Beach Pace is the CEO of Big Brothers, Big Sisters in Portland, a national nonprofit which connects young people with mentors who can inspire them, enrich their lives and help them plan for adulthood. Philanthropist Mackenzie Scott also just selected the Portland chapter, alongside just 38 others of the 237 nationwide, to receive $1.5 million to increase staffing, match more young people with mentors and more.
If during the pandemic you started thinking about more ways you can make a change and support your local community, this org is a great place to start. So without further ado, let’s learn more in today’s Locals to Know about Beach’s work and how you can help.
Who are you? What do you do? (work/volunteer)
I’m the CEO of Big Brothers, Big Sisters based out of Portland.
Wax poetic for a minute and tell us: what brings you most alive about this city?
I love Portland because of its creativity — people, events, food, art, music or volunteering etc. The creativity expressed in our city is inspiring, delightful, surprising, funny and joyous.
What’s your favorite Portland memory?
If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Almost any dish at the Blossoming Lotus. I can stuff my face there; it all tastes amazing, and I feel great afterwards.
Outside of the obvious stop above, share your other top three destinations for where you’d go on your perfect Portland day.
If you could give any one piece of advice to locals, what would it be?
Let your interests guide you through Portland. There is something for everyone here and the neighborhoods have their own charm and welcoming sense of place.
How does Portland help you do what you do/influence your work?
People in Portland are very giving. They want to serve and create positive change. As the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters, it is a great thing to be in a community that wants to give back.
What’s a project you’re working on (big or small) and how can our readers help you with it?
The downside to everyone caring is that there are 21,000 nonprofits in Oregon. That’s a lot. We’re in heavy competition for volunteers and donors. The project we are working on is our mission. We provide mentors to youth overcoming challenges, and we need more mentors.
There are 156 kids on our waitlist right now who would love to be mentored by a caring adult. You can check us out at itsbigtime.org, and once you get started, we will support you all along the way and make sure that this type of volunteering is a fit for you. Should you make it through the vetting and interviews and get matched, we ask for just one year of your time to mentor a kid. That comes out to just three to four times a month of taking a kid hiking, playing ball, helping with school or playing games.
As you are meeting with your mentee, experienced staff are with you all along the way making sure you, your kid and their family all have what you and they need to be successful. At every graduation, we hear very similar stories from our mentors, such as “I joined Big Brothers Big Sisters to help a kid, and it turns out THEY helped ME!”
If you had some serious conversations with yourself during COVID and said, “I need to make a change, I need to give back, I need to change things up,” we are your answer.
What are you looking forward to this year?
Getting our mentors and kids outside and meeting again in-person, and getting more engagement from the community in the form of staff, volunteers, board members etc. I am VERY excited about this year and the years to come. We have all been through so much, and I am incredibly proud of the work we’ve done through the pandemic. We are moving into “thrive mode,” and I love it.
What’s an unpopular opinion you have about the city?
It’s making a comeback. People tell me “No, Portland is dead.” It’s not. It is still here. That quirky, fun, yummy, dynamic amazing city is still here. We have to move away from the trash, fear and trepidation come together and make a difference. We have to be pragmatic, roll up our sleeves and get to work. We can put aside self interest and serve this city for the good of the city itself and each other. Selfless service is hard, but it’s also freeing. It brings peace and a sense of accomplishment. The accomplishment is that you first got over yourself and then you got to work. We can do this.