When Owen Blank recently helped Albina Head Start (AHS) to secure a stronger financial position through a series of complex debt retirement and real estate transactions, he did it on a pro bono basis, as he has for nearly two decades. This week, AHS honored Owen for his years of pro bono legal and business counsel by putting his name on one of its classroom buildings.
At a re-dedication ceremony and open house attended by dozens of friends, family, and AHS supporters, the former Normandale building at 909 NE 52nd Avenue was officially renamed the Owen D. Blank Center. The center houses both Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Tonkon Torp made a donation to Albina Head Start in honor of Owen.
“Owen is one of the most caring human beings I have ever had the good fortune to meet,” said Ronnie Herndon, AHS Executive Director. “He is truly a friend for thousands of low income children and families that have few champions. I am not sure if he will ever realize how many children and families he has helped and will never meet."
Owen’s most recent work for AHS involved leading a team of Tonkon Torp lawyers who provided counsel to the AHS board and executives, real estate transaction work on five Head Start properties, and other expertise that enabled AHS to take advantage of federal New Market Tax Credits to substantially retire burdensome debt and establish a significant financial reserve to cover operating expenses and program expansion.
“This is a totally unexpected and incredible gesture which I am absolutely honored to accept,” said Owen. "I am extremely grateful to be associated with the fine work and extraordinary efforts of the board, staff, and parents that make Albina Head Start a nationally-recognized program."
Head Start is a national program that promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educations, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families. Albina Head Start, established in 1965, serves more than 1,000 low-income children and their families in North, Northeast and Southeast Portland.
AHS’s impact on the Portland community was reiterated by Carl B. Talton, Executive Chair of United Fund Advisors, one of the investment partners in the New Market Tax Credits consortium. At a recent event celebrating the transaction, he said, “AHS has been the pillar of this NE Portland community for almost 50 years and has delivered not only an educational boot strap to families but healthy starts, employment opportunities and access to social services necessary for family stability. Their leadership in the community is one of the few constants upon which poorer families in this community can depend. These kids and their families are better prepared for successful interaction with the local educational institution as well as the other life altering challenges so common to underserved communities.”