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Persevering Together: a look back at 2020

We’re not shedding any tears in bidding farewell to 2020, a year that will be known as one of the toughest in memory. The pandemic ripped through our economy, health system, and communities, underscoring a system of inequity in every possible way. Then the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breona Taylor and countless others accelerated the rightful uprisings for racial justice.

This year spoke volumes in it’s uneven impact, devastating the lives of those with low-incomes, communities of color, and front line workers. The hospitality and live events industry has been decimated. Servers, cooks, event planners, and other hospitality professionals have been laid off and furloughed in droves, with unemployment often hitting lower wage jobs the hardest. Many hospitality professionals who were lucky enough to keep their jobs had to choose between their livelihoods and their health. Independent catering companies and restaurants did their best to pivot, holding onto life through take-out, but to largely grim results.

We at Ecotrust Events, like so many others, saw events come to a screeching halt in March. For context, in 2019 we hosted more than 750 events across two buildings, with 22,000 square feet of space and a team of ten to manage the operation. There were days when we had five different events. Our lively spaces played host to the most inspiring summits, raucous festivals, touching nuptials, and thought-provoking conferences. We saw a dazzling array of creativity from professionals who designed sound, lighting, catering, floral, entertainment, and every other method of magic the live event industry creates.

And then we went dark.

It was surreal. And frightening. We had to make painful decisions that involved layoffs and furloughs. After the initial shock passed, we began to find ways to use our resources to support others. With that, 2020 began to align with a renewed purpose:

By April, we had given the keys to the Redd Kitchen over to Feed the Mass Fed Project rent-free and provided a place for Fed’s volunteer-powered efforts to use donated food to make more than 1,800 meals per week for anyone experiencing food insecurity.

In June, we joined forces with the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition (BFSC) and Come Thru, an existing BIPOC market run by Allinee "shiny" Flanary. The outdoor event spaces provided the new home to the bi-weekly market for an incredible community of Black, Indegineous, and people of color-run farms and businesses, under the leadership of shiny and BFSC.

Our team looked forward to our support role, mapping out the parking lot before the markets and lending a hand to vendors each week. The final market was in October and more than $50,000 in revenue was generated for vendors during the season. We can’t wait for Come Thru’s return in 2021!

In the beginning of October, we received an anxious email from Gregory Gourdet, asking if he could speak quickly about a time-sensitive pop-up restaurant concept he was trying to lift off the ground.

We met within hours and we’ve worked closely with Chef Gourdet and his business partner Tia Vanich since that meeting.

The Redd Kitchen has become the temporary home to Kann Winter Village, Gourdet’s Haitian culinary concept with COVID-safe individual dining yurts transforming our parking lot into a winter village of charm. We’re delighted to work with Tia and Gregory on their first solo venture, an entirely BIPOC-owned operation offering a truly unique elevated experience in a time where restaurateurs are hanging on by a thread. The pop-up is happening through March.

The year was supposed to end with a holiday bazaar filled with cheer and curated by our friend and partner in sass, Elsy Dinvil.

Sadly, COVID-19 had other plans and we opted to put safety first, moving the bazaar online. We forged ahead, creating “15 Days of Gifting” using our digital channels to help sell goods and services from some of Portland’s most talented BIPOC entrepreneurs.

We close the year with gratitude, reflection, and renewed hope. We know that 2021 will bring many challenges ahead. The road to recovery is likely to be as uneven as the impacts of the pandemic, with the hospitality industry continuing to suffer some of the greatest losses. Still, we’re inspired by so many heroic efforts: Fed volunteers dropping meals at houseless camps a few blocks from the Redd; Black leaders like shiny, who tirelessly work to build business capacity that levels the playing field for BIPOC farmers; and Gregory Gourdet, Elsy Dinvil, and Tia Vanich--entrepreneurs who fearlessly drive forward, pushing right past the barriers that too often hold back leaders of color in the world of business.

We will continue to center a diverse and equitable community moving forward. And we can’t do that without you. While you may have had to postpone your event this year, we need you to come back in full force when it’s safe to gather in person in 2021. When you trust us to host your wedding, gala, conference, or festival you also contribute to our ability to share resources with amazing leaders from communities of color who are approaching challenges with inspiring solutions. We can’t wait to see you next year. Until then, be safe and take good care of each other.

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