Portland woman devoted to positive role models
By Cari Hachmann/ The Portland Observer
It’s been a busy year for Chabre Vickers, but also a rewarding one. And her work isn’t finished yet.
As Big Brothers Big Sister’s director of public relations and diversity programs, Vickers is leading efforts to recruit more people of color, African-American men in particular, to mentor children who need positive role models.
Her devotion to her work and community is evident by the four awards she has received in the last year, including the Spirit of Portland Award as the city’s Emerging Community Leader.
However, Vickers says she wasn’t looking for recognition or compensation when she first became involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters as a volunteer in 2007.
She is motivated by the kids in the community, “I am these kids,” she said.
Vickers more or less grew up homeless after living her first eight years in Portland and moving to southern California with her single-working, though college-educated mother.
As the eldest child, she helped take care of her siblings while their family slept on living room floors and in the back of her mother’s van in grocery store parking lots.
As a young girl, Vickers recalls still having more than other families and thinking her life a blessing. Somewhere along the way, a mentor vested in Vickers, telling her that bettering herself would ultimately better the community. The rhetoric stuck.
Now, the Howard University graduate returns the favor by fighting for kids worse off.
“Children need authentic relationships with adults in their life,” said Vickers, “Once that is established, kids have a better chance of truly realizing what their contribution to the community can be and they can find value within themselves.”
Poverty is one of the largest adversities facing kids’ quality of life, Vickers said. She says there are thousands of kids waiting for mentors on what has essentially become Big Brothers Big Sisters “no-list”.
In Portland, many of those kids are boys. 70 percent on the list are young males looking for Big Brothers, while 70 percent of mentors are female. Waiting to get connected, Vickers said, boys are at risk of aging out of the program or worse, taking a wrong path: dropping out of school, affiliating with gangs, violence, drugs, etc.
As a leader of African-American diversity initiatives at Big Brothers Big Sisters, Vickers was recognized for an approach to connect more adult black male mentors to boys seeking guidance.
Her skills earned her the nickname “the super connector” by Portland Monthly Magazine.
Last year, Vickers partnered her non-profit organization with several Portland churches — through the 11:45 movement — to sign-up 200 volunteers, prompting a national buzz. Never in the history of the agency had so many mentors been garnered in one night.
“It was an answer to a prayer,” said Vickers, but really she’s just good at what she does.
Vickers knows how to build relationships with community and corporate leaders, and businesses.
She hopes to continue to seek support from community partners so as to ensure that every kid who needs a mentor gets one.
The alternative is unacceptable. “If you feel like you have no adults in your life and you don’t feel love and support and consistency in your life, you’re going to go searching for it,” said Vickers.
For girls, the unguided path can lead to sex trafficking. For boys it may be gangs, drugs, or jail.
Vickers moved back to Portland, so that her seven-year-old Laila could have a supportive male in her life, her grandfather. She wants to make certain that she builds up the future for her child as well as the children in the community.
“If their lives are better, they will be able to support each other as well,” she said.