Olympia Provisions: Making First-rate Meats, Providing Second-chance Careers

Jan 23, 2018

Central City Concern (CCC) takes great care in building relationships with great employers. Our Employment Access Center assisted 1,126 job seekers in 2017, and several of them have gone to work for a fantastic partner: Olympia Provisions.

“Olympia Provisions is committed to enriching the lives of each other, our community and our environment,” says Taylor Janes, Olympia Provisions Human Resources leader. “So we work with CCC to help people find new chances and new opportunities to do good work that they can be proud of. We have had great success with multiple employees who were hired with limited knowledge of meat processing, USDA factory sanitation and/or restaurant operations.”

Olympia Provisions and CCC have been working together on-and-off for about five years, placing people who may have had barriers to employment in the past such as substance use disorders, criminal justice issues or homelessness. Cheryl M. found her position at Olympia Provisions through CCC’s Employment Access Center. She describes her past work experience as “poor,” so she was especially happy to get a job as restaurant dishwasher there in August 2017.

"We're committed to training new skills and developing our employees as people and professionals."
-Taylor Janes, Olympia Provisions Human Resources leader

Getting a job at Olympia Provisions is a great move for anyone. Taylor says their work environment is relaxed, positive and focused on producing the best product possible, every time. “We have fun and we get it done,” he says. “We're committed to training new skills and developing our employees as people and professionals. There is ample room for vertical growth for those who are motivated and diligent. We offer competitive wages, generous paid time off, health benefits, an Employee Assistance Program, discounts around Portland, free shares of delicious meats and free cooked lunch every day!”

Cheryl says, “My favorite things about working there are the people and the atmosphere. I really enjoy working there a lot.”

Olympia Provisions, founded in 2009, is a team of dedicated employees who craft the finest award-winning charcuterie (prepared meats such as salami and pate) in the world and provide unrivaled customer service at five restaurant locations around Portland. “We are known in households, restaurants and grocery stores as the premier makers of authentic, old-world charcuterie. Our vision is to make the world better through food and to make people happy. We are doing this by being obsessed with quality, relentlessly pursuing mastery in our professional positions, and being committed to enriching the lives of each other, our community and the environment.”

Anyone who has sampled Olympia Provision’s delicious products can taste the care and devotion the company has to their work. CCC is grateful to have them for a partner, and the feeling is mutual.

“Over the years employees who come to us from CCC have demonstrated reliability, initiative and positive can-do attitudes,” Taylor says. “As such, they have been promoted through the ranks to supervisor and management positions. We'd like to find more excellent employees like them!”

To learn more about Olympia Provisions, visit their website.



Clean Start PDX is off to a Great Start

Jan 22, 2018

The following article appeared in the winter 2018 edition of Hey Neighbor!, a free publication from Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods (NECN). Many thanks to NECN for recognizing and sharing the work of Central City Concern's expanding Clean Start PDX program!

• • •

Clean Start PDX is off to a Great Start
By Mischa Webley, NECN Staff Writer

On a Monday morning, J.P. King starts up the engine to his pick-up truck and heads across the river from Old Town to the Inner Eastside. As the lead crew member of the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods’ (NECN) pilot program, Clean Start PDX, he will spend the day making the rounds to various outdoor encampments in the inner northeast area, and working with the residents there. He cleans up abandoned camps, provides garbage bags and other cleaning supplies to active sites, and removes debris as needed. But to J.P., it’s the one-on-one contact with residents that makes the real difference, whether it’s directing people to shelters or connecting them with other resources in the city. “I know everyone in these camps by name,“ he says. “They know I’m here to help.”

The program began last year when Adam Lyons, Executive Director of NECN, was hearing from community members about the increase in trash and debris on roadsides, along with an increase in campers. “It’s a livability issue,” he says. “But it’s also a symptom of a much greater problem.” So, in partnership with Central City Concern, the Central Eastside Industrial Council and the Eliot Neighborhood Association, NECN secured funding from the city to address the issue in the inner eastside core.

Based on the same model that the Clean and Safe program uses, the idea isn’t to enforce camping policies for the city, but rather to help make the city cleaner and nicer for everyone who lives here. In fewer than six months of operation, it’s making a big impact: between August and October alone, J.P. and his Clean Start PDX crew have cleaned up 149 camps which included nearly 2000 bags of trash and 779 needles, and all manner of bio-hazardous materials.

Perhaps the most remarkable fact about Clean and Safe and Clean Start PDX is that it’s tackling multiple issues at once. It’s not just a cleaning service for the city streets, but is in fact a job-training and skills-building program to help individuals with a history of homelessness, addiction, or incarceration build a better future. “The program is a triple win,” says Jay McIntyre, program manager for Clean and Safe and chief liaison for Clean Start. “It’s a win for our employees, it’s a win for the people experiencing homelessness, and it’s a win for these neighborhoods.”

Looking forward, NECN hopes to use this model as a template for helping other neighborhoods do the same. “We’re trying to be proactive in solving a problem that most residents say is top of their list of concerns in Portland,” says Lyons. But he is quick to point out that, in so many words, it takes a village: “This isn’t an isolated problem, or one that’s unique to Portland. It’s complex and difficult, and it’s important that we as neighbors, businesses owners, and especially city officials take charge and try solutions instead of just throwing our hands up in frustration. It’s up to all of us to make this city the one we want to live in.”



"It’s overwhelming at times, in a good way"

Jan 16, 2018

Working at Central City Coffee after nearly two-and-a-half years of recovery, Christina S. learned new skills, trained others, supported her family and built a new life. “I know myself and I love myself for the first time ever in my life, really, that I can ever remember. And it seems that things get better and better and better.”

On Mondays, she and a crew of four others prepared bags of coffee in Old Town Portland. Tuesdays and sometimes Wednesdays, too, were for production, with delivery throughout the Portland metro area the rest of the week. “It’s been amazing to learn all kinds of different things completely out of my comfort zone,” she says. “But also really nerve-wracking and overwhelming at first.” Training other people felt especially great: “My self-confidence, everything has been boosted, I feel just better about myself.”

Christina built up that self-confidence in Central City Concern’s (CCC) Community Volunteer Corps and outpatient treatment, which she says taught her “you need to complete things, that if you sign up for something to see it out and finish it.” The same quiet confidence comes through when she speaks about parenting her five children and one grandchild now that she’s in recovery. When asked if she feels she’s a resource and support for other people, she laughs: “Yeah, which is weird.”

Although she grew up with addiction in her family, she says “nobody talked about it,” even after her father died of an overdose. As her own addiction progressed, it took away her career, her housing, and her children. “That’s when I knew I had a problem,” she says, “when I walked away from my kids.” Talking about those years is not easy for her, but she insists it’s vital to not hide addiction or keep it a secret. “We need to talk about it to prevent it. If I would have had knowledge about it, maybe things would have been different.”

"We need to talk about [addiction] to prevent it. If I would have had knowledge about it, maybe things would have been different."
-Christina

Breaking these family patterns has been the common thread to the challenges she’s faced in recovery, which she names without hesitation: “Talking to other people. Opening up. Adjusting to my kids. Adjusting to myself.” She feels she learned the tools she needed in CCC’s outpatient treatment, while CCC’s supportive housing gave her the necessary time and space. Remembering her early recovery, she smiles and says people told her “that once I started talking, I’d get really red-faced, and I probably looked like I was having a heart attack. But then slowly but surely my voice was there. I finally had a voice.” Coming off the streets, she first found shelter in CCC’s Hooper Detoxification Stabilization Center. From there, she moved into transitional recovery housing and then into drug-and-alcohol-free housing for families with children. That housing was crucial, she says, for her to slowly rebuild trust with her children and bring her family back together. “I feel safe there and I know that I have people I can always count on and always go to.”

Christina’s cheerful, matter-of-fact style gives way to powerful feelings when she talks about her life in recovery. “It’s emotional,” she says, “because I feel so strongly about what’s happened, and I’m so grateful and blessed that all these things have happened. And for who I am now. I get to experience the fact that my kids are right there with me. I get to experience having great people around me. And it’s overwhelming at times, in a good way.”

"I get to experience the fact that my kids are right there with me. I get to experience having great people around me."

Toward the end of her Central City Coffee training period, Christina joined the HealthCareers Northwest WorkSource program through CCC’s Employment Access Center. HealthCareers Northwest is a funding program that enabled Christina to return to school and earned her Certified Nursing Assistant 2 certificate. In January 2018, she quickly got a job at a local long-term acute care hospital, and is now thrilled to be working in an exciting field with plenty of career potential. “I really think I’d like to be a nurse someday,” Christina said. “I think I can do it.”



A look back at 2017 to get us dreaming bigger in 2018

Dec 29, 2017

In 2017, Central City Concern (CCC) made significant headway toward increasing the number of affordable homes in Portland, bridged service gaps with new programs, further cemented our reputation as leaders in the national conversation about how to end homelessness, and much more. But most importantly, thanks to you, CCC helped thousands of our neighbors find housing, wellness, and opportunity through our compassionate and comprehensive model of care.

Below are some highlights from the year at CCC. As you read through this snapshot of what we accomplished, we hope you will feel good about all the things you made possible.

July: Hill Park Apartments became home to 39 households in Southwest Portland.

August: Charlotte B. Rutherford Place, a 51-unit apartment building for families, broke ground.

September: Stark Street Apartments, which will provide 153 homes, broke ground.

November: The Blackburn Building—combining a clinic, pharmacy, transitional and permanent housing—broke ground.

February: Multnomah County, the City of Portland, and CCC launched the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program to help low-level drug offenders work toward recovery, find stability and avoid reoffending.

February: CCC, Multnomah County’s Department of Community Justice, the Joint Office of Homeless Services and Meyer Memorial Trust together launched Flip the Script, a culturally specific reentry program that aims to reduce recidivism.

March: CCC joined forces with Health Share of Oregon and CODA, Inc. to form Wheelhouse, a program to expand Medication Supported Recovery services throughout the Tri-county area.

May: CCC Clean Start trains formerly homeless workers to help keep neighborhoods clean by removing trash and graffiti. The program works with the City of Portland’s One Point of Contact.

May: Ed Blackburn, Portland Business Alliance Community Partner of the Year

July: Town Center Courtyards family housing community, Gold Nugget Merit Award

October: Ed Blackburn and Central City Concern, National Alliance to End Homelessness Pioneers in Innovation and Excellence Award

November: Housing is Health Collaboration, Portland Business Journal Innovations in Corporate Philanthropy Award

January: After a fire displaced 98 residents of CCC's Hotel Alder building, community members rallied to send a flood of donations to meet the needs of our tenants.

August: Close to 300 runners and walkers attended Portland's first Heroes in Recovery 6K. Proceeds of the race benefited CCC and Hooper Detox.

March: The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness highlighted CCC Recovery housing.

April: CCC hosted Kimberly Johnson, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, for a visit that included a Recovery Housing “fish bowl” dialogue.

June: CCC staff members and a health care consumer hosted six informative and well-received presentations at the National Health Care for the Homeless Council’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.

January: Ed Blackburn, CCC's executive director since 2008, announced that he would retire later in 2017. A national search began in the spring for his successor.

August: Rachel Solotaroff, M.D., was announced as the new President & CEO for CCC. She had been with CCC since 2006, first as CCC’s Medical Director, then as Chief Medical Officer since 2014

September: Freda Ceaser was named CCC's director of Equity and Inclusion. She was previously the Director of Employment Services at CCC's Employment Access Center.

April: CCC highlighted our robust volunteer program and partnerships during National Volunteer Week.

August: CCC celebrated National Health Center Week by sharing the many ways we extend our health care work past clinic walls and directly to where people live.

The Imani Center program increased the number of people they serve with culturally responsive Afrocentric approaches to mental health and addictions treatment by 50 percent. They also held the first two graduations in the program's history.

CCC's social enterprises—Central City Coffee, the Central City Bed, On-call Staffing and CCC Clean Start—employed 80 formerly homeless clients over the year.

CCC's Recycling and Reuse Operations Center, a program that gives abandoned property a second life, processed more than 44,000 pounds of items (91% of which was kept out of the landfill) and provided nearly 700 clients with much-needed household items and clothing.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: December 2017 Edition

Dec 28, 2017

For this month’s volunteer spotlight, we set out to survey our volunteer community in regard to a concept that is often very important to folks around this time of year—the idea of "home." The thought of being “home for the holidays” is central to many people’s experience at this time of year, but what that word “home” means can be very different from person to person. With that in mind, we touched based with some of our volunteer across programs to see what home meant to them.


Lara M., Clinic Concierge Volunteer: Home is a place to feel comforted and unconditionally cared for. At home we can feel regarded as individuals with our own strengths, fears and dreams. Home can be a place to feel supported, regardless of the mistakes and messes we make. Home can feel like a warm, all-encompassing hug. Physical homes go away, but what usually remains are the feelings experienced there, both the good, and the rough. In my heart, home means that I hold close not only the unconditional love I received growing up, but also the encouragement and motivation I continue to gather from friendships I’ve made along the way. When I visit that “home” of unconditional love in my heart, it bolsters my resiliency, provides courage and inspires me to share my idea of home out to the world.


Judy S., Clinic Concierge Volunteer: So, home for the holidays, for me that means being somewhere that I feel safe and comfortable and ideally with friends and family around. I just moved back to Portland a year or so ago, so before that I was living somewhere where I wasn’t close to anyone and I really felt what it was like to be all alone. So now that I’m back here it feels so good to me to just know that there are people that know me and care about me.



Helen H., EAC Administrative Volunteer: Acceptance, respect, all the things that go in to helping us feel like we belong. Feeling a part of something is important to most people, for their self-respect, for their self-esteem. I don’t think of home as a place. I’ve have never really been attached to place. I don’t know whether that’s due to my background of having moved constantly throughout my childhood, because I was raised in poverty and never owned a home, but people and community became more important to me. And, family.


Kyle G., Pharmacy Volunteer: When I think about that I think about Joe Dirt, the movie. So there’s this one person in the movie that said, “Home is where you make it.” And I think that kind of resonates with me because you don’t essentially have to be in a home that your parents own or someone owns, you just have to be surrounded by people that care about you. That’s where home is. Home is actually pretty different for me from year to year because sometimes I’m with my Dad, and sometimes I’m with my aunt, sometimes I’m living with my brother, so as long as I’m surrounded by people who care about me and look out for each other’s wellbeing that’s where home is for me.





Lana C., Clinic Concierge Volunteer: Home to me means to be a part of something that makes me feel welcomed, accepted, comforted, safe, and loved unconditionally. These feelings can only be felt due to people. Whether it’s a single person or a group of people, it doesn’t matter, but never to a physical place alone. Lucky for us that means our sense of home is never stagnant or far. It can be as close to us as our own hearts beating within our chest or in every person we meet throughout our lives, in any corner of the world.


Jen K., On-call Administrative Volunteer: To me, home means a place to return to for comfort and rest. It's where I can let my guard down and just be myself.




The 2017 Sandy Anderson Award Winner: Way More than "just an enforcer"

Dec 20, 2017

During the Old Town Clinic (OTC) all-staff meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 6, Billie Kay Stafford, OTC's operations manager, was recognized with the Health Services Advisory Council’s (HSAC) 2017 Sandy Anderson Award.

Billie Kay, or BK as she's affectionately known across Central City Concern, was an exemplary choice to be this year's awardee. For the last three years, the Sandy Anderson Award has been given by HSAC to a staff person who:

- Is always person-centered in their interactions with consumers.
- Puts the needs and goals of consumers first.
- Listens deeply and sees and hears beyond how people might seem on the surface.
- Is collaborative and solves problems with us instead of for us.
- Keeps long-term care goals in mind while also meeting people where they are.
- Can instill hope, no matter what.

Billie Kay is well-known and much-admired for the excellent job she does keeping OTC a calm and safe environment. If a patient is upset, she deftly intervenes in a way that makes them feel heard and de-escalates them, but also makes it clear what the clinic rules are around behavior to keep OTC a welcoming environment for everyone.

As our Old Town Clinic has grown in the number of patients we serve, the staff we employ, and the services we offer, Billie Kay has been an essential part of improving patient access and the patient experience. Despite the countless moving parts that make OTC what it is, Billie Kay makes sure that the clinic operates as efficiently as possible.

Upon the announcement of her recognition, Billie Kay received a standing ovation from OTC staff. Clearly touched, she said through tears and, as always in her trademark Texas accent, that the award was especially meaningful for her in light of its namesake and past honorees.

"I look at the people that have gotten this and the person it's named after as being people with huge hearts, that everybody respects and loves. I see myself as just the people think of as just the enforcer."

Billie Kay's commitment to centering our clinic's work on the people we serve, her ability to collaborate to solve problems big and small, and her obvious love of our patients ensure that her colleagues certainly see Billie Kay as more than that. "I love my job and I love y'all," she said.

Congratulations, Billie Kay!

Past winners of the Sandy Anderson Award include OTC Care Team Manager Carol Weber in 2015 and Old Town Recovery Center psychiatrist Phil Shapiro in 2016.



Adding it up for the better

Dec 19, 2017

My name is Robert. On April 17, 2007, I gave up drugs, alcohol, and hopelessness. I began to take control of my life. The process hasn’t been easy, and there has been failure along the way, but one of the biggest lessons I learned while working with Central City Concern, is that you must keep moving forward. Central City Concern helped me discover the curiosity of a boy again, and that’s how I uncovered my true calling—I am a teacher.

As a child, I was in the foster care system, bouncing from Portland to Colorado to California to Kansas City and back. I was in and out of my mother’s house, my grandmother’s house, and a lot of unsafe places along the way. Every time I thought I could settle in, I was uprooted again. No foundation. No consistency. No stability. I was never in one place long enough to call it home.

During my teenage years I finally landed back at my mother’s house permanently. She fed me. She clothed me. She told me to go to school. But there was no nurturing. There was no encouragement or positive modeling behavior. Mom was tormented by her own issues, and I was on my own.

While at school, I detached. I struggled in and out of the classroom, unable to find anywhere to fit in. I began to use drugs and my habit quickly escalated into addiction. Drugs were an addition to the facade I’d been presenting for years. I was always trying to be someone else . . . someone who I thought was more interesting and entertaining. I became a people pleaser. I became the guy who made everyone else feel at ease. But I could never feel at ease, myself. Addiction and homelessness ruled my life for the next 20 years.

The only constant over that time was my grandmother. She was always there for me no matter what. For a period, when I was deep in my addiction, I was staying at her house. She was patient, but constantly reminded me: “Boy, you know you’re better.” Those words haunted me, and ultimately motivated me to seek help from Central City Concern. Her belief in me continues to be an inspiration to this day.

My transformation started in 2007, when Central City Concern set me up in one of their downtown apartments. I’d been sleeping behind dumpsters and couch-surfing until I was handed those keys.

”I uncovered my true calling – I am a teacher.”

Housing was the pivotal piece to me staying clean and sober. Just knowing that I would be able to go into my own apartment and lock the door behind me made all the difference.

I felt safe. I finally had a place to call home. I started to trust people, and with the help of many, I gained confidence in myself. I was able to engage in recovery meetings in my building, and was supported by on-site treatment counselors. I stayed in CCC housing for just over three years, which gave me the time and space to improve my life.

Central City Concern’s Employment Access Center (EAC) offered the support I needed to pursue an education, and a career. I worked one-on-one with an employment specialist. There were job readiness classes, mock interviews, and I learned about the importance of first impressions and being professional. The EAC staff gave me clothes for job interviews and everybody there played an important role in my success.

My employment specialist helped me get a job working in construction, but I was laid off during the recession in 2009. I kept moving forward though, and at the urging of my employment specialist, I enrolled in Portland Community College (PCC). While in school, an instructor encouraged me to push myself in the field of mathematics. I took his advice, and a few years later, graduated near the top of my class.

Today I work as a math tutor at Portland Community College. Being in that role has helped me learn how to be of service to others—how to work with people to find different ways to solve problems.

”I have a purpose... a passion... perspective.”

Along with tutoring at PCC, I’m doing a practicum at a Portland middle school. My goal is to be a full-time middle school math teacher—that’s where I can make the biggest difference. Middle school was when I stopped understanding math, and lost interest in school. Those kids remind me a lot of myself when I was that age. They’re trying to fit in, and at the same time they’re trying to blend into the background. I see a lot of masks. Math is a barrier for many kids and I want to help them get through that. I want to help them shed the masks early in life, and move forward to fulfill their potential.

I will graduate from Portland State University next year, and then pursue my Master’s in education. I have a love for serving others by teaching them how to be comfortable with numbers. Eleven years ago, Central City Concern gave me stability, and the opportunity to identify that love.

I’ve grown. I’m outgoing. I care about others, and I don’t hide the real me anymore. My grandmother was right, and Central City Concern helped me to see that. I will forever be grateful.



The 12 Ways of Christmas... Holiday Giving!

Dec 05, 2017

Whenever December gets into full swing, we’re asked how people can support Central City Concern as a way to do good during the holiday season. This year, we’ve compiled a dozen ways you can give to CCC, making it easier than ever to find a way that works for you to make a difference in the lives of our clients!


Willamette Week’s Give!Guide: Portland easiest path to year-end giving. Visit CCC’s Give!Guide page to make a gift while earning fun incentives. Plus, donating $10 or more on Big Give Days gives you a chance to win an extra special prize package!


Double your impact: If you decide to become a monthly donor or to increase your current monthly donation to CCC through our secure online donation portal, the Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund will match your gift dollar for dollar! A $25 monthly donation will become $50, a $50 monthly gift becomes $100, and so on!


Adopt-a-Child: Help us bring joy this holiday season to the more than 300 children living in CCC’s family housing! Learn how you or your business can help make the holidays bright for our families working toward recovery and stability.
 


In-kind Wish List: Portland’s wet and cold winter season creates unique needs and challenges for our clients, especially for those who are living outside. Our In-kind Amazon Wish List offers a convenient way to purchase and donate items to meet our current needs.


AmazonSmile: Many people find Amazon.com to be a convenient way to take care of their shopping. The AmazonSmile program allows you to link your Amazon shopping cart to CCC so that a portion of your Amazon purchases will be donated to us.


Volunteer: Giving can always be more than about money or items. CCC volunteers give their time, skills and presence to help our programs do more and do better. Visit our Volunteer page to learn more about our opportunities or submit an interest form.


Make a one-time gift online: Make a one-time monetary gift through our secure donation website and know that your donation will make a difference in the lives of people CCC serves. Even a $50 gift can be used to provide shoes for three children in CCC’s family housing program.


Season of Sharing: The Oregonian has chosen CCC’s Letty Owings Center (LOC) as a featured beneficiary in the paper’s annual holiday fundraising drive. Read the Season of Sharing story to find out how our inpatient treatment program for young mothers can alter the path of a young family for good.


Cooking Matters Wish List: We are currently in need of kitchen supplies to help keep Cooking Matters—a program that teaches our clients cooking basics and healthy eating—going at CCC. Our Cooking Matters Amazon Wish List makes it easy for you to donate the items we need!


Evergreen In-kind Needs: Download our list of year-round needs to find out how you can provide items for the people we serve, whatever time of year you’re able to give. In most cases, we will accept items in both new or gently used condition.


Fred Meyer Community Rewards: Did you know that you can support us while shopping at any Fred Meyer store? All you need to do is link your Fred Meyer Rewards account to CCC. Once it’s linked, Fred Meyer will donate a portion of your spending to CCC!


Events: Keep an eye on the CCC events page for information about upcoming fundraising events. Each year, hundreds of community members gather to support and celebrate the work CCC is doing to end homelessness one person at a time.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: November 2017 Edition

Nov 30, 2017

This month’s spotlight features a volunteer who came aptly qualified for our Cooking Matters program, which is a partnership between Central City Concern and the Oregon Food Bank that teaches clients the skills and knowledge required for healthy cooking and eating habits. Having previously volunteered with a different Cooking Matters session and given her experience in the health care industry, she couldn’t have been a better fit to volunteer with the program! Linda Nguyen, who supervised Nickie in the program, said about her work, “The Cooking Matters team at Old Town Clinic was honored to have Nickie share her time and knowledge with our program. Nickie’s kind, calm, and compassionate spirit helped create a friendly environment where our clients felt safe and supported throughout the 6-weeks program.”

Read on to see why Nickie has continued to volunteer with the Cooking Matters program, and what was so special about the classes at CCC.

• • •

Peter: What is your name and volunteer position?

Nickie: My name is Nickie Dane and I am the Cooking Matters lead assistant.

P: And you had done the Cooking Matters program before coming to CCC, right?

N: Yes, I was a grocery store tour coordinator [with a Cooking Matters program] in North Carolina. People would be referred to this day of tours through the health department or WIC [the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children], and we’d put on like six in one day, so people would come in and go through the grocery store and get a “10 dollar challenge” where they got to practice buying things from the different food groups.

P: And how is this class different than the one you had done before?

N: It’s different in that it’s over a six-week period, while those other ones it was just an afternoon, so they come in and get an hour or two hour tour and that was it. With this there would be follow up and participants would come in and talk about the recipes and what they’d done at home that was a little healthier. It was exciting seeing people make the commitment and keep coming. There were a good eleven people who did the whole class. I just enjoyed people being excited about cooking and health.

"It was exciting seeing people make the commitment and keep coming.... I just enjoyed people being excited about cooking and health."
-Nickie, CCC Volunteer

P: What is it about Cooking Matters that is meaningful for you and kept you coming back to it?

N: I work in the health care industry and seeing the lack of information given to people by traditional primary care providers about what people can do to improve their health as far lifestyle and food choice goes has been a big driver. I think that prevention needs a little more attention and if they haven't gotten it from their doctor then they can get it from other sources, like Cooking Matters.

P: What were the common questions or misconceptions that folks had?

N: So, some of the things that come up are like, “Why do we have to look at saturated fat?” So, we’ll have a conversation about heart disease and they’ll go, “Oh well, I have some heart problems,” or high blood pressure and that will lead us down the conversation of sodium intake and reading food labels. And they never knew they should look at that part of the food label and they didn’t know that sodium affected their blood pressure significantly. Because their doctor might have said, “Oh, try to cut back on salt,” but they didn’t really understand why or get into a conversation any deeper than that.

P: I think we do hear that a lot, just sort of, “You should eat better.”

N: Yeah, just really generic instructions and there’s not a how you should do that, or why you should do that.

P: Is that something that is part of the Cooking Matters program, more than just “you should,” but this is how this affects your body?

N: Yes! And not just that, but understanding how a recipe works and if you don’t have a recipe, how to take the foods you’re getting at the food pantry or what you’re able to purchase at a low price and how to make that into something healthy and also looking at things like leaving the peels on fruits and vegetables, because that gives you more fiber. And fiber is better for you because it helps prevent cancer and lowers you cholesterol, so these are things we all talk about in the class over the six weeks. Lots of questions, lots of “Oh, I didn’t know that!”

P: Were there any common reasons that folks weren’t always able to access healthy food?

N: I think one of the barriers living in this area is access to healthy food, so purposefully going out of your way to go to the bigger grocery stores to buy fresh produce. That is a big barrier, because it’s easy to just go down to that little convenience store that’s right there.

P: I think that’s something we can all relate to, if it’s hard to fit that time in to your week or you don’t have a car or reliable transit, just valuing food enough to make that time to make that trip and that effort.

N: Yes. And seeing that it’s not a huge hurdle. It can be a hurdle, but we took the bus to Fred Meyer so they got to see that it just took a few minutes.

Another thing that would come up is the kitchens that they have available to them. They would say, “Oh, I don’t have this, I don’t have an oven, I only have a microwave or a hotplate.” So we’d talk about different ways to get around that so you could still have the healthy food and the good options and kind of overcoming not having measuring cups, little things that we take for granted.

P: Were there any stand out moments from the class?

N: I loved the last day when everyone got to come together and talk about what they learned and the recipes that they liked and just got to hang out. I think a bunch of people stayed later and we all took pictures and everyone got a little award and an apron and they just talked about how much they loved it and how they want to take more classes.

The last day we also played food jeopardy. Alison [the lead chef for Cooking Matters] set up this Jeopardy board and prizes, like mixing spoons and things like that they could use, and everyone did so well remembering things like what temperature you need to cook chicken to and what’s the biggest way you can prevent disease or foodborne illness, which was “wash your hands,” which everyone knew.

I got to know some people and the hard things they’ve gone through and what they’ve overcome. And now that they’re getting back in to a stable lifestyle this is something where they can meet people and learn a new skill and take their health into their own hands. I think having something to stick with and to get out and meet people and interact with them was really good for several participants. There was a couple in there too and they used it as their date night. And one of them didn’t like vegetables at all, or only certain vegetables, so it kind of pushed him outside of his comfort zone. And that was cool to see.

P: And what was important about this experience for you?

N: Seeing how resilient people are. It was so neat to get to know people over these six weeks and hearing what they’re going through with their health and illness, rough backgrounds, and the social isolation and they’re just putting themselves out there and working to get better. When I work as a paramedic, I talk to someone for about 15 to 30 minutes, and that’s about it, and I leave them at the hospital, so I don’t really get beyond, “What are you feeling right now?” Working with this population, which I don’t get to do very often, it kind of pushed me beyond my comfort zone in effective communications and how to talk about things that are hard without being biased or offending anyone.

P: And what keeps you coming back to volunteer?

N: It feels so good, people thank you, and hopefully I’ll get to see people on the street now walking around in this area and say hi and catch up and make connections.

P: It’s a great reminder that we’re all in this space together and you can make a connection like that.

"It’s nice to just break it down and just understand that while they have a completely different life from what I have, they are valuable, they are human, and want interactions. We’re all people in this community."

N: Just even walking over here, I try to smile at people on the street when I’m walking by and maybe they don’t get attention or noticed or whatever, so just smiling and saying hi and just watching them be like, “Oh, Hi!” It’s nice to just break it down and just understand that while they have a completely different life from what I have, they are valuable, they are human, and want interactions. We’re all people in this community.

P: And for our traditional last questions, if you met someone who was on the fence about volunteering with CCC, other than that wonderful pitch you just gave to me, what would you tell them?

N: Oh, I mean, even if you just do a little bit I think that seeing other ways of life or confronting things that you have a bias toward or against, it just makes you feel more connected to humanity. It makes you feel more human. And more empathetic. That’s a big, big part of why I’m doing this. It’s so important to interact with people that you don’t normally and do something for another person.

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If reading about Nickie and Cooking Matters inspires you to make a donation of items, we are in need of kitchen supplies to help keep the class going at Central City Concern. Our Cooking Matter Amazon Wish List makes it easy for you donate, or you can contact our Donor Relations Manager, Catharine Hunter at catharine.hunter@ccconcern.org if you have quality used materials from the list that you would like to donate.

And if you are interested in learning more about volunteer positions in at Central City Concern’s health and recovery, housing, or employment programs, contact Peter Russell, CCC’s Volunteer Manager, at peter.russell@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.



A Room Full of Furry Faces

Nov 28, 2017

The following was written by Bonnie Suba, who provides security at our Old Town Clinic, about Kally Stark, a phlebotomist who serves patients at OTC.

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For a couple of years now, I have been the security officer at the Old Town Clinic. I provide safety and security for both staff and patients, as well as visitors. I complete rounds during closing of regular business hours and meet and greet staff that are finishing up for the day. I usually will come upon some staff members that are committed to finishing the day’s tasks no matter the quitting time. I usually peek my head in the doorway and inquire if everything is okay or anything needed. This brings me to the purpose of me sharing this story.

A few months ago, as I was doing my regular rounds of the clinic, I was checking the second floor and noticed that Kally was still in her lab. Kally is a phlebotomist and works in a small room without windows. I can see Kally from the doorway, but I do not enter the lab because I find that the lab is private, being that blood or bodily fluids are being removed from someone. I find this to be very private in nature and usually an anxiety-filled moment. Therefore, sometimes I just signal her a “thumbs up” and she gives me a “thumbs up” in response, acknowledging that she is fine and soon to be going home.

However, this one day, I decided to step into her laboratory to speak to her. When I stepped into her lab, I was captivated by all the black and white pictures of dogs and cats and a rabbit and possibly a squirrel that lined her walls in the laboratory. I asked Kally where she got all these pictures of these animals. She told me that most of them were photos of her client’s pets. She explained to me that most of the patients come into the lab and are already highly anxious about coming into the clinic and even more so the lab. She shared with me that many clients have little more than their pets. Having pictures of their pets on the walls eases their anxiety and makes the process more personal than clinical for the patient.

She shared with me that many clients have little more than their pets. Having pictures of their pets on the walls eases their anxiety and makes the process more personal than clinical for the patient.

There were 8x10 pictures lining the walls and another wall behind the door where some of the staff’s canines and felines. Kally stood there and told me the names of the pets on the wall and about some of the clients that owned them. I felt a personal touch and peacefulness when Kally was explaining all the pictures and how she wanted her clients to feel less anxious while being in the world in which she works—drawing blood.

While the placing of photos of canines and felines may seem small and insignificant, they have a comforting and enduring impact on the wellbeing of the clients. I truly want to acknowledge that Kally created a therapeutic environment, probably without even knowing it. She has genuinely gone above and beyond her calling in her profession! I applaud you Kally and I am certain that your clients give you a standing ovation!