Portland YouthBuilders

[The] students are incredibly motivated with a lot of drive, and PYB provides them with whole-person support, helping them earn a stipend and set a career path while they learn.

— Sarah Einowski

Portland YouthBuilders has enjoyed multi-generational support from Tonkon Torp and its attorneys. The award-winning alternative high school delivers an innovative program to help at-risk students complete their high school education, prepare for postsecondary education and training, and gain hands-on vocational skills in construction or technology. The individualized wrap-around support provided by Student Advocates and Career Coaches helps students stabilize their lives and achieve their long-term educational and career goals, even after graduation.

The firm’s relationship with PYB began in the 1990s with (now retired) partner Ned Perry. Ned’s focus on complex construction and real estate matters was the perfect fit for the organization when it found itself in need of legal guidance during its first years of operation. At the time, the school was developing construction projects on its own. A conversation with Ned would set them in the right direction or he would tap attorneys within the firm’s real estate, labor and employment, and tax practice groups to offer additional guidance.

“Tonkon Torp has been a remarkable partner from our early days,” shared Jill Walters, Executive Director and founder of the Portland PYB program. “Legal issues can be scary, especially when an organization is new. The attorneys we’ve worked with at the firm are so generous and easy about giving their time. It has been tremendously reassuring to know that their expertise is available through a consult or a quick conversation as we’ve evolved and grown.”

After many years of providing and coordinating legal support to PYB, Ned joined the board of directors and served for six years. One of his notable accomplishments was kick-starting the organization’s entry into community-based fundraising.

“When I joined the board, there was a significant drop off in government funding and PYB had to shift their emphasis to development and fundraising,” explained Ned. “I was happy to be part of that evolution. My wife and I helped set up their hallmark community fundraiser, PYB’s Corn Hole Classic. It’s now part of the organization’s ethic to engage the community to support the PYB program.”

As Ned neared retirement, he began searching for an attorney who would be a good fit to continue the relationship. Ned shared the scope of his work with the nonprofit during an internal attorney lunch and caught the ear of Estate Planning associate Sarah Einowski, who joined the board in 2020.

Sarah was moved by Jill’s dedication to the mission of PYB and by the high-touch model that meets kids where they need the most support. “I love supporting these kids. They face a lot of barriers to success, and five days a week in school doesn’t work when they also need to earn an income to support themselves or their family. These students are incredibly motivated with a lot of drive, and PYB provides them with whole-person support, helping them earn a stipend and set a career path while they learn.”

In addition to providing legal counsel to the board and organization, one of Sarah’s main contributions to PYB is to help organize their annual fundraising event. Since COVID-19 has upended fundraising events in 2020, she and the board helped the organization quickly pivot from the Corn Hole Classic to an online fundraising campaign and self-led scavenger hunt that will keep the fun spirit of their marquee event alive.

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