1989-2019: The Years in Review
“The need is pressing. So why doesn’t somebody do something about it? And then I realized…I was somebody.”
– Victor Atiyeh, Founding Director Emeritus
It’s been 30 years since Victor Atiyeh sat down with a board of community members and decided to take on Oregon’s utility hardship crisis. The numbers were, and are, sobering. 27% of Oregonians struggle to pay their bills annually — twice the number who face food insecurity. Thousands spend up to a quarter of their income on energy, facing hunger, illness, and homelessness as a result. Yet in 1989, there was nowhere to turn for help.
The solution: a nonprofit that would work with community agencies and local utilities across Oregon to bring energy assistance to families in need. Its mission: that no one should be in dark. Since 1989, Oregon Energy Fund has helped more than 300,000 people pay their bills, and provided support and guidance to countless others. Throughout, we’ve been guided by the same values: compassion for those less fortunate; collaboration with like-minded Oregonians, and innovation to address a widespread need.
I’m especially proud of the work we’ve accomplished this year. In March, we officially launched our Senior Discount Program with Meals on Wheels People and Portland General Electric. So far, this groundbreaking collaboration has provided relief to nearly 100 seniors in the Portland area, and is only growing.
We expanded our partnerships to include the Latino Network, the Native American Youth & Family Center (NAYA), and the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), and tripled our funding to 11 counties in eastern Oregon. We provided energy assistance to furloughed workers during the government shutdown in January, and traveled to the National Energy & Utility Affordability Coalition conference in May to accept the Victorine Q. Adams Award for Innovation.
Together, we raised more than $1.4 million and assisted more than 3,000 Oregonians in 2019. I can’t tell you how inspired I am by your support, and what we’ve been able to do with it. Year after year, we hear from recipients who tell us how energy assistance let them heat and feed their family, and not have to choose. How our funds gave them the hope they needed to get through the winter. Many are donors now, giving back to help others. Your support matters. It goes and goes and goes.
As the year winds down, I’ve been reflecting on our work as an organization: where we’ve come from, where we’re going next. Can we prevent Oregonians from falling into crisis in the first place? Can we develop programs to help people achieve long-term energy stability? And can we tackle the pressing issues of our time, like homelessness and climate change?
These are difficult, complex questions, and there’s not one solution. But I keep coming back to Victor Atiyeh, and how he wished somebody would do something — until he realized he was somebody. So am I. So are you. Each of us holds a piece of the answer, the ability to make a difference in someone’s life — to work towards an Oregon where no family has to brave a winter’s night without light or heat. We’ve reached where we are today thanks to you, our incredible family. And if we continue to work together, the future is bright indeed.