By Elise Scolnick | AMS Volunteer
What is Alberta Main Street?
Alberta Main Street (AMS) is a nonprofit aimed at “advancing efforts to develop Alberta Street as a vibrant, creative, equitable and sustainable commercial district serving residents, businesses and visitors of our community.” AMS has supported local businesses and community builders for the past 13 plus years through business help, community events, clean-ups, design and art projects. As a volunteer-led nonprofit, AMS has always relied on its residents, artists, business owners/employees, and other partners to successfully achieve its goals. Following a period of inactivity, AMS is becoming active again and recruiting volunteers. A social mixer was held at Baerlic Brewing on October 18th to reach out and reintroduce AMS to new and seasoned businesses.
History of AMS
Alberta Main Street became a non-profit in 2010. Prosper Portland, an organization that partners with non-profits to build a more equitable economy, chose four Main Street Programs, including AMS. The founding Executive Director of AMS was Sara Wittenberg, who built the organization into a volunteer-led community and business support network. Wittenberg passed away in 2018, deeply affecting the community and the board.
In 2019, primarily in honor of Wittenberg’s, volunteers’ and the board’s work, AMS received a National Main Street Award, a prestigious recognition of all the work done over previous years to improve and revitalize the Alberta Street business district and community.
Dormancy During Covid
During the height of the Covid pandemic, Alberta Main Street, like many other organizations, encountered challenges that it is still recovering from. In 2020, AMS pivoted to focus on helping businesses navigate federal relief funds and hosted community events online, including a virtual Alberta Street Fair.
By 2021, the Board had to step back from organizing events and focused instead on developing new goals in line with diversity, equity and inclusion. Funding had dried up, and in May of 2021, AMS experienced severe budget cuts and several staff had to be let go. Since 2021, AMS has been working on:
- Support for businesses
- Maintenance of Black Heritage Markers, signs along Alberta Street depicting the stories of 10 African Americans from NE Portland
- Virtual and live events such as BIPOC markets, cleanups
- The installation of new trash cans through collaboration with the city
Fast forward to 2023 and Alberta Main Street is at a critical juncture. Board members have stepped down or their terms are ending and there is an urgent need for new direction.
We are reaching out now to provide an important update and to ask for your critical input. As a community nonprofit, AMS needs dedicated folks to step up and help navigate the road ahead. Special skills we’re looking for include legal support, financ, web design, volunteer coordination, grant writing, fundraising, nonprofit administration, organizational development, marketing and event planning fields.
We ask board members for a commitment of 5-10 hours per month. Usually the board meets once a month.
If you have any of the skills above or you would like to volunteer for specific events such as street cleanups, holidays, sidewalk sales or the annual street fair, contact James Armstrong, Board President at: email@example.com. Check out the AMS Facebook page at Facebook.com/albertamainstreet
Elise has lived in NE Portland neighborhood since 1979 and was one of several o r i g i n a l organizers of the Alberta Street Fair. From 2003- 20 0 6, she owned Tribe of the Winds Gallery at NE 22nd and Alberta. She served on the Alberta Streetscape Committee, on the Board of Art on Alberta and was a member of the Alberta Street Business Association, the precursor to Alberta Main Street. Aside from a break between 2021 and 2023, Elise has been on the Board of Alberta Main Street since 2016 and is currently serving as Interim Board Vice President.