The Canby Center is one step closer to the most significant and ambitious expansions in the faith-based nonprofit’s history, thanks to a $600,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.
The project will more than triple the center’s current floor space, adding 11,500 square feet and a second story to its existing 5,000-square-foot building on Southwest 2nd Avenue, near Canby High School.
For 14 years, the Canby Center has delivered on its mission to renew dignity and inspire learning for families and youth, developing a unique model that seeks to engage clients in their own growth, connect them with a loving community and, ultimately, empower them to achieve their dreams.
The center primarily serves the working poor of Canby: individuals who may be temporarily unemployed or underemployed and families who live paycheck to paycheck or are not able to make ends meet for various reasons.
“Our mission is, in God’s love, we renew dignity and inspire learning for youth and families,” said Executive Director Ray Keen.
“For us, that means short-term poverty alleviation, like providing a hot meal or giving away thousands of pounds of food each week to families in our community who are food-insecure, and we do a wide range of other services that are more education-oriented.”
Keen said the center has given away more than 500,000 pounds of food locally this year alone. But it provides much more than food, offering a wide variety of wrap-around services including classes teaching everything from sewing to managing finances, clothing, medical and dental care, and youth and educational mentoring.
It partners with local businesses and civic organizations, health care providers, the Canby School District, and more than 20 area churches to provide services and support. Since the center was founded in 2008 by a coalition of local churches, it has served more than 10,000 people.
“Poverty is multifaced, and The Canby Center seeks to address that in many different ways,” Keen said. “Medical and dental support; we do dental care here for those who can’t afford that. We provide free eye exams and eyeglasses and eye care. There are lots of different things The Canby Center is involved in.”
At least one in 10 Canby residents live at or below the poverty line, and the pandemic, historic inflation and other challenges have only made things worse. Demand for food more than quadrupled at the center in the weeks following the onset of Covid-19 in Oregon in March 2020, Keen said.
But even without the pandemic, the community’s needs have grown — and these trends are only expected to increase in the years to come. And The Canby Center, already bursting at the seams in its current footprint, will need more space.
“It’s a critical step to prepare now for the needs that are coming,” Keen said. “It’s not hard to see that there’s a wave of need that’s expanding. It’s really a tsunami that’s coming out of the Portland metro. Thankfully, Canby hasn’t experienced much of that yet.
“We’re still a little bit of an island, and housing hasn’t quite filled in between Oregon City and Wilsonville. But, as it does, we will see more of the challenges that come with poverty for people living in a large metropolitan area. Those are going to come our way, and they’re going to show up fast.”
The building expansion, which represents the lion’s share of the center’s $8.75 million Thriving Together capital campaign, will more than quadruple its food storage capacity while adding new classrooms and other dedicated space for staff, employment and job training services, English language learning and more.
The project will also add office and operational space for strengthening community partnerships with other organizations, like St. Patrick Catholic Church, whose long-running Saint Vincent de Paul Food Bank plans to relocate services to The Canby Center, as well as Young Life and the Canby Pregnancy Care Center.
The project has been carefully planned over the course of several years, as has the capital campaign, which has raised about $6.5 million of the total so far, including the Murdock gift and other grants, as well as a $1.25 million allocation from the state — the first public funding the center has ever received.
The Canby Center plans to break ground on its expansion and renovation next March and have the new building open in January 2024.
To learn more about The Canby Center or support its work, visit thecanbycenter.org or thecanbycenter.org/donate. Thanks to matching gifts by a number of donors, your contribution to the center’s capital campaign could go twice as far.
To hear more from Keen, hear his recent interview on the Now Hear This: Canby podcast, “Episode 404: Growing Campaigns”:
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