Builder Captain Makes Organization’s Dream a Reality

Written by Chris McDowell, Project Manager of Home Builders Foundation

In late 2018, veteran builder and developer, Jim Standring, approached the Home Builders Foundation with a special project in mind. Standring had experience working on charity projects, long before HBF was founded, but this one was different. This shelter project, a house for teenage girls escaping sex trafficking, would be the first-of-its-kind for a small, Clackamas County-based non-profit called A Village for One. For Jim and his wife Patty, who have six children and eleven grandchildren of their own, this proposed shelter had a great sense of urgency and importance.

For Cassie Trahan, the Executive Director of A Village for One (AV41), this home was something she and her team dreamed of for nearly a decade. Trahan, a trained nurse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) worked for years in Multnomah County, witnessing firsthand the lack of resources for population-specific mental health services, particularly in other parts of the Metro like Clackamas County. While training for nursing at OHSU, she became aware of a much bigger problem contributing to Oregon’s mental health crisis – a uniquely high rate of child homelessness and domestic sex trafficking.

Trahan’s new-found clarity, brought on from working directly with survivors, was the impetus for founding A Village for One with a mission “to unite in the effort to heal the impact of commercial sexual exploitation on our youth and community and provide a safe and healthy environment for our impacted youth to heal physically, mentally and spiritually.” With support from local groups like the Agnew Family Foundation, Trahan moved her operations to Clackamas County where there were no resources for sex trafficking victims, yet a supportive criminal justice system in the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

The ultimate dream of a home to shelter the girls participating in the A Village for One program spurred Jana Lytle, an Agnew Family Foundation Board member, to reach out to her well-connected builder friend, Jim Standring. Shortly thereafter, HBF Executive Director, Brenda Ketah, was communicating with Standring and Trahan about how to make the potential dream home a reality. The proposed seven-bedroom home would be the cornerstone of the AV41’s therapeutic housing program, which would take on six girls at a time to give them support over the course of a year-long program of care. An attached residency designed on the lower level, would provide an apartment for a 24-hour “house mom.” In June of 2019, the HBF officially approved the shelter project with a $50,000 grant to support the construction effort.

By summer of 2019, the project was moving fast and Standring, an expert in land development, began shepherding the young non-profit through the process of finding suitable land for constructing the girl’s home. Unlike other shelter projects, strategically located near urban edifices such as transit lines, employment offices and homeless resource centers, this project would require a rural and confidential site in order to provide anonymity for the safety of young girls escaping abuse and most importantly a space to heal. Ultimately, it was decided that building from scratch would be the easiest method.

Although Standring was well-versed in buying and selling lots, he recounted “building on acreage was new to me.” A rural site comes with significant challenges. The four-acre parcel ultimately settled upon by A Village for One, was a mostly wooded plot located several hundred feet from the road. The upside was there were few neighbors, but the major downside was it would require well water, a larger-than-normal septic system, and other utilities such as power and gas would need to be drawn from many hundreds of feet away adding substantial costs to the project. Nonetheless, the new home site, purchased using a portion of a $500,000 grant through Oregon Department of Human Services, was seemingly a good fit for Trahan’s vision, well-protected from surrounding neighbors with a buffer of trees and topography.

Standring immediately brought in his close friend, architect Ralph Tarhan, to draw up plans for the new shelter. After submitting the permit application and patiently awaiting a four-month permit review, the project was ready to break ground in the middle of January of 2020. By then, Oregon’s weather reared its ugly head, but Standring ambitiously pushed the project forward, while quietly organizing an army of donors in the process.

Despite being littered with gigantic six-foot diameter boulders, Standring brought in his old business pal Bruce Parker, owner of Parker Concrete, to dispatch his men in digging out the 4,600 square foot building footprint and haul away debris amid a soggy and cold January. By February, the foundation was poured and framing crews stood the structure up. The two-story frame was just bones, but social media posts on A Village for One’s Facebook page elicited comments of joy from supporters as images popped up during the construction process.

Later on, in February, volunteer groups like National Women in Roofing working in tandem with professional contractors Bliss Roofing completed the roof free of charge in one day. Many of Standring’s close business contacts and fellow HBA members like Builders FirstSource, Paulson’s Flooring, Medallion, Pacific Crest Cabinets, Globe Lighting, Gary’s Vacuflo, among others, contributed tens of thousands of in-kind labor and material donations. HBA member, Pyramid Heating and Cooling donated much of the labor to construct a sophisticated HVAC system. Miller Paint jumped in to furnish the home with an assortment of colors. California Closets decked out each individual room with custom shelving. The Oregon Building Officials Association, led by Clackamas County building official, Matt Rozzell, kicked in $5,000 and two weekends of volunteer building to erect the seven-hundred foot fence.

Standring’s usual subcontractors, often referred to on a first name basis, such as, Mark (the electrician), Javier (the framer), Rafael (the landscaper) – gave their all to the project, unquestionably due to their reverence for Jim. Standring recounts his most proud moment was that “absolutely no one turned him down” when he pitched the project to them. No matter how big or small the company, everyone contributed as best they could. Undoubtedly, the influence and respect the Portland home building community Standring commands is a testament to his success in the project raising over $400,000 of in-kind donations for construction. Although, that remarkable number was only part of the story.

The home, in quality of craftsmanship and sheer thoughtfulness of space, was far beyond any of A Village for One’s dreams. The amenities and comforts, from the backyard lawn to the shelving surrounding the fireplace built into the house were a marker of the type of attention and planning that poured into the months of micromanagement. Standring spent hours questioning Trahan about the needs and understanding the hard realities of what girls experiencing trauma truly need in a space.

A little over seven months after the project began, mostly on time and on budget, the shelter dubbed Anisa’s Place came to a close. Named for Anisa Swearingen, a teenager who was brutally murdered and dumped in a storage unit in Gresham, the shelter is a monument to both the children we have lost to sex trafficking, but also to the hope that one day Oregon can turn the corner. In mid-August during the grand opening, A Village for One and HBF partners, representatives of Oregon DHS and local government officials all gathered to witness the shiny, new surfaces and freshly painted walls of the new shelter. News crews captured the excitement of getting to the finish line, but with a bittersweet feeling as Anisa’s family toured the gracious halls of the girls’ home.

Turning Experience into Positivity

Standring, a long-time member and Past President of the Home Builders Association, is often seen buzzing about the HBA office in different capacities. A gregarious man, who knows almost everybody in the homebuilding circle, Standring has an exhaustive history with not only the HBA, but also as a government relations guru, Past President of the Oregon Building Industry Association, and member of the National Association of Home Builders to name a few.

Although Standring is well-known in the home building community as an experienced land developer, he began his career in a much different field. After going to college in his hometown of Fresno, he graduated in 1975 with a degree in hospital administration. At that time, his life was on another trajectory, but a move to Oregon in the late 70’s and early partnership with Bruce Parker, Standring quickly changed focus into land development and subdivision construction.

He attributes some of his success to going against the grain way back when. When he and Parker started buildings houses together, Standring thought to offer amenities as added perks to the home buying experience, such as skylights, garden windows or microwaves. To this day, Standring’s wheelhouse is what it was when he first entered into the homebuilding industry – selling developable lots. The huge shortage of land pressurized by the Urban Growth Boundary and other restrictive planning and building regulations created the environment where tracts of land sell exponentially higher than when Standring started his business.

More than his success as a businessman, Standring is known far and wide as a genuine man, fully engaged with the community that surrounds him. For that reason alone, is perhaps another explanation for why the recently completed Anisa’s Place shelter received such an outpouring of support throughout the HBA family of members and beyond. Although Standring’s involvement in charity projects like Cordero and Raphael House extends all the way back to the early 1980’s, this latest effort, all the while during a worldwide pandemic, was a mammoth feat for even someone as hardworking and sharp as Jim.

The Future and Beyond

By and large, the Anisa’s Place shelter was a major turning point and benchmark for the once fledgling A Village for One organization. The first of two planned therapeutic homes, young girls in custody of Oregon DHS from Marion and Clackamas County will enter the trauma recovery program at Anisa’s Place, where just a year prior, had few options to turn to. Less than a year ago, A Village for one had a staff of two – ED, Cassie Trahan and her Assistant Director, Arielle Crist, a Licensed Occupational Therapist (LOTR). Today, with more than a $1.5 million budget, a staff of twenty social workers, therapists and shelter managers, A Village for One has the potential to change the outcome of dozens of young girl’s lives each year. While they have always kept an office space, the Anisa’s Place shelter is now the heart of their operations. 

With added staff and programming indeed comes growing pains and periods of transition. One week after the shelter officially opened on September 1st, the shelter had to evacuate because of the looming wildfires that swept Oregon after Labor Day. And these days, with the ever-presence of a global pandemic and uncertainty of what is to come, creating an island of stability for the girls staying at Anisa’s Place is paramount.

Reflecting on the project, and how HBF and its builder captain, Jim Standring, steered the project during a fairly awkward period of US history, the results speak for themselves. The level of giving and participation from project vendors, the high quality of construction and thoughtfulness to the design of spaces is a testimony to how well the process works. But much of the results are attributed to the character of Standring – his skillfulness in the nuances of homebuilding as well as his relentless work ethic. Looking after her growing organization, Trahan recounts how grateful they were to work with someone like Standring. “Jim comes with a lifetime of experience in building homes and a heart for youth.” 

It is likely not Standring’s last shelter project. In a recent Foundation Builders Breakfast webinar Q&A session, Greg Olson, a fellow 2020 Builder Captain and participant of the event, turned to Jim and asked off-script whether he would do another project again? Jim, without hesitation replied, “Absolutely.”

Thank You To All Who Made This Project Possible

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