PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In the middle of the pandemic last year, Gresham’s longtime mayor stepped down, saying he needed to devote more time to his family and business — but it turns out he is still serving his community.
In the midst of bustling activities, enthusiasm and even music, you’ll find former mayor Shane Bemis now helping his town in a different way. Bemis is now the CEO of Eastco Diversified Services, which has six group homes in the Portland metro area and is a center for individuals with intellectual and emotional disabilities.
“[It’s] incredibly rewarding,” Bemis said. “I spent a lot of time representing people and trying to move a community forward and this is a step back and basic service to people, and it is very rewarding.”
Eastco was started in the 70s by a woman looking for more services for her disabled daughter. Many people have since lived in those Eastco homes for decades.
It’s the only family many of them have — getting together at the center multiple times a week or gathering for special outings.
When the center had to shut down due to COVID-19, it was a rough time for many.
“I did not like it,” Cindy Meng told KOIN 6 News. “Being at home all the time, I didn’t like it.”
The COVID-19 closure was hard on everyone within their Eastco community. He Bemis says they want to be out interacting with people.
“You need that socialization for your mental health and everything else,” he said. “So, it wasn’t good when it was shut down.”
Bemis has become a part of their family. Meng ever told us she made him some holiday art, while another Eastco member, Penny, says he put up a Santa in her home’s backyard.
One thing they did not know about Bemis, however, is that he was once their mayor.
Bemis says he’s not sure he’ll ever go back into politics. Being surrounded by that Eastco energy, you can’t really blame him.
“I leave every day with a smile on my face,” he said.