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Relief funds help keep Heart of Oregon Corps going strong

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BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Heart of Oregon Corps is keeping its commitment to its young people front and center — even as all in-person programming has been paused since March 16.

Program and administrative staff have been working with partners and exercising some major creativity and problem-solving skills to respond with tailored solutions and program adaptations for each of the organization’s six programs, which serve more than 300 Central Oregon youth each year.

A recent boon arrived on April 15th, in the form of Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) funding, which will support staff and corpsmembers wages and stipends for 2 months.

“This federal relief funding makes an enormous difference in our ability to continue operating and to support our youth while programs are on hold,” explains Executive Director Laura Handy.

The future after that, however, is still unclear — Handy and the Board of Directors’ goal is to maintain a fully functioning operational team so that when programs are able to run again, “we’re ready to go,” she says, instead of having to rehire for up to 25 staff positions during the crisis.

“As relieved and grateful as we are,” she continues, “we anticipate that the economic impacts will last much longer, so we are actively fundraising to support operations and youth for the months to come until we can resume full operations.”

Meanwhile, HOC’s YouthBuild program is underway, with an online learning schedule quickly adapted from the regular daily itinerary, with emphasis on making sure students working toward their GED/High School Diploma remain on track.

YouthBuild Program Director Kara Johnson shares, “We’ve been happy to see how well our 36 youth have gotten used to this new system. Morning circle doesn’t look like it once did, and even though doing it online can be a bit awkward, we can tell everyone is happy to be back together, working on their goals. We hope to resume building affordable housing with Sisters Habitat this summer.”

Heart of Oregon is currently accepting applications for all programs, with start dates to be announced soon. Local teens should apply by May 31st for Central Oregon Youth Conservation Corps, a popular summer youth employment option where youth can earn over $3,000 in 7 weeks.

The organization continues to actively lay contingency plans, outlining a best-case scenario and backup plans as the current “Stay Home, Save Lives” Executive Order is modified this spring and summer and school districts announce any fall impacts. Heart of Oregon staff and leadership are prepared to do what it takes to make sure Central Oregon youth have access to programs that prepare them for successful futures, no matter the obstacles.

To apply, visit heartoforegon.org/apply.

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About Heart of Oregon Corps
Heart of Oregon Corps is a nonprofit organization invested in inspiring and empowering change in the lives of Central Oregon youth through jobs, education, and stewardship. Their programming creates pathways out of poverty while stimulating regional economic growth. They apply a “work-earn-learn” model that invests in local young people, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds, to prepare them for the workforce and to encourage their self-sufficiency. Heart of Oregon Corps trains tomorrow’s workforce today! For more info or for youth applications, visit www.heartoforegon.org.

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