A Q&A with our Executive Director

Jenifer has been with the organization since 2019, leading the merger efforts to form Our Children Oregon. She brings 15 years of experience in community development/affordable housing, grass-roots power building, and organizational leadership to the role. Previously she served as the Deputy Director of Avenue Community Development Corporation in Houston, TX. During her tenure, she developed a nationally recognized model for place-based, community-led transformation. In 2018, she was awarded the prestigious Rubinger Fellowship by the Local Initiative Support Corporation, which led her to Oregon.

What does your role at OCO include? 

I have the pleasure of serving as the Executive Director of Our Children Oregon.  My role includes helping to hold a container for the team to live into their roles in actualizing the mission and vision of the organization. I also work to build a supportive board leadership team who can lean into the mission and uplift the efforts of the team. I love the opportunity to meet partners and everyday Oregonians and learn about their stories, their passions and their dreams.  

What brings you to this work? What values drive you? 

Growing up in rural Louisiana, spending time working with youth at a children’s home while in graduate school, and then spending over a decade as a community organizer in Houston, Texas brings me to this work. I am driven by a passion to remove barriers, dismantle oppressive systems, and to help others use their stories, their dreams and their creativity to build toward a more just society.  

What’s a passion of yours you’ve yet to act on?

I have a book or two that need to be written. One about the leaders in the Northside of Houston who continue to lean in and exhibit the possibility of community and the other about my journey. Here’s a glimpse of my journey….from homecoming queen at my Baptist university, to coming out while in seminary, to finding the loves of my life during my 20’s and 30’s–my wife of 15 years, my three sons, a decade of transformative, justice-centered work in community,  to an unlikely Camino in Spain and a radical leap of faith to a new land, Oregon. As Natasha Bedingfield’s song “Unwritten” proclaims  “the rest is still unwritten.”  

Standout books or podcasts that speak to you?

Books are one of my deep joys. Today, because of where we are as a nation and because of the gift and fire of a human Stacey Abrams is, I want everyone to read Our Time is Now and Lead from the Outside. If these two books don’t get you acting and hopeful I don’t know what would! Another author whose work has deeply formed me is Parker Palmer. His books Healing the Heart of Democracy, Let Your Life Speak, and On The Brink of Everything, are my guides in this journey.  I also always learn something new about myself and my work when I read or reread a Brene’ Brown book–I’m currently reading Atlas of the Heart. Lastly, Robin Wall-Kimmer’s book Braiding the Sweetgrass. She is a storytelling and truth-telling magician–who helped me see the world in a new way, Indigenous wisdom, nature’s wisdom–I am forever grateful. 

Podcasts that stand out are easier. I love Angela Glover-Blackwell’s “Radical Imagination” podcast. She is the founder and Emeritus CEO of Policy Link and a powerful force for the world we need to imagine and build together. Her kindness and compassion radiate through her interviews. I also love On Being with Krista Tibbet.  And I’m in love with the  magazine “Yes Magazine.” If you don’t have a subscription stop reading now and go subscribe, please. They say they are journalism for people building a better world and YES, yes they are. I am changed for the better after every issue.

What volunteering or passion projects do you do outside of work?

It’s a bit of an odd hobby, but I love to write and deliver sermons. In fact, during the pandemic, I have had the opportunity to preach via zoom. So some Sundays I delivered a sermon in Galveston, Texas to a Unitarian congregation at 10:00 am CST, and was then able to deliver another at 11:00 am PCT for a Lutheran congregation in Oregon.  Holding space in this way and trying to communicate and weave together my reading, writing, and work to uplift and encourage others is a precious gift. I am grateful. I’m also currently coaching my 7 year old’s basketball team.  It is such a delight to nurture the building of a team with these little guys. Plus, it gives me an excuse to play a little myself. Basketball has been a part of my life since I was my son’s age or maybe even younger.