When Monica Beemer arrived at Sisters of the Road in 2001, the Portland, Ore., nonprofit café was serving 250 low-cost meals per day but was losing $100,000 per year. With Beemer at the helm, Sisters continues to feed the hungry but hasn’t reported a loss in the past four years and now pays its 30-person staff better wages.
Beemer has increased Sisters’ visibility around Portland, advocating at city hall for solutions to homelessness and fostering relationships with the 8,000 donors who contribute some 70 percent of the organization’s budget. “We’re not a charity model,” says Beemer, a former Jesuit volunteer and founder of the state’s first day care for children and seniors. “We’re a community organizing model.”
Now in its 31st year, Sisters provides guests a meal in exchange for a nominal fee or simple chores. This way, “their work and their being are valued,” Beemer says.
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