Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: March 2017 Edition

Mar 29, 2017

Just last month, Central City Concern launched the Flip the Script program with the goal of providing housing, cultural peer support, and employment specialists to support African Americans’ reentry into the community when leaving a criminal justice program. Without employment or housing, African Americans have a 36 percent chance of re-entering the system; addressing those pitfalls was crucial to their success.

But before the conversations around solutions could begin, CCC needed to identify the presenting issues, snags, and concerns facing this population.

Enter CCC volunteer, MJ.

Although much of his work was behind closed doors and in front of computer screens, the critical role MJ played in laying the foundation for the Flip the Script program was imperative to the successful launch of Flip the Script. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with MJ and ask him about the groundwork it took to assist in getting this program rolled out.

• • •

Name and Volunteer Position: Michael Jones but I go by MJ.

And my volunteer proposition to you all was “Hey, if you’ve got some data, I would love to volunteer to analyze it.”

Because I thought you can do two things with that. I thought, one, we could help improve the program wherever that data came from so we can find some areas for improvement. And two, I thought this data could help you all tell your story about how you’re driving the impact in the community.

I do believe if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it. But I also really know that data can close deals.

It sounds like our Employment Access Center was able to take you up on your offer, specifically for their Flip the Script Program.
Coming from a business background it’s all about ROI—the return on investment—and when I thought about it you guys have probably the largest ROI in the history of the world. Seriously. If you look at what does it cost to incarcerate a person versus what does it cost when a person is a productive member of society? That’s sort of the ROI that I see.

So with that I started to dig in, and with Freda [Ceaser, CCC’s director of Employment Services), was given a project to go run with. Once I got in, like with every large organization, it turned out to be kind of complicated. We were sort at the classic starting point of not having all of the data. CCC had some data based on where individuals were housed with intake and exit interviews, but the data actually started back with the Department of Corrections.

And then as we started to dig further, it goes into the Department of Justice. I thought it was pretty amazing in the early stages of this project that Freda was able to wrangle those folks to come and get everyone in the same room. We had people driving up from Salem, from DOJ and DCJ, and we spent some time on a whiteboard and it did turn out to be very complicated. I sketched it all out and said well they have this piece and they have this piece but how do we marry those together.

It was pretty great and they sort of rallied around that this was a good idea. We did really need to keep people’s privacy and security in mind so we did talk about the cleaning of the data so it’s non-identifiable. But gosh, after a couple of months, everybody provided all of the bits and we were able to paste it together and basically what we had was 1,000 records and those represented 1,000 people.

That sounds like quite a bit of collaboration and work! Do you feel like the results were well-received?
I feel like what I presented to your team, people were really excited. They were like, “We’ve never seen anything like this. We’ve never seen the data presented in this way. We’ve never seen this much data. We’ve never heard the story told on top of it and we’ve always been looking at a small piece.” It really opened their eyes to some really healthy discussion and debate around the causation of recidivism and then a lot of thinking on how to improve it.

Recidivism is such a common thread for so many. What were some of the causes you discovered?
For instance one of the top reasons for recidivism is an individual, or a sex offender, not registering their location. But when you think about it, well, if you don’t have a home it’s kind of hard to register your location.

We uncovered some things that seem a little counterintuitive. Like how to some degree people would be less likely to recidivate if they stayed in a shelter, or if they even lived on the street, than if they went to live with friends. And that group that said they lived with friends had an incredibly high recidivism rate. But when you think about it, it makes total sense because that’s getting back to your bad habits. And so I think that helped really enlighten things.

And MJ, what made you want to get involved with Central City Concern in the first place?
I was motivated because of the homelessness situation that we’ve seen unfold in the past three years and I’m not one to just sit on the sidelines. I like to take action so I decided I wanted to volunteer locally and that seemed to be the biggest problem I could see locally.

And I was impressed [with Central City Concern]. There’s a huge number of organizations that are helping homeless populations in a variety of ways, but I really liked CCC because you guys focused on the health angle, the employment angle, and the housing angle and so I saw that as more sustainable. I guess I saw that as teaching a person to fish rather than giving them a fish.

And I love the social enterprise angle because I think that gives people real world work experience and it gives people the skills they need but it’s actually a real company and it’s about generating revenue. So I’m wild about that. We’re not just throwing cash at people but we’re teaching them life skills. It’s a bigger organization than I thought and I’d say it’s more innovative.

Is there anything you would think about doing differently if you volunteered again?
I loved it but in hindsight I was thinking my flaw in that volunteering opportunity was that these people were still numbers. And I think it would be good for me to see them as people and not numbers. And so I think being critical of my own volunteer experience, it was a very clinical and analytic sort of play where I think I could build more empathy if I got closer to the people rather than spreadsheets of numbers. Which is to say I have a couple of other things I want to work on, volunteering things, but that thinking has helped me inform my future strategy around my volunteering opportunities and wanting to be a little bit closer to it.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: Thanksgiving 2016 Edition

Nov 28, 2016

Last week, Central City Concern was extremely fortunate to have twelve community members volunteer their time to help serve Thanksgiving Eve meals to our residents at several of our supportive housing communities. We know that it takes special people to give their time during such a busy time of year. CCC's volunteer manager, Eric Reynolds, wanted to find out what compelled our volunteers to do just that, so he spent his Wednesday afternoon visiting each volunteer site to ask!

• • •

Elise, Kyle, and Dennis, volunteers at the Madrona:
Elise: "I’ve volunteered with Central City Concern for the last three Thanksgivings and I always come back because it’s just really great to see how appreciative people are to receive and share together. I like to be able to help provide that."
Kyle: "I always enjoy working with the people here and all the residents and how happy they are to have our help here. It makes Thanksgiving that much more special." 
Dennis: "This is my first time here but I signed up to come here because I really like CCC’s cause and I believe in it, so I want to give back specifically to the people CCC helps."

Jenn, volunteer at the Martha Washington:
"It was a great opportunity to give back to CCC, which has done so many great things for me. It’s a good way to get out and meet people who are involved in the organization."

 

 

 

Maureen and Steve, volunteers at the Estate:
Maureen: "I’m thankful to have the ability to help others."
Steve: "I spend most of my time being of service to myself, but it’s good to be of service to others when I can. We aren’t born with a sense of purpose… we have to find that ourselves."

 

Peter, volunteer at the Biltmore:
"Everyone deserves Thanksgiving. I’m thankful to be part of something larger than myself."

 

 

 

 

Scott, volunteer at the Biltmore:
"It gives me more than it gives them. I enjoy it as a way to give back."

 

 

 

 

Shannon, volunteer at the Richard Harris:
"I volunteer because it’s the holidays and I like to give back. I grew up very religious so it was part of my upbringing. And even though I’m not as religious now I like to give back because it’s in my blood. It was so lovely working with this group. It was awesome."


 



What's 100,000 Hours Good For? One CCC Program Knows.

Nov 16, 2016

Popular belief says that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. What, then, does 100,000 hours allow you to do?

At Central City Concern’s (CCC) Community Volunteer Corps (CVC) program, those hours have been used to change people, provide hope, and make a wide impact on the Portland community through volunteerism. And on Wednesday, November 9, the CCC community gathered to celebrate the 100,000 total hours of volunteer service CVC participants have contributed over the last seven years, during which people affected by homelessness, addictions, or past criminality have gained work experience while giving back.

“What’s taken us so long?”
On what many remember as the rainiest day in April 2009, a 15-seat passenger van pulled into Irving Park in Northeast Portland. Twelve people—each recently housed by Central City Concern, engaged in CCC’s addiction recovery services, and unemployed (or, depending on who you asked, unemployable)—piled out wearing waterproof boots and plastic ponchos. At the direction of Portland Parks & Recreation, they quickly got to work pulling weeds and raking leaves in the downpour.

        

A blown-up photo that hangs in the CVC conference room commemorates this ragtag group, the first of hundreds that would contribute volunteer work all over Portland. Since then, CVC has brought work crews to an astounding range of local nonprofits, including organizations like Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity, Free Geek, ReBuilding Center, and Oregon Food Bank. In all, CVC has partnered with 32 total organizations.

The idea for CVC grew out of a conversation Central City Concern Executive Director, Ed Blackburn, had with his father in 2008. Because it was the height of the Great Recession, his father reminisced about his experiences as a young man during the Great Depression. Much to Ed’s surprise, his father told him of the time he was arrested for burglary, and given two options by the judge: spend time in jail, or join the Civilian Conservation Corps, a program created during the Great Depression that put young men back to work.

He opted for the latter. His time there, Ed’s father told him, “changed his life. Saved his life. It taught him to appreciate teamwork and to do something good together with others. It prepared him for work in the long run. He learned skills and work ethic.”

Ed knew that many people arriving in Central City Concern’s addiction recovery and mental health programs, particularly those who had experienced great hardship on the street, had an intense passion to help people and to give back, even when they didn’t necessarily have the tools to do so. He also knew that they had a lot of time on their hands. So after hearing about how the Civilian Conservation Corps helped his father develop a foundation to be productive the rest of his life, Ed wondered if CCC could do something similar.


Several conversations with employees in recovery and meetings with potential funders later, the Community Volunteer Corps was ready to take that first van full of volunteers to Irving Park.

“The one thing I heard from everyone was, ‘What’s taken us so long?’” Ed recalled.

Participation in the Community Volunteer Corps gives CCC clients an opportunity to ease their transition into the workforce and increases their self-confidence. Volunteer projects—pulling ivy, painting over graffiti, recycling computers, building homes for needy families, beautifying parks, and so much more—give participants an outlet to be productive in tangible ways during a time when their recovery demands intensive self-work and self-care.

Furthermore, a common refrain among participants is that CVC allows them to “give back” to the community they feel they hurt or took away from while active in their addiction.

When clients enroll in CVC, they make a commitment to the program. But perhaps more importantly, they make a commitment to their future. During an average of two to four months, participants carve out time between recovery meetings, appointments, and other obligations to volunteer a total of 80 hours with CVC. During that time, they develop soft skills that are foundational to permanent employment: showing up on time, getting along with others, following directions, practicing good work habits, and following through on commitments.


Every other month, the Central City Concern community gathers to celebrate those who recently completed their 80 hours. At the ceremony, each graduate receives photos from their time with CVC, a certificate of completion, and a letter of recommendation they can attach to their future resumes.

Permission to Believe
Since that rainy April day, 1,600 people have participated in the Community Volunteer Corps. Of them, 1,001 have completed their 80-hour commitments to the program.

Hundreds of journeys have started with the growth and encouragement afforded by the CVC experience. After graduating, participants find themselves ready and qualified for permanent employment, a position that may have felt impossible just months prior. Graduates have gone on to become hired as maintenance workers, construction workers, truck drivers, real estate brokers, and even counselors.

Still, the CVC program is more than just a chance to develop marketable skills. Through shared van rides with work crews, conversations with CVC staff members who serve as mentors, and the simple act of doing something to benefit someone else, participants rebuild their self-worth and make amends to their community.

“It was so huge for me to get outside of myself and help someone else,” a graduate shared on Wednesday.

As a milestone, 100,000 hours, like each CVC graduation ceremony, feels final. But as anyone who has gone through the program will tell you, CVC is—more than anything—about building toward something bigger. Participants can dare to define their futures by possibility and potential rather than their past mistakes.

“Completing CVC gave me permission to believe that I could succeed,” another new graduate said.

Every day, Central City Concern engages people who are finding stability and looking to give back and get better. Because of them, the Community Volunteer Corps has no plans to stop at 100,000 hours, or 1,001 graduates, or 32 partners. There’s too much potential out there.

 

 



The Impact of Never Giving Up

Nov 14, 2016

The road has been long. It’s been bumpy. It’s been forked. And sometimes, it’s even been closed. But when Keva S. makes up her mind to start something… she finishes. A 2016 graduate of Oregon Health & Science University, Keva is now employed as a Physician Assistant at Central City Concern’s Old Town Clinic. She’s come a long way since getting clean and sober ten years ago.

As a child, bouncing between an alcoholic mother, a cocaine-addicted father, and foster care in Michigan, Keva couldn’t count on where she and her two younger brothers would be sleeping next. As a young adult, she moved to Portland, where an unstable and unhealthy lifestyle continued. After enduring years of addiction, illness, violence, and eventually homelessness, Keva checked into Central City Concern’s Hooper Detox. Soon after, she received a key to a tiny Central City Concern apartment and entered Central City Concern’s Recovery Mentor program. There, “the world just flipped,” Keva says.

With new confidence and hope for the future, Keva engaged in Central City Concern’s Employment Access Center. An employment specialist helped her put together a résumé and look for a job. Soon Keva found a program that allowed her to earn certification as a phlebotomist. For the next seven years, she worked at a hospital, drawing blood. But Keva wanted to go further.

Watching resident medical students do rounds in the hospital where she worked inspired Keva to enroll in a pre- med program at Portland State University. A presentation she saw on homelessness and the need for Physician Assistants piqued her interest. So she set her sights on OHSU.

In 2014, Keva was one of 1,300 applicants for 42 spots in OHSU’s Physician Assistant program. Not only did she get in, she was a unanimous choice and received a scholarship.

In August, Keva graduated from OHSU and applied to work at Central City Concern’s Old Town Clinic. Explaining her motivation for wanting to work at Old Town Clinic, Keva shares, “When you’re a homeless addict, not many people are nice to you. And I had had lots of health problems, so I got to see lots of doctors at lots of hospitals and clinics. The people at Old Town Clinic were the only ones that treated me with respect. They were nice to me. They were willing to see me when I didn’t have money, or insurance, or anything else—and just needed health care. That was huge to me.”

Keva’s first day was September 6, 2016. She started seeing patients in October. She believes her experience overcoming addiction and homelessness will give her unique insight into her new profession—working with people who may not have any money, or insurance, or anything else. “Despite all the resources that it takes, it pays off,” she says. “When you look at somebody like me, and the medical bills I would have had, and that eventually I would have ended up in jail … I would have needed public support forever, until my death. None of that happened. All of that money that would have been spent supporting me just to sustain my addiction didn’t happen because Central City Concern offered me help. And so instead, I’ve gotten to turn everything around. And make money, and donate money, and be productive, and give back.

“Central City Concern on an urgent level, stabilized me. They provided me with a home, so that I could go to treatment every day, and so that I could get that process started. They gave me a mentor. They gave me a whole team of people who told me I could do things when I didn’t think I could. They gave me back dignity. They gave me a life. They gave me the opportunity to hope for a life.

“Now I’m going to try and give that opportunity to other people.”



​‘Tis the season for CCC's Adopt-A-Child Program!

Nov 04, 2016

This year, Central City Concern opened a new building in Clackamas County, which became home to 60 families. That makes 148 families now living in Central City Concern family housing.

We are thankful for 236 children sleeping, learning, and growing in safe, supportive, and healthy homes. Now it’s time to give them some unforgettable holiday memories. Our goal is to make sure all 236 children have gifts to open this year.

     

Please consider fulfilling the wish list of one or more children by registering individually, or as a group, to help provide holiday presents for all. We will share the first name and gift wish list of each child you choose to adopt.

Additionally, here are a few other ways you can help during the holiday season:

- Start a Toy Drive at your workplace.
- Send gift cards for families to fulfill wish lists.

For more information on how you can get involved, please contact Melissa Bishop at 971-352-8715 or melissa.bishop@ccconcern.org.

Thank you so much!

 



CCC Outreach Workers Fill Gaps in Health Care

Oct 21, 2016

On Monday, PBS Newhour aired a fascinating and insightful segment on the rise of utilizing community health workers—already popular in other parts of the world like Sub-Saharan Africa—to better serve vulnerable and hard-to-reach patients. (You can watch the video above or on the PBS website.) As the segment makes clear, community health workers play a vital role in helping patients improve their health.

At Central City Concern, a number of our specialized health care programs rely on Outreach Workers to engage those we serve in direct, meaningful ways that truly exemplify our commitment to meeting patients where they are.

The Community Health Outreach Workers (CHOW) team works to bring individuals who are newly enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan (Oregon’s state Medicaid program) into our Primary Care Home, where patients can find barrier-free access, team-based care, integrated mental health and addiction treatment, and additional wellness resources. They’ve also been working with the care teams at Old Town Recovery Center, CCC’s mental health clinic, to help their clients get connected with primary care.

CHOW team members may meet people on the street, at shelters or hospitals, or in their own homes, and often check in with patients to ensure that they are engaged comfortably into the care available to them.

Members of the CCC Health Improvement Projects (CHIPs) team, also known as our Health Resilience Specialists, are embedded in the four main care teams at CCC’s Old Town Clinic (OTC). CHIPs team member work closely with OTC patients (what we call “high touch” support) who have shown a high rate of hospital emergency utilization, helping them decrease unnecessary hospital use by providing intensive case management and addressing social determinants of health. CHIPs team members meet patients at home, on the street, in the hospital, or wherever else the patient needs engagement to happen most.

For those already living in our housing, CCC’s Housed + Healthy team provides a direct pipeline from housing to CCC health care. By performing a needs assessment with new residents as they move into their CCC home, the Housed + Healthy team can identify high needs residents who have gaps in their health care support. The Housed + Healthy team can streamline the referral processes to connect residents to care and even increase coordination between service providers. Further, our Housed + Healthy team provides on-site wellness education programming to encourage healthy living.

The work and impact of Outreach Workers are so important that they can be found beyond the three teams we highlighted here; programs like CCC's Bud Clark Clinic, among others, also lean on Outreach Workers to build relationships with those who are vulnerable in order to connect them with basic health care and services.

The flexibility of CCC’s Outreach Workers allows them to bring care and compassion to our patients. Maintaining and improving health outcomes takes work outside clinic walls, and our Outreach Workers are there to walk that journey with those we serve!



Six health care organizations partner with CCC

Oct 11, 2016

We are so excited about our new collaboration with six Oregon healthcare organizations that was announced on September 23. Adventist Health, CareOregon, Kaiser Permanente, Legacy Health, OHSU and Providence Health & Services are joining together to invest $21.5 million in a unique partnership to respond to Portland’s urgent challenges in affordable housing, homelessness and healthcare. This unprecedented collaboration has gained national attention.

The investment will support 382 new housing units across three locations, including one with an integrated health center in Southeast Portland.

Governor Kate Brown said, "This project reflects what we've known for a long time -- health begins where we live, learn, work, and play. Stable, affordable housing and health care access are so often intertwined, and I’m gratified to see collaborative solutions coming from some of our state’s leading organizations. I applaud the efforts of all those involved and am grateful for the partnership in moving Oregon forward and making ours a home where each Oregonian thrives."

"It’s exciting that health care providers recognize the deep connection between housing and health care," said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. "This is exactly the kind of collaboration that our community needs during this housing crisis. None of us can solve homelessness alone. But this collaboration will change hundreds of lives at a critical time of need."

Eastside Health Center will serve medically fragile people and people in recovery from addictions and mental illness with a first-floor clinic and housing for 176 people. The center will also become the new home for an existing Central City Concern program, Eastside Concern, and will offer 24-hour medical staffing on one floor.

Stark Street Apartments in East Portland will provide 155 units of workforce housing.

Interstate Apartments in North Portland will provide 51 units designed for families. It is part of Portland’s North/Northeast Neighborhood Housing Strategy to help displaced residents return to their neighborhood.

This significant contribution is an excellent example of healthcare organizations coming together for the common good of our community. It also represents a transformational recognition that housing for lower income working people, including those that have experienced homelessness, is critical to the improvement of health outcomes. This housing will remain affordable for generations and it couldn’t come at a better time.

"Health and home go hand-in-hand," said Nan Roman, President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. "This is a breakthrough collaboration with the health care community and a partnership that has the potential to change the landscape of how we can end homelessness in this country."

Though the health care organizations' contributions are significant, CCC will finance the remainder of the costs, about $37 million, through tax credits, loans and fundraising. Our upcoming capital campaign is an opportunity for everyone to contribute to this project.

• • •

About Housing is Health: The Housing is Health network supports innovative approaches to housing and healthcare in the Portland region.

Learn more at www.centralcityconcern.org/announcement and join the conversation on social media at #HousingisHealth.

See photos from the press conference.

News articles:

- New York Times (AP)
- The Oregonian
- KGW
- OPB



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: JVC Volunteer Justin

Jul 26, 2016

Justin Willis has known since adolescence that he would commit his life to serving those less fortunate than he.

“Both of my parents are in education, which lends itself to social justice,” says Willis, now age 26. “They encouraged me to do social justice work from a young age.”

While still a middle school and high school student in Federal Way, Washington, Willis participated in service learning projects through his church, working with migrant farmers in Bellingham, helping out in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and working with poor families in Mexico.

As an undergraduate at Seattle University (SU), a school he chose in large part because of its commitment to social justice, Willis taught math to students in a nearby elementary school where 96 percent of students live in poverty.

Willis studied biology and general sciences at SU, in preparation for medical school. He knew that he wanted to do a year of service before applying to med school, but he wasn’t sure where. When a former SU student came back to campus and gave a talk about his experiences as a Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) Northwest volunteer with Central City Concern’s Recuperative Care Program (RCP), Willis knew he had found a match.

“I thought ‘this is exactly what I want to do,’” Willis recalls, “work with homeless people in a sort of medical setting.”

In addition to the opportunity to work at RCP, Willis was excited about living with seven other like-minded individuals in a JVC Northwest house and walking through their volunteer journey together.

Willis worked as a patient liaison with RCP in 2012-13, helping clients navigate the health care system, interviewing them at the hospital, getting them established at CCC’s Old Town Clinic, moving them into the RCP facility and helping them transition from there into more permanent housing. He also held weekly case-management drop-in sessions to support patients once they left RCP.

Willis admits that one of the biggest initial challenges of working at RCP was his naivety about people who are experiencing homelessness in their daily lives.

“I came in wanting to make a difference and it was tough when that didn’t happen. I really had to understand that changes come slowly and in small steps,” he says.

As the year progressed, Willis did learn to appreciate the positive changes he and the staff at RCP helped their patients make, such as moving into transitional or permanent housing. He says that the entire RCP community was genuinely affected when good things happened.

Now a third-year student at University of Washington School of Medicine, Willis has continued his commitment to serving low-income communities. In his first two years of medical school, he volunteered and worked as clinic lead at Aloha Inn in Seattle, which provides housing to formerly homeless people. This year he made sure to get rotations in areas with impoverished populations, including one in rural Wyoming and another at Harborview Hospital in Seattle, a Level One Trauma Center serving five states.

Willis plans to go into pediatrics, working with underserved children and their parents to help prevent the adverse childhood events that are most likely to lead to drug use, poverty and homelessness.

Wherever he ends up, Willis will take with him many profound experiences from his days at RCP.

He says, “I learned the importance of not judging and not having preconceived notions about anyone I interact with. By far the most rewarding aspect was just being in the RCP building and talking to patients and hearing the path they had in their lives. Everyone there has incredible stories.”

• • •

Don't forget to visit our other JVC Volunteer Spotlights!

   



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: JVC Volunteer Carissa

Jul 26, 2016

A few patients gather in the common room of the old building, reading newspapers or grabbing sodas from the vending machine. A man in a wheelchair rolls in, while another takes up his post at a seat in the hallway. Carissa Marston greets them all by name, checking in with each as she makes her way upstairs.

Marston is a case manager with Central City Concern’s Recuperative Care Program (RCP), one of several CCC programs housed in downtown Portland’s historic Henry Building. She first joined the RCP in 2013 as a member of Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) Northwest and was hired a year later as a paid staff member.

Before Marston came to RCP, she had never worked with homeless or medically vulnerable adults, but she brought with her skills learned as a resident assistant in her college dorm in Louisiana.

“I had some experience in crisis management and responding to emergencies on the fly. Things usually go smoothly at RCP on a day-to-day basis, but I’ve found that my calm demeanor can be useful here,” Marston says.

One significant aspect of her job is screening new referrals made by area hospitals and social workers, ensuring that arriving patients will be a good fit for the program. All new patients must be able to perform daily living activities independently and have an acute need that can be resolved, Marston says.

“We’re not trying to screen people out,” Marston adds. “We’re trying to screen people in. We always think about how we can tweak the program to be more successful.”

Marston, one of five full-time caseworkers, begins her rounds each morning with juice and granola bars as a “peace offering” for waking up her patients. Throughout the day, she helps them get to medical and counseling appointments, and also helps prepare them for life after RCP. Most patients stay in the program for two to six weeks.

The 24 year old, who grew up outside of New Orleans, says that the learning curve at CCC was fast and furious, especially since she started the job soon after graduating from college.

“It was mind-blowing and eye-opening in every way,” Marston admits. One of the most important skills she’s learned over the years is how to communicate with patients, as well as how to communicate with those who don’t work in similar fields.

Living with four other people, all of whom have volunteered with JVC Northwest in the past, helps her deal with the intensity of the job. “It’s good to have that kind of audience,” Marston says.

The work has also been invigorating for her. Marston had long been considering a career in medicine, but was reluctant to make a commitment without experience.

“I’ve really enjoyed being here, at the borderline between medical care and social services. And I’ve had some really great mentors at Old Town Clinic,” she says.

At the end of the summer, Marston will be leaving the Northwest to start a three-year physician assistant program at Duke University in North Carolina, but she hopes to return to Portland when she earns her degree. Her dream job? A position with CCC, right back where she started.

• • •

Don't forget to visit our other JVC Volunteer Spotlights!

       



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: JVC Volunteer Amanda

Jul 26, 2016

Getting into a recovery program. Making it to medical appointments. Finding housing. These are just some of the life-changing steps that Amanda Foggia, patient liaison with Central City Concern’s Recuperative Care Program (RCP), sees her patients taking. For Foggia, witnessing patients achieve goals they once thought impossible is her job’s biggest pay-off.

“Moving someone into their own apartment, seeing them get their own keys, is one of the best things we do, “ says Foggia, who is in her second year as an RCP volunteer through Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) Northwest. “My mindset of success has changed dramatically since coming here.”

Originally from outside of Albany, New York, Foggia attended Fordham University, where she studied psychology. At Fordham, she also got her first exposure to the Jesuit philosophies of social justice and service work. She participated in several service immersion programs during her undergraduate years, traveling to India twice to work in orphanages and a home for sick women founded by Mother Teresa. She also worked with underserved populations in Montana and Colorado while still a student.

After graduating from Fordham, Foggia considered various volunteer positions around the country. She liked the urban locale of RCP, as well as the warm reception she got from JVC Northwest. She began working at RCP in the summer of 2014 and found it so rewarding that she signed on for a second year.

Foggia’s main responsibilities include determining who is eligible for the program and helping patients ranging in age from 18 to 86 meet their goals, from staying off drugs and alcohol to finding employment and reconnecting with family members.

She says that, initially, she spent a lot of time observing patients and other staff members, learning how to work with a population with which she had little experience.

“It’s an intense and challenging place,” Foggia says, “and at times it can feel overwhelming. You have to figure out how to stay fresh and positive.”

Living in a house in North Portland with seven other JVC Northwest volunteers has provided Foggia with much-needed moral support, but communal living also comes with challenges. She and her housemates hold weekly meals, household business meetings and spirituality nights. They also make all household decisions, such as how to spend their limited stipend for groceries, communally.

“The reward has been getting to witness my own personal growth and the growth of the people I’m living with. Also learning how to love people even if we don’t see eye to eye or have completely different views on things,” Foggia says.

RCP has expanded rapidly in the past year since winning a Health Care Innovation Award and being included in a national study on health care for the homeless. According to Foggia, better partnerships and increased awareness at local hospitals have also fueled the program’s growth, with referrals rising from an average of 17 per month to 29 per month.

All of this has added to Foggia’s own learning experiences. She says, “From the volunteer side it’s a unique position. You get to see so many things, it’s an opportunity to see the whole wrap-around services.

“Working at RCP has been a really great learning experience,” she adds. “It gets me out of my bubble.”

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