Maybelle Community Singers

Appears on: emergency shelter intake form

Maybelle Center believes that no one deserves to live in isolation. They have been building community and relationships with individuals in Portland’s city center for over 25 years. Their 500+ members live in low-income buildings scattered throughout Old Town and Downtown Portland. Most experience poverty and are at-risk for social isolation, which is intensified by mental or physical challenges, addiction, or trauma. Maybelle Center reduces loneliness and isolation by providing meaningful connection through volunteer home visits, their Community Room, individual member support, and housing.

The choir is one example of bringing together members (clients), volunteers, and staff from multiple organizations into community at their facility in Old Town. The inspiration for the choir came from Maybelle Center Associate Director Kristrun Grondal who had formed a therapeutic choir (Sing Here Now) at the Alzheimer’s Association for those with early dementia.

Growing up in a family of music, Grondal intimately knew the power of music, and she saw that power first-hand amongst persons experiencing dementia. Grondal couldn’t wait to bring a similar concept to Maybelle Center.

The Maybelle Community Singers officially launched in January of 2016 under the direction of Choir Director Crystal Akins with approximately 12 choir members, composed of members, volunteers and staff. For this performance, Akins expanded the choir by recruiting other organizations in Portland’s city center to collaborate on the project, inviting clients, volunteers, and staff from each organization. All of the organizations involved serve individuals who are vulnerable, but each with a different focus, some of which are homelessness.

The Maybelle Community Singers are delighted to be participating in this collaboration. It has given them an incredible sense of pride. One choir member commented, “I showed up to this community. I showed up to this choir and look what happened. Look what can happen when I use my voice. Look what can happen when I come together in community: opportunities like this. We did that.”