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Birch Community Services Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Financial Counseling, Human Service Organizations, Human Services

Mission: Our Mission is to provide a community where people can be responsible and accountable for meeting their basic needs and to equip them with tools to overcome financial difficulty.

Target demographics: Working, struggling families

Direct beneficiaries per year: 818 Families and Over 65 Agencies!

Geographic areas served: The Portland metro and surrounding areas

Programs: BCS' cornerstone Sustainable Families Program serves financially struggling families with a two-pronged approach: First, by distributing food and other household goods that families choose weekly from our warehouse according to their specific needs. Second, it provides education and individual advising to bolster their financial literacy. Families can regain the freedom to pursue goals that move them away from the cycle of poverty to self-sufficiency, resulting in a positive legacy passed onto their children. We also partner with over 65 local agencies who serve the poor out of the unique expression of their own mission.

Community Stories

8 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

We joined one year ago and Birch has been an amazing blessing for our family!!

2 Kori C.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Birch was a huge blessing to our family. I really appreciated that it was a volunteer ran organization and enjoyed my time there.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Wonderful, caring organization that benefits the community.

2 Jill C.4

Client Served

Rating: 5

Birch Community Services is fabulous! They have helped my family out so much. I appreciate Suzanne, the Board of Directors, and Staff as to how they have set this organization up to be equally fair to everyone. I've grown so much. I couldn't make it without it. I love how I can give back, by volunteering, and feel like it is a mutually beneficial relationship.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Birch community services is the BEST!!! My family would not make it currently without them. We are beyond blessed to participate. I tell others they are THE BEST KEPT SECRET in Portland for working families!

3 Sheila B.3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was first introduced to Birch Community Services several years ago when a group I belong to sponsored a few BCS families during the holidays for Christmas gifts. The families were so very grateful. It was truly a heartwarming experience to be able to help someone in such a small way.
I am most impressed with BCS's values. By providing financial education, BCS teaches their families how to help themselves get out if bad situations into a more stable and secure life. BCS changes lives for generations to come by giving the families "a hand up not a handout". Who wouldn't want to support that mission??

3

Board Member

Rating: 5

Birch Community Services is an amazing nonprofit!! My family has been involved with BCS for over 9 years. We started out as participants, years later became volunteer shoppers, and now I'm a board member. I personally have seen the staff, director, and volunteers conduct themselves with such integrity and compassion toward participants and volunteers. The one word that comes to mind when explaining Birch Community Services to others is HOPE. You walk into BCS and are greeted by people who really care to see you and see you succeed!! That gives me and many hope for the moment. As you take your shopping cart through the huge shopping warehouse, you are provided with an abundance of healthy food choices for your family. That gives you hope to tangibly take home with you. Birch Community Services also provides financial classes and mentoring to all families which in turn provides hope for the future!! BCS such a full circle reasource for hard working families in need of a hand up. My family would say volunteering is the best part of BCS!! Families are required to volunteer as part of the program. We always leave feeling like we are making a positive difference and with our dignity intact. Now I serve on the board of directors, and I am thrilled to be a voice for families just like mine.
We are so grateful for all BCS does for our family and all the other families of Oregon and Washington.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 2

While Birch has a wonderful impact on the community and those it serves there are many people skills it is lacking. The treatment of all volunteers is generally good but on some occasions the behavior of the director especially and sometimes specific employees has come into question.
The director can be too specific with clients and actually feel the need to discipline them by meeting with them specifically/confronting them with a "witness" (usually her bestfriend). This makes the client feel picked on. Sometimes she seems to literally stalk a person as they shop to make sure they are following guidelines (specific persons at times). This is very awkward and makes the client have no dignity. Also, this director has been known to really upset people needlessly (people have been noted crying in the break room). I have directly seen the impact on families that have been dismissed or "replaced" by other families loose their sense of well being in a mere day. One miniute the family was a great part of the organization and being greatly blessed and then the next day they are gone. This is really sad when this organization should at least give the family a reason for their dismissal and a notice.
Some in the organization are favored like the directors and office staff to get food boxes made for them and be given the newest nice furniture as a reward. It should be a fair system where "Everything" is a drawing done by the clients not assets distributed to any of the employees including the directors and employees. This organization needs an outside management not influenced by the director or anyone on the board of directors to maintain its integrity and the utmost standards of honesty. Clients here actually pay " dues" so they technically pay the salaries and bonus of all staff. This should come with the utmost integrity and NO taking of the goods for themselves unless they too are participants and happen to win a client led drawing! Outside management is highly advised! The staff is payed a fair wage and should be held to the utmost highest standard in operation.
Office staff has been overheard gossiping about numerous families within the office context where all can be overheard by others. This is unfair and cruel to those participants who have overheard themselves being spoken about in a gossip fashion. The women in the office including the director need to learn more tact in serving the working poor! Favortism for any family for any reason is unacceptable! Security is lacking in the facility to make sure children, especially are safe at all times. No background checks are given on any of the volunteer/participant childcare providers. Criminal elements have been noted in the childcare area while dropping off their kids and sometimes helping in childcare facility.
The overall plan of the non-profit does work to help the working poor. The manners of the company could be greatly improved!

Comments ( 1 )

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Suzanne Birch 01/03/2014

I am pleased this reviewer believes Birch Community Services (BCS) is having a wonderful impact on the community and those we serve. We understand, however, that some we serve may not always have a wonderful experience. While we wish it wasn’t the case for anyone, including this past participant, a few points of clarification are needed.

It is BCS policy and practice that all participants dismissed from our program be reviewed by a team comprised of senior BCS staff. Most dismissals are due to participants who fail to pay their monthly dues, volunteer regularly, and/or follow warehouse safety and equitability procedures. Participants who are dismissed may appeal their dismissal in writing to the Review Committee, at which time the file and notes are taken into consideration. Board members may be consulted in this process.

Child supervision is provided in a room next to the BCS office with a full window viewable to office staff and program participants. Parents are required to sign their child in and out and are required to take their own children to the restroom. Regular children’s overseers have agreed to and passed a background check.

Staff of BCS do not receive preferential treatment. All staff are also members of the BCS program or are shopping volunteers and are required to volunteer extra hours (beyond the hours they work) and to pay the monthly fee just as other participants/volunteers do. Employees are allowed to shop for the food they need in their homes. They are not given preferred access to non-food items and do participate along with all program participants in monthly raffles for special items.

We value constructive input and work to cultivate a culture of learning at BCS. In 2013, program participants and other community volunteers donated 33,000 hours to distribute 7,145,721 pounds of donated food and clothing to families in need.

We’re humbled and grateful to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Suzanne Birch, Executive Director - Birch Community Services, Inc.

Review from Guidestar