PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Anyone who walks into the Just Because Boutique in Northeast Portland is greeted with a warm welcome by founder Pastor Renee Ward. 

Like the fierce fashionista herself, Ward’s shop is filled of color, clothes  and accessories.  The boutique also has a wide range of hats, many of which she wears herself. 

Pastor Renee’ Ward. (Courtesy of Patrick Smith Photography)

The boutique is open to anyone, she said, adding that the proceeds from the store go to help women impacted by cancer.

Ward openly shares her faith, to lift others, as she lets her life be her best sermon.  

But her own faith was tested during her battles with cancer. In 2017, Ward was diagnosed with an aggressive form of triple-negative breast cancer, which is particularly deadly for women of color, she said. 

“I thought I knew God, but I couldn’t tell the time when my mother and I both are diagnosed with cancer the same year,” she said. 

Today, Ward is a cancer survivor. She also wears the hats of a mother, model and mentor. She finds purpose in giving back to the community she’s called home since she was four years old. 

Some folks may have already heard Ward’s motivational words in her 2012 Ted Talk, “When Ordinary Just Won’t Do.” 

Turns out she had to overcome her own obstacle to deliver the speech. 

“That was a very stressful time because my mother was ill and I had anticipated seeing her in the audience while I was doing that,” she said. “I was very, very nervous and I get a call behind stage that she’s not able to come. And I was like, devastated just like five minutes before going out on stage. So everything you saw, I forgot my entire speech and everything you saw was a flow.”

In 2010, Ward lent her voice for a cause that was also very personal. 

“Most folks know me for my advocacy and against police brutality,” she said. “I led one of the largest … peaceful marches … with regards to (an) extended member of the family, Aaron Campbell, who was unfortunately shot and killed by a police officer.”

Ward has touched a lot of lives, but she credits others for influencing her including her mother, Louise, grandmother, Alice, and her great grandmother, Cora. 

“I have matriarchs of motivation there,” she said. “My mom’s mom, matriarchs and motivation. I also have patriarchs of progress, my pops, my moms and pops. That’s what I call it.”

Ward also has many talents along with her passion to help others, all exemplified in her boutique. 

“I would be remiss not to say my … mantra is a positive diagnosis. Doesn’t mean a negative outcome. I speak life. And that’s what I tell people,” she said. 

Ward is now looking for a new home for her Just Because Boutique. It was in a temporary space that the Portland Playhouse donated to her organization. If you, or someone you know can help donate a permanent place, Ward would like to hear from you. The website for her organization, as well as her contact information is here. When she finds a new home, she will also need volunteers to help move the donated items as well.

KOIN 6 and Portland’s CW want to recognize the great contributions women have made to our nation and local communities. Remarkable Women is part of a nationwide Nexstar Media initiative to honor the influence that women have had on public policy, social progress and the quality of life.

Throughout Women’s History Month, KOIN 6 and Portland CW will highlight four local women who inspire, lead and forge the way for other women. It’s not just about one day or one month — it’s about what they do, day-in and day-out.

One woman will be named our area’s Woman of the Year and win a $1,000 donation to her charity of choice! From the more than 100 local winners, one woman will be selected and named Nexstar Media Group’s Woman of the Year.