour and a half, they share schedules, review ongoing projects and talk about their weekends. And they laugh.
Tucked into a generic strip of offices off a heavily trafficked road in Salem, the nonprofit feels like the kind of place where every penny of the $1 million annual budget counts. But underneath that thrift runs a rich sense of cooperation and cheer. Because at the heart of it, these people like each other.
The ORA operates under the mission to support nonprofit organizations around the state that provide services to people with disabilities. That support translates to coordinating conferences and training sessions, lobbying the state Legislature, and providing technical assistance to a core group of 60 nonprofit “members.”
Members pay annual dues to receive services from the ORA, which results in two-thirds of the organization’s budget. The ORA’s support helps members provide jobs, housing and care for people with disabilities.
While the staff rallies around the mission — half of them have worked with people with disabilities in past jobs — the nature of the workplace has helped retain many of the employees for extraordinary lengths of time.
Six salaried employees have been with the organization for between 10 and 24 years. Each was hired when their position was created and has remained there ever since.
Marketing representative Bruce Gordon calls himself “the newbie,” as he approaches his 10-year anniversary in the office. Marketing director Stephen Mock was hired right out of college — 17 years ago. And executive director Tim Kral wrote the initial grant for his own position in 1985, which transformed the ORA from an all-volunteer group (founded in 1967) to today’s operation.
Admin assistant Brittney Standish left ORA after a year and a half for another job, but says she immediately felt “an empty spot.” Eventually, she decided to return and was rehired this past May.
“There’s never a conversation here that doesn’t involve helping someone,” Standish says. “It’s rewarding coming to work knowing people really do care and that it’s truly from the heart. Besides, everyone here feels like family.”
The notion of family resonates with everyone on staff; they’ve watched each other’s kids grow up and shared paid sick time during emergencies.
This summer, a few employees decided to go camping together with their families. Soon, everyone in the office wanted to go, so the ORA picked up the camp fee. “It’s not often you have all your co-workers say, ‘Let’s all go camping together for fun,’” Mock says.
Much of the fun factor originates in the office, where Kral recently handed out plastic teeth to staffers in order to surprise a visitor with their shocking grins. During quiet moments, he’s been known to lob a screaming monkey toy at employees, and makes sure meetings include time for impromptu humor.
The lighter side of the workplace can exist because of the staff’s work ethic and their genuine commitment to the mission, he says.
As a manager, Kral believes as much in attention to detail as the big picture. In his office, above the sea of organized paper chaos he calls his “horizontal filing system,” a map of Oregon stuck with pins for each member hangs close to a poster about black holes.
“I’m big into perspective,” he says.
Many ORA employees tap into the larger meaning of their work on the road, when they visit members located everywhere from Coos Bay to Klamath Falls (more conveniently, 70% of members are in the Willamette Valley).
“When I travel, I meet some of the people who derive the benefits of what we do,” says Bruce Gordon. “Those folks wouldn’t be able to work were it not for these programs.”
At the weekly Monday meeting, staffers will arrange to tag-team projects to make trips as efficient as possible.
The statewide programs will always need the ORA, says Kral, especially as they shift from the group-home approach to systems designed to support individuals who are living longer and becoming better educated and increasingly independent.
In other words, the ORA isn’t going anywhere. And based on the amount of laughter floating around the office, neither is the staff.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
BY KIM MOORE
Striving for social equity is the mission of many nonprofits, and this year’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon survey shows employees are most satisfied with their organizations’ fair treatment of differing racial, gender, disability, age and economic groups. But as a national discourse about racial discrimination and equity for low-income groups takes center stage, data show Oregon’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For still need to make progress on addressing these issues within their own organizations.
Friday, October 30, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
This is a story about a small plastics company in wine country now exporting more than one million feet — 260 miles worth — of tubing to China every month.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
BY JASON NORRIS | CFA
Volatility reigned supreme over the summer. The old Wall Street adage of, “Sell in May and go away,” was prophetic in 2015.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER
A Power Lunch at the Barn Light Cafe & Bar in Eugene.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT
The myth of a freight-dependent economy.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
I walked off the Vigor Industrial shipyard that day with a clear cover line in mind: the Love Boat.
Tuesday, November 03, 2015
PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN
|The Love Boat|
|The Food Pod Grows Up|
|Tinker, Tailor, Portland Maker|
|The High Road|
|The Shift to Community Health Care|
|The Harder They Fall|
|Another chapter to the Bezos/Musk space race story|
|Thanksgiving travel: Fuel costs low, terrorism anxiety high|
|Costco chicken salad linked to E. coli case in Washington|
|Nestle comes clean about benefitting from slave labor|
|Enormous drugmaker emerges from Pfizer, Allergan deal|
|Startups joining lobbying game|
|Merchants complain as Square goes public|
Economic diversity has proven a smart strategy for the Port of Hood River. How can other Oregon communities replicate the model?
Phone, Internet needs of small community school districts earn attention of top-five telecom provider.
Farmland LP grows its vision for organic farming in Oregon.
The Salem Convention Center has capped its tenth anniversary year by earning the prestigious “Best of the Best 2015” award from NW Meetings & Events magazine. Selected as the Best Convention/Conference Venue in Oregon by meeting and event planners from Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, the Salem Convention Center ranked above the Oregon Convention Center and the Portland Art Museum.
The Oregon Cooperative Hall of Fame honors individuals for their outstanding contributions to the successful building and operation of Oregon agricultural cooperatives.
Health insurer reports $10.2 million in net income after taxes through the first nine months of 2015.