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.




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.

• • •

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.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: October 2017 Edition

Oct 30, 2017

We’re very excited to turn this month’s spotlight to a volunteer from Puentes, Central City Concern’s culturally-specific program that supports Latinxs in recovery. Developed in 2005, Puentes uses a multidisciplinary approach to provide alcohol and drug treatment and mental health care to individuals and to the entire family in a way that mitigates stigma and fear.

Claudia, this month’s spotlighted volunteer, lends a hand to Puentes’ program that works with Latinx youth ages 14-21 who have drug or alcohol issues or are susceptible to gang involvement, Esperanza Juvenil. Marysol Jimenez, who oversees Esperanza Juvenil, says about Claudia, “It's been a satisfying experience to train a young adult that wants to learn about addiction counseling field, and is interested in working with our Latinx youth.”

Read on to hear how Claudia came to Puentes and how her own experience informs her work.

• • •

Peter: What is your name and volunteer position?

Claudia: Claudia Aparicio, and I’m volunteering at Puentes with Esperanza Juvenil, which in English is Youthful Hope.

P: And what does the Esperanza Juvenil program do?

C: The program is specifically for youth that are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. It’s a reduction method. Marysol, who is the Esperanza Juvenil staff member, her goal is to get the youth to reduce their addiction. So, sometimes they ask her, “Do we have to quit?” and she’s like, “No, but it would be good if you could quit!” So she works with them in reducing the harm until they stop.

P: How did you find out about CCC?

C: When I was studying for the Certified Recovery Mentor position, [CCC staff member] Ricardo, who helped us get certified, would always call on me and say it would be really cool if I could volunteer with Puentes. He never really told me about the program, but was always trying to get me to volunteer, so finally I ended up coming here to volunteer.

P: I should probably know this, but what is a Certified Recovery Mentor?

C: A Certified Recovery Mentor is a first level of what a certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor would do. So we’re mentors for people that are working to recover from their addiction. I did my certification with the Instituto Latino, so it was a group of Hispanic people [getting certified].

P: How did you get involved with that organization?

C: I knew someone from Volunteers of America who was the one who started the group for Hispanics to get certified as CRMs. I went with a church, called Ministry of Jesus Christ of Men and Women Seeking Lost Souls. We work more with the homeless population, which not a lot of pastors do in the Hispanic area. We go to the streets and try to reach the homeless and give them resources.

P: What do see as the benefit of having a culturally specific program?

C: It just helps to see that there’s a lot of need in the Hispanic community, especially because they don’t really speak English. Ever since I was 19 I’ve been working with the Hispanic population, which I never thought I would do, because I had to help my mom with translations and filling out papers, and so I never saw myself doing that as a grown up. And now that I find myself serving the Hispanic community, trying to get them resources, and telling them where to go for resources, whether it’s a light bill, whether it’s to find an apartment, for a kid’s food boxes or clothing, I see that as a big challenge, because there is a big need in the Hispanic community.

P: And what is the importance of serving youth specifically?

C: I think it’s because they’re in their teen years, so they’re growing up. It’s better to stop or try to reduce the harm when they are young. It’s like a baby when it’s small. When a baby is small, you don’t start disciplining them when they’re 10 years old, because then it’s a little bit late.

P: What are the challenges of that?

C: The challenge is the youth can be a little bit rebellious, but there’s a saying in Spanish that says, “Es más mejor la palabra de una madre ajena quell tu propia madre”— we’d sometimes rather listen to a person that is not our mom than our own mom. Which is true because I lived it, I didn’t listen to my mom, but when I met my pastor I listened to her more.

“There’s a saying in Spanish that says, ‘Es más mejor la palabra de una madre ajena quell tu propia madre’—we’d sometimes rather listen to a person that is not our mom than our own mom.”
- Claudia, CCC Volunteer

P: For those that are rebellious, how do you reach them?

C: We try to talk to them and see where their rebelling comes from, because from my own experience, a kid is going to be rebellious because something happened. Like me, I was rebellious because something happened in my life and there was a root of bitterness in my heart, which made me really stubborn in my teen years and got me in to a lot of trouble as well.

And sometimes we’re young but have to mature faster than our age. I just had to mature a lot younger than I would because of my experience. Especially since I didn’t get disciplined, and sometimes self-discipline is much harder than getting disciplined by your own parent.

P: And it’s hard when you’re older than your years, because your experience is going to be so different from you friends.

C: I had a hard time fitting in school, I always thought I was superior than my classmates. I would just go in my shell and always find the library, because I always liked reading books. I would look for stories that were not relatable to me so I could learn more about other life experiences.

P: And that kind of ties in to what you’re doing now, hearing other people’s stories and being a mentor to people whose experiences may be different from your own. Have there been any particular stories that have stood out?

C: I heard a story of a girl who was getting her treatment here and she was going through the same experiences that I had gone through as a teen. Her mother didn’t try to connect with her and see to her needs, or understand why she was going through what she was going through. A lot of that happens because of culture shock. We’re born here and our parents are from Mexico or Guatemala, or some other Hispanic county, so we learn different things. Whether or not we want it, our culture is American culture, even though our parents are from Spanish-speaking counties. And sometimes we want to adapt to their culture as well, but since we don’t really know about it, we have to research it on the internet. We’re also more free. They didn’t go to school, they had to work, they had to feed the horses and the chickens. We don’t do that. So sometimes our parents don’t realize it’s a bit of culture shock between us and they don’t understand us or they don’t try to understand us. So when I heard that girl’s story, my heart went out to her.

"I learn more every day. I learn from the people here, and I see people I learn a lot from."

P: What keeps you coming back to volunteer?

C: I learn more every day. I learn from the people here, and I see people I learn a lot from.

P: And our traditional last question: What would you say to someone who was on the fence about volunteering with CCC?

C: I would definitely recommend CCC, because it’s a good agency and I’ve learned a lot. And at Puentes, it’s family based. Ever since I came they were like, “We’re a family here. We don’t see any of you guys aslower than us, and when we eat, we eat together.” We don’t eat in our own offices, we’re always eating together in the kitchen, and sometimes we don’t always have room so we’re all squished together, all talking and laughing.

• • •

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.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: September 2017 Edition

Sep 26, 2017

For this month’s volunteer spotlight, we are shining our light on a volunteer who doesn’t often get much of it in her volunteer location. Rebecca Macy has been volunteering for the last five years in the basement of the Employment Access Center (EAC), where she helps maintain a clothing closet for EAC clients who need interview clothing or work wear. Read on to see how Rebecca’s past career as a librarian has informed her work in the clothing closet, how she got in to reuse and recycling, and how an Elvis costume ended up being just what a client needed.

• • •

Rebecca Macy, Central City Concern volunteerPeter: What's your name, and what do you do as a volunteer at Central City Concern?

Rebecca: Rebecca Macy, and my volunteer position is in the clothing closet at the Employment Access Center and I’ve been there for five or six years. I sort through the donations and I’ve set the clothing center up like a store with things sorted so they are easy for people to find.

P: Did you have any experience with retail or clothing before volunteering at the EAC?

R: I worked at Portland Public Schools’ clothing closet, so I got many, many ideas from them.

P: Was that your career?

R: I spent 35 years as an elementary school librarian, so I’ve worked in elementary schools and some public libraries, but mostly elementary schools. They called us a Library Media Specialist, but the kids knew us as the library lady.

After I retired, I did some work in fashion with buying vintage clothes and remaking them. I would take a prom dress and kind of tear it apart and put it back together, so that was my artistic fashion project. I still do a little bit of that, but I also help people clear out their homes or their parents’ homes if they’re downsizing or moving. I started finding that we need to reuse the things that people have that are still usable. A friend of mine calls me “the distributor,” which sounds like a car part, but I take things and get them to people who need them, so CCC was just a real good fit for that.

“Interviewing is hard for anybody, no matter what your work background is. But if you feel like you’re looking pretty good it helps you put your best foot forward.”
- Rebecca, CCC Volunteer

P: How did you find out about us?

R: I first heard about it when I was volunteering for Potluck in the Park with a teen center that I volunteered at in Beaverton. I noticed there was a clothing table there, and I thought, I get people’s clothes all the time, so if I had a pair of shoes or cosmetics [I would bring them there]. Eventually, a CCC person who was working there told me about the EAC.

P: Are there certain items you find yourself consistently needing at the clothing closet?

R: Larger men’s shoes, larger men’s clothing. The people who donated are almost always smaller than the clients. I’ve been looking for a size 15 pair of work boots most of the time I’ve been there.

P: So, you have a range of clothes there, both work wear and interview clothes?

R: Both, yes. When I first started volunteering there, the men were more wearing suits to interviews, but if you’re interviewing for a construction job, a nice sweater and a pair of jeans or khakis is fine. Even in the work world, I think everything is getting a little more causal. So for the men, the things we need are dress shirts, dress pants, and really good khakis and Levi’s. And for women it varies, but it’s similar—dress pants and skirts.

P: What do see as the benefit for the clothing closet?

R: Well, if you have an interview, and all you have is a t-shirt and jeans with holes in them, all the interview training and resume writing you get trained for won’t do you any good. And I think it has to do with confidence, and if you look good, you feel better. Interviewing is hard for anybody, no matter what your work background is. But if you feel like you’re looking pretty good it helps you put your best foot forward.

It’s fun for people to come because sometimes they are kind of shy about how much to take, and I’ll say, “Take what you need!” Sometimes I have to encourage them to take more and they’re often very cautious. Some men will borrow a suit for an interview and bring it back and say “If somebody else can use it, I don’t need it again.” They’re always thinking about other people. I like reusing and recycling and it’s cool when people do it with other people in mind.

I like to help in the community, I grew up in a family that was very involved in the community, but maybe it’s the librarian in me who likes to organize things. I like how [volunteering at the clothing closet] involves my friends and neighbors, too. They came home the other day with my niece and she said, “There’s bags of clothes on your front porch!” and I said, “Yeah, that happens a lot.” If it’s not raining and I’m not home, people will just drop off things, because they know I’ll distribute them to someone that needs them. It’s kind of fun for me, I never know what I’m going to find.

"I like seeing clients come in [to the clothing closet] and find something they need. I like seeing that it matters."

P: Have there been any particularly interesting pieces that have come though the closet?

R: When I first started volunteering, there was a suit that looked like an Elvis impersonator would wear it. And I thought, “Well, I don’t think anybody would use this in an interview.” Well, one of the counselors came in and said, “Oh yeah, one of my clients is an Elvis impersonator!”

Most of the time things are usable by somebody, but we’re very picky. We don’t do anything that has stains or missing buttons, because we want it all to be useable and presentable and something that somebody would buy in the store. I even have a friend who sells makeup and she’ll give samples, so sometimes if somebody has good timing they’ll get lipstick or hand cream. And jewelry! I just ask my friends to go through their jewelry, because if somebody has a nice outfit and a nice pair of earrings or necklace, it makes them feel good.

P: Have there been any stand-out experiences?

R: The thing that impressed me the most was the award program for people who’ve gone through the EAC program. There was a guy who had been in prison his entire adult life and this was the first job he had ever interviewed for. He thanked his counselors and said, “I think I was pretty hard to work with when I first came, and I couldn’t figure out why these people were so nice. What’s in it for them?” He said they believed in him when he didn’t believe in himself.

I really like the fact that CCC helps people make their lives better and they do it with so much class and respect for the people they work with.

P: And our traditional last question, what would you say to someone who is on the fence about volunteering at CCC?

R: It’s such a big organization and there’s so many different things that volunteers do, it’s anything from dealing with clothes to dealing with people one-on-one. And the people that I do deal with are so appreciative. I like seeing clients come in [to the clothing closet] and find something they need. I like seeing that it matters.

• • •

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.

And if reading about Rebecca inspires you to make a donation of items that can be used by the people we serve, check out our in-kind donation wish list!



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: August 2017 Edition

Aug 30, 2017

For this month's volunteer spotlight, we are turning to another volunteer who has multiple roles at Central City Concern. While Michael initially got started with Central City Concern as a volunteer at the Old Town Recovery Center Living Room program, much like last month’s spotlighted volunteer, his interest in the behind the scenes work for nonprofit organizations led to him expanding his role to include a variety of work in the Public Affairs department. Both roles are well-served by Michael’s ample ability to be an open ear to others. Hayden Buell, who supervises Michael at the Living Room, summed it up, saying, “Michael stands out as a volunteer in his ability to listen to our members and get to know them and their stories in a way that really honors their individuality. He’ll just sit down and give them space to share themselves.”

Michael was so generous in turn as to share himself with us for this month’s spotlight!

• • •

Peter: What is your name and volunteer position?

Michael: My name is Michael Thomas Taylor, and I volunteer with CCC in two places. I’ve been at the Old Town Recovery Center Living Room since February and I’ve been helping in the Public Affairs department as well. I actually came in to talk to Susan [CCC’s Marketing and Communications Director] just because I wanted to do an informational interview, as I’m interested in moving into nonprofit work. Then Matt [CCC’s Grants Manager] said, “Hey, if you’re looking for an opportunity to help out and get some experience, you can help me with grants.” I’ve written a lot of grants as a professor, so that seemed like something that made sense. Then Susan had some projects, doing interviews with CCC clients, and blog posts.

P: So, you got most of your grant writing experience from your time as a professor?

M: Yeah, that’s one of the things you do as a professor – research, and if you want to do research you have to pay for it, and if you want to pay for it you have to write grants.

P: How did you get in to that line of work?

M: Short answer? I ran away to Europe. I grew up in the States, but I wanted to see more of the world pretty quickly. I spent a year abroad in Hungary as a foreign exchange student in high school. I wanted to stay connected with that, so in college, I started out as a music major and ended up as a German major, which worked because it got me back to Europe. I spent a year in Austria and a year and a half Germany, and then one thing led to another and I ended up doing a PhD in German. [A PhD in German] is an in-depth study of language and literature, but for me it also became a study of cultural history. A lot of my published research is in queer history or the history of sexuality, with a focus on Germany, and I branched out to do some work in curating exhibitions and communicating queer history to the public. That gave me some pretty awesome experiences and a fairly international background. I had some post-docs in Germany, and I was in France for a summer. Then my first job was in Canada, so I’ve kind of lived in lots of different places.

“Recovery can’t happen if you’re alone, that’s the first step is getting help. That’s why the connection is so crucial.”

P: What was that job in Canada?

M: I was an assistant professor of German. I was there for five years before I came to Reed College. We loved Canada – and even took Canadian citizenship! – but frankly it was too cold. I kind of thought [Reed] would be the next step in my career, but things have turned out differently and I’ve decided to make a career change.

P: And I guess part of that change and interest in nonprofit work is your time here! What initially drew you to CCC?

M: Being in recovery myself, but I also knew lots of people who’d been helped through CCC programs. I feel really strongly about the mission, and I have friends who work at CCC. [One of those friends and I] were actually snowshoeing on Mt. Hood, and we were just talking about this career change and what goals do I have. I mentioned I was interested in learning more about social service work. He was just like, “If you want to get a sense of what that might look like, you could come volunteer in the Living Room!” We had talked about what that space looks like and the community model they have there. What I love about the Living Room is that it’s not necessarily about clinical services. It’s really about a safe space, it’s about a community in which everybody is a member and everybody participates.

P: So there’s no barriers in between people there.

M: Yeah, the hierarchy is flattened out and everyone participates equally. A lot of the spiritual tools I’ve learned from being a Radical Faerie, about holding space and community, are happening at the Living Room and I just thought that was something I would love to be a part of.

P: Any experiences that have stuck out?

M: Well, getting to know some of the people. Everybody has their own story, and some people are more open about that or not. You need to build trust and sometimes you just need to be there and be present for people, so they see that you’re there, and you’re safe, and you’re interested in them and their success.

Sometimes we color, we just sit down and color and you just kind of talk with people and see what’s going on in their lives. There’s mental illness in my family and I don’t think my family had the tools that it needed to deal with that. You know, pills were often the solution, and that doesn’t always work without some sort of community support and skills model.

It was super powerful for me to come in to a room and see people, some of whom have very severe mental illness, just have a place to be to be understood, to be accepted, to be safe, to fit in, to connect in their own particular way. That has been really powerful and meaningful. It just puts a human face to people that we all live with. We all live in the same space together. That’s important, just to recognize that.

Every morning we sit down for an hour and do a group. There’s an icebreaking question like, “What would you do if you had a million dollars?” Or sometimes something more intense, like, “What does recovery mean for you?” Everyone gets to speak, we have a stuffed bunny we pass around to indicate it’s your turn to speak. It’s often a lot of practice in holding community norms and values, letting other people speak, not interrupting, balancing “I have a lot to say” against “everybody needs to speak.” So slowing things down, and just learning how, practicing, being a community together.

“I guess it’s a recovery cliché, but the stories are so different, and they are all the same. To really recognize that sameness as a source of strength and community, I think is really powerful.”

P: With the client stories that you have been writing, have there been any stand out moments from the interviews?

M: You know, I am just consistently amazed at the resilience of people. That’s really powerful. I guess it’s a recovery cliché, but the stories are so different, and they are all the same. To really recognize that sameness as a source of strength and community, I think, is really powerful.

P: Being able to identify with others or see models for success?

M: And normalizing the struggles that people have gone though. So much about mental illness and addiction is about isolation, and I think breaking that sense of isolation is crucial to recovery.

P: Big or small, I think we’ve all felt that sense of relief when someone says, “No, I feel the same way, I’ve been through the same thing.”

M: I think recovery needs that. Recovery can’t happen if you’re alone; that’s why the first step is getting help. That’s why the connection is so crucial.

P: So, what keeps you volunteering at CCC?

M: I feel deeply committed to the work CCC is doing, and I’m getting some great experience. And I love the people. It’s just fun to be here and I’m genuinely excited about the work I am doing.

P: What would you say to someone who is on the fence about volunteering?

M: Try it out! What do you have to lose?

• • •

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.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: July 2017 Edition

Jul 28, 2017

For our latest monthly volunteer spotlight, we’re delighted to feature Jack Ramsey, who volunteers in not just one, but two, roles with Central City Concern! Read our Volunteer Manager’s interview with Jack to find out how his past professional career informs one of his volunteer roles, as well as how his second role has shaped and enriched his life today.

• • •

Peter: What is your name and volunteer position?

Jack: Jack Ramsey and I have two roles. I volunteer over at the Old Town Recovery Center Living Room and my job there is to just kind of generally help out, to chat with clients, and become part of that operation. That includes anything from washing dishes to making sandwiches. Mostly what I do is talk with folks and I’ve been doing it about nine months now I think. I feel like I’ve made friends there. If there’s a week that I can’t be there because I’m out of town, I miss them. I’ve really learned a lot from those guys. About myself, about the kinds of people that you see on the streets. People that are homeless and suffering from mental illness, addiction, they’re kind of superheroes to me, because they’re able to deal with those issues and really improve their lives.

The other is that I’m a member of the Marketing Advisory Council and what I bring to the party there is 40 years of work doing advertising and marketing.

P: I wonder if you could talk about that a little bit.

J: Well, I got in to marketing because I could write. I worked for a couple of computer companies down in California, ended being an ad manager for one of them, and then I was recruited in 1976 by a small advertising agency in Silicon Valley that just happened to have as its main client a young company by the name of Intel. That was sort of my big break. During that time, a guy named Steve Jobs walked in. He had liked the Intel work we were doing and talked my boss in to helping him. About six month later we had developed all that original Apple brand and I had written the first ad for Apple.

P: What was that first ad, do you remember?

J: I just remember that it wasn’t very good. We didn’t know what a home computer was! I asked my boss, “What are they doing?” He said, “Well, it’s a home computer.” So I said, “What’s that?” and he said, “That’s what we have to figure out!”

Steve brought in a bunch of things, like a naked circuit board and a TV monitor, and he said he was going to change the world, and we were going to help him. We had to figure out what Apple would look like and what the voice should be.

When Intel moved a big part of its operations to Oregon in 1978, I moved here to open an office for my agency. My plan was to come up for a year or two and have an adventure and here I am almost 40 years later.

I almost completely retired about 3 years ago and my wife and I bought an RV and hit the road for a year. I learned for the first time in my life to live day to day and take what comes. I actually did do a couple branding projects from the road, but it was fun. I love being in the game. If I crave anything in my life, it’s solving problems.

P: Do you find that some of the skills you built in your career come in to your work at the Living Room?

J: In a lot of ways, it’s sort of the [photo] negative image of my career. I’m not selling anything, there’s no agenda with it, and I get to purely engage on a human level, with all these amazing people that are fighting the worst things you can imagine. I just get to go hang out with amazing people.

The way I ended up at the Living Room was, as I was retiring and I actually had more time to do what I wanted instead of what other people wanted me to do, I kind of wrestled with it for a while. Should I go back to school or volunteer? I couldn’t find volunteer opportunities that were meaningful to me. I met a guy one day and he says, you should get in touch with CCC. I applied on the website and I wrote a note that said that I’m happy to do anything.

I remember 30 years ago driving down Everett street and there was a guy staggering across the road and I said to my friend, “Do you ever just feel guilty, that there but for the grace of God go I?” So the opportunity to work in the living room with all these folks really appealed to me. It’s been an amazing experience and continues to be. And I’m not giving it up.

P: Any stand out experiences during your time here?

J: Yeah, there was one guy at the living room, and we would get in to these heavy philosophical conversations about human nature and science and philosophy. This is a guy who lived for ten years on a front porch. He is really a brilliant man.

P: That’s not something that we all get to do, is see the depth of people who are experiencing homelessness.

J: And what quality people they are and thoughtful and intelligent and self-aware. Even if they are in recovery from addiction or dealing with a mental illness, they’re learning how to be productive, functional people. It’s heartwarming for me to see someone’s eyes light up when they see me, because they know that I’m happy to see them too. Or when someone comes over and asks me to come talk to them. I actually feel like I’m making a difference in these people’s lives.

I’ve lead an exciting life and I’ve gotten to experience all kinds of successes and failures, but in a lot of ways, this is the most rewarding thing I’ve done. This has gone from “Oh gee, what am I going to do in my spare time?” to really one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

P: Not everyone is able to make that kind of transition.

J: I know, I feel honored that I am allowed to do this.

P: Helps keeps the skills sharp too! We haven’t talked about the Marketing Advisory Council too much, but you had said that you crave problem solving, do you get your fill of that with the MAC?

J: Well, I just came from a MAC meeting! The best thing about it is that I don’t have to do the work, but the worst thing about it is that I don’t get to do the work

At the last MAC meeting we discussed these new ads for CCC, and that we need to makes sure these ads engage people on an emotional level. This isn’t just about telling people what CCC does, it’s about making people care.

P: If you could sum it up, what keeps you coming back to volunteer?

J: The people. They’re just wonderful. The clients are wonderful people that impress me, that touch my heart, that amaze me. The people that work here and the other volunteers are here for all the right reasons. We’re here to help people. It’s a much more rewarding mission than trying to make money or make somebody a star. It’s honest.

P: What would want someone to know who is on the fence about volunteering at CCC?

J: Take the plunge! The water is great. You’ll never know yourself as well as you will when you’re doing this, when you’re working completely selflessly.

• • •

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.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: June 2017 Edition

Jun 30, 2017

For June’s monthly volunteer spotlight, we sat down to talk with Malinda Moore, whose energy and zeal for service have already made her a big part of the team at the Old Town Clinic. Read on to hear about how she got involved with CCC and what keeps her coming back as a volunteer.

• • •

Peter: What is your name and volunteer position?

Malinda: Concierge at Old Town Clinic, or as some of the clients say, you must not have made it in to the greeters at Walmart or the Home Depot!

P: Oh no!

M: No! They say it affectionately, especially the clients that recognize that you’re there more often. They remember people.

P: You’ve been there for how long now?

M: Since around Christmas of last year.

P: I’m sure you’ve become a familiar face for folks at the clinic.

M: You hope so. Every day is different. Some days there may be someone who needs a little extra arm around the shoulder and help to stay calm. Other days there are people who just need someone to say hi, or just do something that they don’t expect, like open the door before they get a chance to push the button. I can get out there and get that door open before the patient can. It’s just fun to see the look on people’s faces when someone is nice to them because they’re next to them.

P: That’s probably not something some of our clients see too often, is someone going the extra mile for them.

M: Exactly, and they deserve it as much as anyone does. That’s one of the most fun parts about it.

P: Is there anything that is challenging about it?

M: I don’t have many challenges there. When you’re there observing, the front line people treat every one of those clients like it’s the governor or the mayor. And they remember their names! I can’t believe how many people come in every day and before they step in the door it’s like, “Hi, such and such, how are you doing?” The staff treat them and they treat each other with that same respect. And the clients treat each other with respect. They’ll take time to listen to each other and help each other out. They’re very compassionate with each other. It’s very uplifting to see these people be so compassionate and be working so hard to be doing what they need to do get better.

P: Have you had a particular moment stick out in the time that you’ve been volunteering?

M: There was one woman who came who was having a mental health crisis, and she wasn’t a client, but staff was working really hard to find how best to help her. When staff would leave, I would just sit with her and she had her head in her hands, but once I started talked to her she would put her head up and we would look at pictures of her dog, her boyfriend, and we had great conversations. It was nice to see that I didn’t have to be doing anything medical for her, just sitting there having a friend was good enough to make her feel better. Then you get to meet people that have such varied backgrounds and skills and they’re just such interesting people! There’s nothing big, but every day I come back and say to my husband, “Guess what? I had the best time talking to this person!”

P: Is that what keeps you coming back to volunteer?

M: Yes! I may go two days a week! I really look forward to it. I used to really look forward to going to work every day, so this is this same feeling, like, I get to go to work! And be with people I like to be with.

P: That’s a great feeling.

M: I’m very lucky.

P: And what is your background?

M: I was a medical speech pathologist, so I worked in inpatient, outpatient, home health, hospice, ICU. I got to do all of those. It was that kind of hospital where everybody talked to everybody. You could meet the doctor in the hallway and he’d want t know what you thought about his patient. There wasn’t this hierarchy. It was a great place to work. I get some of that same feeling from the Old Town Clinic. You just watch all these people at OTC and there’s just so much collaboration, it could be a role model for any clinic in the state. It’s not just a job there. The minute someone walks in the door someone want to help them.

P: What got you involved with CCC?

M: Oh, this is a great story! My husband, who is a retired attorney, pours wine in a winery in Albany and he got to talking to a woman at the winery, who happened to be a CCC employee and he came home that day and said, “We’re going to start donating to Central City Concern!” It was just like that. He was so impressed with what she told him. And then when we moved to Portland, I decided this is where I’d like to spend some time. So that’s where it started, the winery!

P: What do you think someone who is on the fence might want to know?

M: I think, no matter what they did, if it was something they thought they might like, they’re going to be treated really well. People are going to go out of their way to help them feel comfortable and they’re going to be appreciated. If I show up on a day I don’t normally volunteer, they’ll be like, ‘Aren’t you usually here on Wednesday?’

• • •

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.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: New Volunteer Manager Edition!

Jun 01, 2017

For this month’s volunteer spotlight I’m going to be interviewing myself, Peter Russell, to introduce myself to you as the new Volunteer Manager for Central City Concern. I’m very excited to be working with the organization and to be able to work with all the volunteers who support what we do. I’ll be turning the spotlight back over to our volunteers later this month, but for the time being, here’s a little more about me!

• • •

What is your background working with volunteers?
I have coordinated or worked with volunteers in a variety of different roles over the last few years. Primarily, I spent the last two years working with Habitat for Humanity as the assistant manager at one of the Portland area ReStores. In this role, I was the store’s volunteer coordinator in addition to my work managing the store. I also helped train volunteers during my time as an intern with the National Eating Disorder Association and have directed some volunteer theater productions too!

What is it that you enjoy about working with volunteers?
So many things! I love the sense of community that gets built up around a volunteer workforce. There is a deep sense of caring and compassion that drives people to volunteer. I think one can see that not only in the work that is done by volunteers, but how volunteers help the people they work with to develop and grow as well. I have been able to learn so much from the people I have worked with as volunteers, as there can be such a wide diversity of skills within a group of volunteers. I also really enjoy the feeling that everyone is working together with the same goal in mind: to engage with your community and to help it change and grow in a positive way.

What are you looking forward to about working with Central City Concern’s volunteers?
I love that there are so many different ways that volunteers can be involved in the work that the organization does. Not only does this provide so many opportunities for me to learn new things (which is one of my favorite things to do), but it also means that we can engage with a large variety of future volunteers. The possibilities for growing the ways in which volunteers assist with our operations seem fairly boundless, so I am also very excited to start to dream up new ways in which we can involve people.

What do you like to do when you are not working with volunteers?
In my spare time I do some volunteering of my own, but I also am a serious dabbler in the creative arts. I bounce between writing music, short stories, films, and other things in between. I also love to be outdoors and go on hikes, so I’m very excited that the weather has finally started to turn. As a lifelong vegetarian, I also enjoy cooking (and eating). I can’t say I’m very good at it, but I enjoy it nonetheless!

• • •

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 at peter.russell@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.



A View from the Edge of the Mat

Apr 28, 2017

As you’ve seen by this week’s previous pieces, Living Yoga has truly ingrained themselves in Central City Concern programming. Luckily, it sounds like our class participants have endeared themselves to their teachers, as well.

“This was my first real experience of volunteering and I am so grateful for the opportunity that Living Yoga and CCC gave me to teach yoga to some of the most engaging and committed class participants,” shared a volunteer instructor, Diane, who teaches classes at Old Town Clinic. On several occasions, she’s shared that her “weekly yoga volunteer hour is the best hour of my whole week.”

With that warmth and positivity, and in the spirit of collaboration, volunteerism, and serving those who have so much to share, we wanted to finish our National Volunteer Week celebration with a piece from Laura Walsh. One of the very first Living Yoga volunteer instructors to give her time to Central City Concern—she started at Old Town Clinic some nine years ago!—Laura’s experience, wisdom, and beautiful writing seemed like the perfect way to conclude an amazing week.

Thank you, volunteers, for helping Central City Concern do more and do better with compassion, kindness, and an inspirational sense of service.

• • •

There’s a little story about some yogis sitting at the edge of a lake in meditation. All of a sudden, one of them jumps up and runs across the lake and comes back with a shawl, puts it on, and resumes a sitting posture. A little while later, another one of the group runs across the lake and whispers she needed to check on the soup for dinner. Well, after a bit more time goes by, a more recent member stands up and says, “Ahem… seems I forgot my mala beads.” He heads out to edge of the lake, takes a running start, and quickly becomes completely wet—splashing and struggling for footing before making his way to shore again. This scenario was repeated a couple of more times before the first yogi turns to the second and asks, “Do you suppose we might tell him where the rocks are in the lake?”

A chuckle, maybe? Some recognition of one time or another continuing to use the same unskillful ways to “reach” or gain solid ground—getting a proverbial “soaking” in the process? While there are several images or metaphors to illustrate “the way” or “path,” it essentially does come back to “the journey,” yes?

In this little vignette there is the sense that each person’s intention is to travel to the other side. The teaching rests in each person finding his or her own way. For one, it may mean paying attention to how others negotiate an obstacle and what skills are needed; another may ask questions and explore the conditions of the lake; someone might walk around while another could build a raft; one possibly could find a friend with a boat or even begin an active swimming regimen. Could a map, compass, or even a guide be of help?

The yoga of “IT” is in discovering how to honor one’s circumstances and nature with a practice to live in the “ground” of life’s circumstances—the union of all in and around “the lake.” A quote from Carl Rogers, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change,” brings us again to the image of the lake.

What I have experienced in my years sharing yoga at Old Town Clinic is that there is a readiness of participants to begin the sitting and the process of travel. There is a place for each person to symbolically look into the surface of the water for a reflection of how things are at that present time. There is a quality of movement within a contained landscape. Old Town Clinic continues to provide the opportunity for offering an environment where people are supported to engage in their proverbial lakeside experience—yoga is one of the elements that assist in safe and also challenging passage.

That there is a willingness to roll out the mat and take one’s seat is one of the most courageous and affirming acts in yoga. When we begin class, yogis are reminded of the principle, ahimsa, which translates as “non-harming.” One is reminded to offer kindness and respect and to bring a gentleness to the current state of body and mind. When we link breath awareness to movement or into stillness there is a space to notice what may be present and alive and asking for attention in that moment—to do or not do…. to sit at the edge of the “lake” or to enter into the “flow” of movement.

I am ever so grateful to be a part of this community and value the time spent with the ever-positive, present, and insightful Old Town Clinic staff ally, Moira. Over the years there have been people coming to yoga as part of a treatment program or a wellness regimen, to explore calming and regulating practices, or even for a place to rest. There has been a consistent member of our yoga collective who I offer deep gratitude for his brilliance, wisdom, discernment, and generosity of spirit. He gives expression to how yoga aligns one in well-being off the mat and into the world.

To those new to the practice, to those who are curious, and to some who find it not useful or of interest… thanks for showing up and for “getting the toes wet.” Maybe some will come back or may find interest in another discipline which offers healthful benefits… or maybe not, too. All who have come to my classes, however, have been such good sports!

For your trust and good-natured spirits to try, to modify, to be patient or curious, to stay with, to be with, and to allow for or to witness—I celebrate you. I thank you. I feel touched by the quality of intimate space created by sharing breath, time, and effort together.

So, at the edge of the lake… sharing a few lines from a noted author and activist, Wendell Berry, and then “jumping” in!

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though
you have considered all the facts.

Namaste



Catching—and Finding—Breath

Apr 28, 2017

Volunteer Manager Eric Reynolds visited a Living Yoga session at Central City Concern's Letty Owings Center, our residential addiction treatment program for pregnant or parenting young women. What he saw was an opportunity for the mothers to reflect and rest in the midst of their intensive work to build better futures for themselves and their blossoming families—an opportunity they wouldn't have if not for Living Yoga's volunteer instructors. Learn more in our latest National Volunteer Week blog below!

• • •

The class began with introductions that included each participant’s name, their reason for wanting to try yoga, and their sobriety date. In a true embodiment of the “inherent honesty in communication” that serves as a Guiding Value for Living Yoga’s practice, the instructor initiated this introduction with each subsequent participant. With the most formal portion of the class out of the way, the next hour was filled with smiles, laughter, and a few well-timed groans as seven new “yogis” planked, scorpioned, downward dogged, and child posed their way to reconnecting their mind and bodies.

The young women who begin substance use disorder treatment at Letty Owings Center have a lot on their plate. They are pregnant or parenting a young child, fairly new to a recovery-oriented lifestyle, and adjusting to unfamiliar guidelines, procedures, and regulations that will best aid in her treatment. They attend groups with their peers and meetings with counselors; they take classes to fill their life-skills toolbox with budgeting, meal planning, and parenting knowledge. The attention and effort that goes into this adjusted life, while worthwhile, can be exhausting.

Do these young women ever have a moment to simply catch their breath you might ask?

Thanks to Living Yoga’s volunteer instructors who visit Letty Owings Center twice a week, they can now stretch muscles that might have previously gone ignored, unwind themselves, and find respite. With some combination of heavy substance use, homelessness or poverty, and pregnancy and/or recent childbirth, LOC participants have experienced serious stressors over the years. The patient trauma-informed yoga Living Yoga volunteers bring to Letty Owings Center is an ideal avenue through which to aid the women’s mental, physical, and even spiritual recovery.

“I have bad anxiety so I feel like this will help a lot,” stated Danielle after completing her first-ever yoga session. “I don’t really pay attention to my breathing very often but it was relaxing with the breathing techniques. It helps.”

In conjunction with the mental gains of her foray into yoga, Danielle appreciated the physical benefits as well. “The stretching piece felt really good. I honestly don’t remember the last time I stretched like that.”

Through their volunteer instructors, Living Yoga’s goal is to “create a safe environment in which the practitioner can learn to befriend bodily sensations, to increase self-knowledge, to improve self-regulation, and to create a place of refuge within oneself.” Learning how to create a bank account, budget for a trip to the grocery store, or repair a torn pair of jeans with a sewing kit make life a little bit easier once a participant graduates from the Letty Owings Center. With a little help from Living Yoga we can now add destress through breathing, strengthen through stretching, and finding inner peace to that list as well.