Remembering George "Bing" Sheldon

May 09, 2016

George “Bing” Sheldon was a founding board member of Central City Concern (CCC), and served on our board of directors from 1979 to 2013. Much has been written about Bing this past week—including this editorial in the Oregonian—as the City mourns his passing. Bing’s family will honor him with a public memorial from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 22, 2016, at Montgomery Park.

It feels nearly impossible for us to capture Bing’s many contributions to our agency, the Old Town neighborhood, other nonprofit organizations and the young professionals who he mentored. In lieu of a collective narrative about Bing’s impact on CCC, we asked a handful of people to share their personal favorite memories of him. Here are their thoughts.

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Of course I had heard of Bing Sheldon before starting my employment with Central City Concern. His fingerprints were all over the city—from prescient urban planning policies to historic building renovations that not only restored brick and mortar but also helped revitalize the city itself. And it didn't take long to understand why he had been so impactful. He understood that risks and challenges were inherent in all things worth doing and he was respectful but undeterred by them. If something needed to be done—whether it was a project that needed to be built or a service that needed to be provided or provided better—the question for him became not if, but how. And it became easy to see how his unique kind of guidance and leadership, over a period of decades, had kept a diverse and intricate organization unified and pointed toward a north star of individual and community renewal.

But Bing Sheldon is not being remembered for just his work as architect and planner—as impactful as those contributions were. Bing deeply cared about the people who live in a city—from its children to its seniors to its homeless. And he sought to better understand how this marriage of people and place can evolve to the betterment of all of a city's citizens. It was Bing who showed all of us the impact that one person can have on both a community and the people who live within it. That leadership requires not only determination and a certain fearlessness, but also compassion and understanding.

Sean Hubert, Chief Housing and Employment Officer, CCC
(Pictured here with John Gray, middle, and Bing Sheldon, right) 


My first memory of Bing was not long after I started at CCC in 2004. I had been hired as the new Quality Manager, my first management job, and had just found out that CCC was going to have an audit on our billings. George “Bing” Sheldon is a founding board member of Central City Concern, and has served on the board of directors since 1979. Richard Harris, our Executive Director at the time, and Ed Blackburn, who was my supervisor, wanted me to come to the CCC Board of Directors meeting to talk to them about the audit, how we were preparing for it, what the possible consequences might be, and what quality assurance measures I was putting in place.

I had never reported to a board of directors before, and I was feeling pretty nervous walking into the meeting. Bing was one of the first to come over and greet me. He introduced himself, and introduced me to several of the board members who were already there. He put me at ease and made me feel comfortable there, assuring me I was among friends.

All of my subsequent interactions were similar. I always found him to be kind and supportive, and his calm and confident demeanor was contagious. As my career has progressed and I’ve had the opportunity to serve on the board of other non-profit organizations, Bing is one of the people I try to model myself after as a board member.

Ted Amann, Director of Clinical Information Systems, CCC


My fondest memory of Bing was hearing him talk about the house that he and his wife built in Northwest Portland in 1971. A few years ago, he and Carolyn hosted a party at their house for us and he warned of challenging directions, tricky parking and steep hillsides. It was all true. Walking into his house was like stepping into an enormous, magical tree house! It had multiple levels that were curiously aligned with each other and virtually every space had vertical views of other rooms in the house. Every room also interacted beautifully with the outdoors. The very lowest level was clearly the kids’ space and as Bing pointed out, they had their own fort-like area yet by design, one could hear them from above—brilliant!

He told me that he had three goals building the house– finish it at a very low cost per square foot, win an award from a major Architects’ Association and use salvaged materials. He proudly shared that he had accomplished all three goals. He explained how the phone company thought he was crazy when he called to inquire about getting a dozen or so telephone poles to use for the house’s stilts. He battled a bank to allow him to use a metal roof instead of the higher fire-risk wood shingles that were customary at the time. During the party, Bing urged every attendee to check out the upstairs bathroom. “See if you can find the bathtub,” he cajoled. I finally got to it at the end of the evening. High above me, tucked into a loft space was a gorgeous claw foot bathtub painted a deep purple. It was a space of serenity and wonder all at once.

Seeing Bing’s house made me feel like I had a glimpse into his amazing and creative mind. It was a privilege. (Ed. note: You can see Bing’s house for yourself by watching this video tour.)

Kathy Pape, Senior Director of Public Affairs, CCC
(Screenshot taken from "Good Architecture is Theatre with Bing Sheldon" video)


I met Bing when I was 24 years old and was hired as the receptionist at Central City Concern. Bing addressed me with the same kind eyes and hearty greeting he had for everyone else. Over the years I moved up in the organization and eventually became CCC’s housing developer—and had a lot to learn. I got to work a lot more closely with Bing. He knew so much about buildings and about the City of Portland. But what made the biggest difference in my ability to do this work for Central City Concern was Bing’s unwavering belief and optimism. It was entirely clear to him that CCC should build a brand new building and clinic for homeless people on the North Park Blocks and that it would be a fantastic building (because of course SERA designed it!). And it was equally clear that I could and should represent CCC on the development team.

When Bing, with all of his experience and knowledge believed something was right, he radiated it with such assurance, it made you believe it too. Including believing in yourself. And that was a fantastic gift that had nothing to do with the buildings or the design or even his incredible service. It was all about who he was, his heart.

Traci Manning, CCC employee, 1993 to 2011


In the old days, say the spring of 1981, the Burnside Consortium (now CCC) Board would meet monthly on the second floor of an old building on Couch, between 3rd and 4th, I believe. No elevator, no ADA, only stairs. The Board then included founding members Sally McCracken, Bing Sheldon, Sam Naito, and others. I was a new member. Our task then was to oversee a Public Inebriate Program grant of $400,000.00 which constituted almost all of the annual budget. The four employees, Andy Raubeson, executive director, Robert Ridgway, the building manager, Richard Harris, in charge of the PIP grant, and Rene the office manager and secretary, routinely attended the board meetings.

In the early days, CCC did not do housing, medical services, or mental health services. In short, all of what is delivered now under the continuum of services is new and was developed over time in large part through the efforts of Bing Sheldon, and his professional skills. He knew every building in Old Town without consulting plans or maps. He would advise the Board about which buildings were worth fixing up and the likely cost of doing the work.

He was a risk taker; not many professionals located their offices in Old Town. Bing was the first and only vice chair of the Board until he retired in June 2013. After more than three decades of Board service, he left an agency with almost 700 employees, an annual budget around $50 million, and a national reputation of innovation and effectiveness, due in large part to his participation. I had the great privilege of serving with Bing as Board chair for 25 years after Sally retired as Chair. Remarkable times, remarkable people. It reminds me of a quote from Albert Einstein—"Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile." Bing's life was extremely worthwhile in so many ways.

Dean Gisvold, CCC board member, 1980 to 2013


Better Call Bing: In 2003 CCC was engaged in developing and building new downtown recovery housing that, when completed, provided 180 units of alcohol- and drug-free housing to homeless men and women in early recovery from addiction. We chose a site at 8th and Burnside and put together finance involving HUD, PDC, Multnomah County, the City of Portland, and low-income housing tax credits. We hired an architect who designed a substantial, twelve-story building on a quarter block. The design guidelines for the Pearl District suggested that buildings of this stature be designed to an “exuberant coherence” standard. We liked the design and thought it was responsive to the needs of occupants and the desire of the neighbors for a building of interest. However, the City of Portland Design Review Commission did not agree. After two attempts to get approval for design, the CCC Board of Directors decided we should engage a new architectural firm.

Bing was a founding and active member of the CCC Board who had devoted much time, advice, and effort to the agency projects. Still, in all the years of rehabilitating Single Room Occupancy housing in historic buildings, CCC had never hired SERA Architects. Now seemed like the time, and the Board decided to bring SERA and Bing Sheldon on as architect for the 8th and Burnside project. Incorporating elements of the exiting plans, SERA designed a new building. Bing deftly led the team through the design review process, and the building was approved. Since completion, the building has been supporting newly recovering addicts in their transition to a clean and sober life. And this is how Portland got the only building topped with an inverted Nike swoosh.

The new design was not substantially different from the design that did not get approved, but the presentation was different. It was the Bing magic. Bing had an effective, persuasive way of communicating ideas. He spoke with authority. He was never condescending to his audience. His knowledge and experience were apparent but never overbearing. He solved problems creatively and expressed his thoughts clearly.

When you had a big problem to solve, the answer was clear: better call Bing.

Richard Harris, CCC Executive Director, 1995 to 2008


When I picture Bing, I see him striding through Old Town, with his signature excellent posture and determined pace. I encountered Bing this way so many times—on his way to and from SERA Architects, Central City Concern, and all the other neighborhood locations he frequented. Walking through Old Town, Bing was surrounded by the historic buildings he helped preserve, and a revitalized neighborhood that he was instrumental in creating. Bing was walking with the full range of the neighborhood’s people, from architects and City planners, to people living on the street and in affordable housing (housing which Bing’s efforts helped create). Meeting Bing walking so purposefully, you might think him aloof or unapproachable, but if you stopped him to say hello, you also saw his kindness and humor.

E.V. Armitage, Executive Assistant, CCC



Remembering Sally, "the Person, Not the Building"

Dec 09, 2015

This is one of Central City Concern’s favorite photos of Sally McCracken, a founding board member of ours who died last month. The photo is from 2010 when we honored Sally and longtime board president Dean Gisvold, at our annual luncheon.

The luncheon also featured a story about a successful client, Felton Howard. We showed a video about Felton’s life that included a reference to his time spent as a resident of the Sally McCracken building. After the video, Felton came to the podium to say a few words. Although he had prepared remarks, he first stammered out his absolute amazement to learn about the existence of Sally McCracken. “I’m so glad to meet the real Sally McCracken,” he said, gazing over at her. “I never knew there was an actual person! To me, it was only the building.”

No one laughed harder than Sally herself who, for years, would call Central City Concern and state: “This is Sally McCracken, the person, not the building.”

The building in question is, of course, the Sally McCracken on NW Sixth Avenue and Everett. Before CCC purchased the building, it was a notorious old flop house known as the Athens Hotel. We renovated it and reopened it in October 1991 as the Sally McCracken. It took significant persuasion to convince Sally to allow us to name the building after her but finally, she consented yet insisted we not use neon in the sign. (We didn’t.) It was CCC’s first alcohol and drug free residential space and has been a safe haven for nearly 1,500 individuals to date.

After the luncheon in 2010, the awareness of the “real” Sally McCracken swept through the building after staff posted the photo of Sally and Dean on a lobby bulletin board with a cheerful caption, hand written with a thick marker: “The REAL Sally McCracken!”

Sally’s history with CCC runs long and deep. (We detailed what she did for CCC in a 2010 blog post.) As a founding board member, and strong advisor to our early Executive Directors, she was key to many conversations of what the core mission of CCC should be.  At her memorial service this weekend, past Executive Director Richard Harris recalled how it was Sally who urged the organization to go beyond managing the city’s “drunk tank” and providing a little housing to becoming a real service-provider that could offer what people needed to truly reclaim their lives. It was a massive leap and daunting endeavor but Sally’s confidence and passion coaxed the board to go forward.

The obituary in the Oregonian beautifully accounted for all of Sally’s volunteerism in the state of Oregon – it’s worth a read and we think you’ll be left speechless at the number of organizations Sally aided during her life.  She retired from Central City Concern’s board in 1990 though she remained an active supporter of the agency along with her late husband, Paul.

CCC has spent the past few weeks reflecting on Sally’s many gifts to our agency and community and we found a few, lesser-known facts that made us smile:

  • Sally was a frequent host to early CCC board meetings where the agenda included a gentle reminder to bring a dish to pass and a swimsuit for a dip in the pool after the meeting.
  • Sally was identified in an early list of board members as “housewife, civic leader and member of several social service committees.”
  • Sally favored “The Sally Mac” as the name for her building.
  • Sally was an avid and skilled fly fisherwoman and made 70 trips to a favorite spot in Canada.
  • Sally hated to be late and she would only accept a ride to an event with you if you promised to pick her up early enough to ensure an on-time arrival.
  • Sally and her son John watched the 1991 video from the inauguration of the Sally McCracken building just a few weeks ago. Her son, Peter, had recorded the video. At the memorial service, John recounted how the building still made her proud because she believed that, with the right help, everyone had the potential to overcome addictions and poverty.

In the past weeks, tenants of the Sally McCracken have joined the CCC community in expressing their condolences to her family. It seems fitting that once again, her photo is up in the lobby of the building that bears her name – a reminder for all to remember Sally McCracken, the person, not the building.

Sally’s family has requested that remembrances be made to the Paul and Sally McCracken Fund at the Oregon Community Foundation or to Central City Concern.



Dean Gisvold and Bing Sheldon Honored by Multnomah County

Jun 13, 2013

June 13, 2013

Today, County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury read a proclamation of appreciation of Dean Gisvold and Bing Sheldon for their many years of service to the Central City Concern, the City of Portland and Multnomah County. Commissioner Deborah Kafoury read the proclamation. (pictured below is CCC Executive Director Ed Blackburn, Commissioner Kafoury, Dean Gisvold and Bing Sheldon.) Dean and Bing conclude their service to CCC's Board at the end of this month with June 19th as their final board meeting to oversee. A complete version of the proclamation is as follows:

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners Finds 

- After the steep population decline in Portland during the 60s, Bing Sheldon and Dean Gisvold brought their vision and tenacity to the Downtown Plan of 1972. The result was a nationally-renowned blueprint for a vital urban core that urged transit corridors instead of freeways, and supported pedestrian-friendly development. This is the community we all enjoy today. 

- To the chagrin of clients and prospective employees, Bing moved his growing architectural firm into Old Town in 1972, a time when the area was primarily known for its run-down hotels.

- In 1971, Dean baffled co-workers, neighbors and community leaders by riding his bike to work as much as possible.

- Both drawn to civic engagement and with tremendous compassion for the welfare of people struggling with alcoholism who frequented the Old Town district, Bing and Dean participated in work which secured a National Public Inebriate Project grant in 1979. The grant funded a sobering station solution, instead of jail, for chronic alcoholics.

- Bing became a founding board member of the Burnside Consortium in 1978; Dean joined the board in 1980. The Burnside Consortium was renamed Central City Concern in 1984.

- In the late 1970s, Dean and Bing recognized the need for safe, low income housing for the people living in Old Town. In 1983, they helped Central City Concern purchase its first building – the Butte Hotel, built in 1912.

- Central City Concern’s current properties include 9 renovated residential buildings in Old Town and 3 such buildings just south of Burnside. Total units of housing have increased from 38 to more than 1,600.

- For 26 consecutive years, Dean Gisvold has chaired monthly board meetings and Bing Sheldon has served as Vice Chair.

- Central City Concern entered the healthcare arena when it began operating Hooper Sobering and Detox Center in 1983. Dean and Bing guided the agency in expanding these services to include the Old Town Clinic, serving more than 4,000 people, and a myriad of recovery programs.

- In 2011, Dean was instrumental to the rapid development of Central City Concern’s new healthcare building at the major intersection of West Burnside and NW Broadway, a site previously occupied by an abandoned fast food restaurant. He was also a champion for bringing dental services into the fold. In 2012, Multnomah County’s first downtown dental clinic opened; it is located on the third floor of Central City’s healthcare building.

- SERA Architects, founded by Bing Sheldon, designed the healthcare building. SERA has worked on numerous building projects with CCC.

- For the past 26 years, Dean and Bing have guided Central City Concern on a strong path of fiscal responsibility and accountability. As such, the agency has a very positive relationship with both Multnomah County and the City of Portland, and has been able to help many thousands of people in need.

- Our community is richer because of the vision, intelligence and diligence that Dean Gisvold and Bing Sheldon have shared with us.

Dean and Bing commented after the reading and graciously wished to shared credit with past and present board members, as well as staff members.



Central City Concern Honors Sally McCracken

Oct 25, 2010

If you  live in Portland, you’ve likely driven by the Sally McCracken Building at NW 6th & Everett in Old Town, perhaps never knowing that Sally McCracken is a real person! 

She is one of Central City Concern’s founding board members and a friend for many years. We are pleased to be honoring Sally (as well as longtime board member Dean Gisvold) at our Working Our Way Homeluncheon on Nov. 9, 2010. The luncheon benefits self-sufficiency programming at CCC; you may buy your ticketshere.

Here’s some background on Sally:

Sally has been a committed volunteer all her adult life. In the late 1960s when her children reached school age, she expanded her volunteer life to embrace community action. She joined the boards of a church community action program (East-CAP), then the board of PACT (now known as Portland Impact, but then was part of the “War on Poverty.”) In 1976, Sally was chairing the PACT board and also the Emergency Helping Agencies Committee (EHAC) of the Tri-County Community Council. In EHAC meetings the needs of the Burnside community came into focus and several meetings were held to see what could be done. As a result, a small group of Portland civic leaders formed the Burnside Consortium in 1979 and it later became Central City Concern.

Sally served as CCC board chair for seven years and spent many hours working with the agency’s executive director, navigating complex governmental requirements and always scrambling for the next dollar. She retired from the CCC board in 1990. Among her other volunteer activities are the Oregon Community Foundation where she served for 11 years as a board member (two of those as chair) and where she still serves on some committees as well as chairing the Giving in Oregon Council.

Currently she is a member of the Joseph E Weston Public Foundation Board, an Emeritus Board Member of the Ford Family Foundation in Roseburg and an Emeritus Trustee at Reed College. In addition, she is a former board member of the University of Oregon Foundation, the Providence Medical Center Advisory Board and two State Commissions. Sally has received many honors for her contributions including the 1985 George A. Russill Community Service Award and the 1998 Aubrey Watzek Award. She was declared a “Model Citizen” by the Portland City Council and the Multnomah County Commission, when she ended her term at CCC. In 1991, CCC persuaded Sally to allow it to name a building after her – today, the Sally McCracken Building houses 95 very low-income individuals as well as the agency’s administrative operations.



Central City Concern Honors Dean Gisvold

Oct 25, 2010

At a November 9th luncheon, CCC will proudly honor Dean Gisvold, one of our longest serving board members.  Tickets are available now.

Dean Gisvold is CCC’s third board chair and has served as chair since 1987. A senior partner with the McEwen Gisvold law firm, Dean has over 40 years of professional expertise in real estate law and is a member of the prestigious American College of Real Estate Lawyers. He has helped guide Central City Concern through many housing development projects, expansion of services and organizational improvements.

Dean is also a founding board member of the statewide Network for Oregon Affordable Housing, a past president of the Irvington Community Association (ICA) as well as current board member, past chair of the Portland Public School Board, past chair of the Multnomah County Library Advisory Board and past chair of the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee, nationally recognized with the Rudy Bruner Award for excellence in urban planning. Dean was also honored with the George A. Russill Community Service Award in 1990. Dean and his wife Susan were early advocates for improving childbirth education and allowing fathers in delivery rooms; they were also active leaders in a variety of parent organizations supporting local schools.

In 1968, Dean was elected to the Model Cities board, where he worked on school and neighborhood issues. He is presently on the Rose Quarter Stakeholder Advisory Committee. In a 1985 address to a graduation class, Dean shared a favorite quote from Harry Truman with students: “My father used to say that a man ought to leave the world a little better than it was when he came into it, and if that can be said about me, I guess you’ll have to say I lived a successful life.”