Game On!

[Photo: Children playing soccer - Photo by Casey Parks, The Oregonian]
Children playing soccer
Photo by Casey Parks, The Oregonian.

In an age when millions have morphed into billions, billions into trillions and, as we speak, budgeteers have started throwing quadrillions - 1,000 trillions - into their equations and calculations, it's downright refreshing to realize that a mere $2,400 can still go a pretty long way to make people happy.

Just ask the 70 or so kids ages 5 to 12 who live at Tamarack Apartments, a public housing complex in Portland, and dream of one-day scoring the goal that wins the World Cup. Unable to get time on overbooked soccer fields in nearby city parks, says Casey Parks of The Oregonian, they've had to play "in the space in between their apartments."

Thanks to the Neighbor-to-Neighbor grant program started by Home Forward, Portland's housing authority, last year to provide small grants for resident projects that would improve their neighborhoods they won't have to anymore. When the opportunity came along, the kids jumped at the chance, helping to write and submit a Neighbor-to-Neighbor application. To their delight, the kids were among the first 10 winning awards. It didn't take long to convert an empty lot into a first-class field where the kids could play and practice to their hearts' content.

Game on! The new playing surface and professional size "goals," noted Parks, "were prize enough." But that $2,400 stretched even further when Fernando Machado, a member of the board of the Portland Timbers Army and the "burly, tattooed, axe wielder you see on Timbers billboards", heard about what the kids had done.

Thanks to his support, soon enough along came cleats and soccer balls. And, best of all, a new coach - Mr. Machado. It's been good for 7-year-old Isaac's game. "He taught me how to run with the ball and do tricks," he told Parks. Good for the neighborhood, too. "I see people interacting now," said one resident, "that I honestly had never seen much before."

And Home Forward's Neighbor-to-Neighbor program isn't just for goalies, defenders and wings. In its first two rounds, it's given out 16 grants totaling $60,000 in HUD funds to support projects that residents themselves say will improve where they live and the lives they lead. It's supported community gardens. Swim clubs. Programs to keep kids active and engaged on school breaks. A fitness center.

Every idea Neighbor-to-Neighbor funds is an idea that grew from the neighborhood up not the top down. And that could be the not-so-well-kept secret of why it works so well. To see Casey Parks's full Oregonian story, visit the website (


Content Archived: April 4, 2014