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by Shawn Mitchell, Executive Director


Shawn Mugshot1In the fall of 2005, I began working one day a week with a local contractor to earn extra money.  I had been working full-time as a Christian church pastor for almost 13 years, but had always been involved in home remodeling projects for myself and friends.  This was my first 'paid' venture into the world of construction.  I learned a lot and made some new friends, and found that I was truly developing a knack for this industry. 

Several of the jobs our crew worked on were significant remodel jobs for homeowners who simply wanted a new look for their bathrooms, kitchens, decks, etc.  On several occasions, I found myself demolishing entire rooms for the sake of cosmetic change, where there were no significant problems other than changing style.  With a service background with impoverished people in third-world countries and low-income American neighborhoods, this was sometimes difficult for me to swallow.  We were routinely trashing thousands of dollars of usable resources, even though we made good efforts to recycle and donate to local re-use charities. 

One day while I was working on a gorgeous Ipe' deck (Ipe' is a really expensive Brazilian hardwood, related to Mahogany) at a mansion in SW Portland, the question occurred to me, 'What do poor people do when their houses break?'  I thought of all the elderly, disabled, and low-income families who live all over the place, living paycheck to paycheck.  What do people like that do when their toilets overflow and cause flooding, or when the roof caves in, or when the floors or walls give way to dry rot?  I was reminded of the vicious cycle that often keeps poor people poor.  Then I thought about the many good friends of ours who had home remodeling experience, and began to wonder what we could do together to help people in our community with needs around their houses.  I shared this idea with people in our church, and they were interested as well.  A vision emerged: What if there was a group of people who looked for opportunities to serve others in their community who needed help with home repair, remodeling, and maintenance projects, who were unable to do it themselves or hire a contractor?

Within a few months, we did a 'practice project' for the Pregnancy Resource Center in Beaverton.  They have since moved location, but at that time, they were housed in a renovated building that had some issues on the outside of the building.  We brought a group of about 15-20 people - adults and kids - and did yard work, painting, deck & screen door repairs, and miscellaneous other small things.  It was such a great feeling for us, and it was really a boost for the PRC staff as well.  We did a few more projects over the next year for low-income neighbors, and we were hooked! I took classes, paid fees, and got my contractors' license in 2008.  This helped bring credibility to our volunteer projects and gave me a means of making extra money as well.  Things continued to develop & expand.  Before long, we were being asked to help so many other organizations & churches with community service projects, that I had to stop doing 'paying' jobs so I could devote more time to developing this new Community Based Organization to do it all.  Until that time, all of these projects were run informally out of our church ministry. On August 1, 2008, Catalyst Partnerships was born. Since 2007, we have completed hundreds of projects with thousands of volunteers - tiny little jobs that took a couple of hours, to large group projects with up to 120 volunteers that took a month.  It's been absolutely incredible to help so many people, to partner with such amazing donors and volunteers, and to witness stories of transformation unfolding before my eyes in the midst of it all.  This is the type of thing I could see Jesus and His early followers doing back in the day; and I've found a way to continue His ministry of faith, hope, and love to a world that desperately needs it.