Mary Ann Walker is the new president of Friends of Lincoln, the fundraising arm of Lincoln High School. She is the first in this position to be an alumnus of Lincoln and the first female president of FOL.
Walker says the mission of Friends of Lincoln is multifaceted, but predominantly it's now driven by equity. "We make sure all students have equal access to all programs, whether it's a sport or a club, clothes on their back, the basics such as technology, food, clothing, and then going up from there, to provide scholarships to students who want to participate in a variety of activities that maybe they can't afford to participate."
The LHS Alumni Association has also recently joined the push for higher participation. Lincoln families and alumni now have a choice in how they get involved, from gifting money or paying a membership fee or by doing physical giving, whether it's cleaning up around the school, running concessions at sporting events, or helping students in the office.
"The number one mission of the Alumni Association is to keep alumni connected and give them opportunities to participate in-person, at events, whether it's a fundraiser or a homecoming game, or delivering food boxes during the holidays," Walker said.
Walker, who graduated in 1983, has four children who attended Lincoln. They now range in age from 30 to 17. She played softball, swam and rowed in high school and rowed and played softball in college.
"I wasn't always in Portland. I went away to college, and away for work, before coming back to Portland for 18 years." Her first child went to Lincoln in 2005. She loved Lincoln and says that although she has a lot of friends from college, some of her true besties are 1980s Cards.
Before it was called Friends of Lincoln, she got involved in the Lincoln Boosters, club/activities/athletics-based way of helping. She spent many an hour running concessions at football games and baseball matches. The goal was to stay in touch with her kids during the teen years when they tend to shy away from sharing details of school life.
"It has been really gratifying. I'm a big believer that when your kids get to high school, you should step in more, not less. You know, they don't want you to, but I just decided to ignore that. After a while, it was just comfortable. And I know I loved seeing all the kids, whether it was making copies for teachers, working in the Counseling Center, or organizing uniforms for (the athletic director) Jessica. That was how I stayed connected."
The alumni association stepped up for the 150th anniversary party in 2019, working closely with Friends of Lincoln. They got Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, to show up, give a speech and auction off an original drawing of Lisa.
One lesson of 2020 was how willing people were to try new ways of helping.
"Whether it was cooking for one of the (homeless) shelters, cleaning the campus or making bag lunches, there has been a tremendous amount of community support. It always blows me away."
When the 2020 pandemic email went out asking for help, the school was flooded with responses. "The families were hooked after they did it the first time. So, I think not only is it the word of mouth, but also of getting people to do things that are really meaningful."
"All of the efforts in place now are going to continue until there's not a need, which I don't see for the foreseeable future."
The online fundraising was also a success – people were surprisingly happy to donate cash or bid on auctions online without leaving their house.
"We learned a lot about how to reach people using the hybrid model" of an in-person party and online clickable fundraising.
The result was more inclusive – people could show up in more ways than the usual cocktails-auction-dinner-paddle raise, which tends to attract the same 20% of parents.
Walker has been FOL's athletics point person for the last two years. The work involved working with different budgets for equipment and travel, fundraising for scholarships for kids who need help. She replaces Brad McMahon, who headed FOL from 2018 to 2021. His last child, Vivian, is graduating. Although Walker's son Sean graduates in 2022, she is taking the job through 2023 for continuity. She already has a priority lined up:
"It would be to try to increase the overall percentage of participation," she says. That could be a student who weeds for an hour, so they and their family start to feel appreciated. "Then you get accolades whether they're giving blood or money, flipping a meal or giving 100 bucks or giving 10,000 bucks."