The PartnerShop in Urban Plaza employs ten at-risk youth
Portland-area nonprofit New Avenues for Youth celebrated the grand opening of a Ben & Jerry’s PartnerShop on July 7 at Portland State.
“Thanks to New Avenues, I’m good at interviews now,” said 20-year-old Meshel’le Bell, who grew up in foster care and participated in a New Avenues job-training program.
The PSU location is the second PartnerShop, started by an organization known for helping at-risk teens gain the life skills necessary to avoid chronic homelessness.
“It’s not just about the ice cream,” said Mark Gregory, interim vice president of finance and administration at PSU. “We’re very excited to have a Ben & Jerry’s on campus.”
A line stretched from the door of the new shop—situated where TriMet offices used to be—to the edge of the Urban Plaza. Cones were free between noon and 2 p.m.
Ken Cowdery, executive director of New Avenues, was excited to see the store open, explaining that the inauguration of this Ben & Jerry’s marked the official start of New Avenue’s five-year micro-enterprise initiative.
“This is a social-purpose enterprise,” he said. “It’s a unique new model for nonprofits. You’ll probably see it more in the future—as the government cuts back its funding, nonprofits have to be creative about how they raise money.”
PSU is a win-win setting for the shop, according to Cowdery, because students will enjoy eating ice cream between classes and employees can benefit from the surrounding campus.
“We’ll expose youth to higher education while they work,” he said.
The shop is staffed by 10 employees, one a full-time worker and the rest part-time.
KeyBank President Brian Rice attended the ceremony. Two tellers at his branches are graduates of the New Avenues Ben & Jerry’s on Yamhill Street.
“We’re big supporters of New Avenues,” he said. “The partner shops are helping youth from the bottom up.”
New Avenues opened the downtown shop in 2005, providing job experience to nearly 130 at-risk youth since then and paying out more than $500,000 in wages.
“Working has helped me be comfortable,” Bell said. “I always had skills, but now I’m more comfortable