Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: February 2017 Edition

Feb 28, 2017

When first sitting down to interview one of Central City Concern’s favorite administrative volunteers, Maureen, for February’s Volunteer Spotlight, it quickly became apparent that this chat was going to be unlike many before. Maureen openly shared her story regarding her lived experience on the streets, struggles with addiction, past criminality, and why these things motivate her to simply “lend a helping hand” today. Whether it is making the gravy (from scratch) for one of our residential community Thanksgiving meals or entering survey data regarding Old Town Clinic patient satisfaction, Maureen’s intimate connection with the services that CCC provides resonates strongly in each moment she is able to spend with us.

Our normal Q&A format couldn't do Maureen’s candor and humility justice, so for this Volunteer Spotlight we chose a small handful of unprompted quotes to share. Maureen’s unique perspective on homelessness, as well as CCC services, is tremendously inspiring and we hope you enjoy hearing from Maureen as much as we did.

• • •

“Well, how can you help another person? You know, I didn’t use to tell my story. I used to be ashamed of it. I used to be ashamed to say that I was a prostitute or I was a heroin addict or, you know, I was with pimps and I turned tricks and all of that stuff. But now, it’s a part of the strength that I have—the fact that I made it through alive.”

“I often hear people say, ‘I love living on the streets,’ but boy if you give them a hot shower and a clean pair of clothes and a room to sleep in, they’re ecstatic. But they tell themselves that because it makes it easier to accept their circumstances.”

“I want to always offer my conditioning of what I’ve been through to other people and say: it looks really bad right now, you are at the bottom, but there is a way for you to dig yourself out of this.”

“And so the whole point I guess that I’m trying to get to is that your organization not only represents me, but it represents me today.”

“When I started volunteering here I kept focusing on this as like my next stair step, you know? I’d done all of this other stuff with no contentment. Just like, working. It’s just a job. I’m addicted to helping people. I like giving up my time and energy more than I like getting paid to do stuff and it’s just a thing with me. You’re put here for a purpose and you can’t find it if you’re in the office working. It’s not going to be a monetary thing. It’s going to be something you’re giving to people to make them delighted, to make them feel happy, and so that’s what I am doing.”

“If your organization continues to do what it’s doing we can make sure that this slows down. Homelessness is an epidemic right now and it breaks my heart because of the inhumanity of it. The ignorance of it. When you see someone sleeping on the street and all you do is step over them instead of checking to see if they’re alive, something has to change in our society to make people see past a person’s dirt and their poverty because in today’s world we’re all just a step away from being there.”

“It was a great experience to see other people that really cared, that don’t do things just because. They’re there, they’re engaged, they’re asking questions, and they’re talking to people instead of at them. I got to know quickly some of people’s circumstances and I felt that they were in good hands. I thought they were in great hands with CCC.“

“Because I started from the street and I had nothing. A pair of high heels, a big purse with all of my drug paraphernalia, and the clothes on my back and I don’t have much more than I had then, monetarily. But spiritually I’ve gained a bucket load, a truck load, or whatever’s so big that I can’t fill it. And you guys allow me to continue to feel big like that. To feel important. I like to feel big and important and it doesn’t take money to do that, it just takes doing.”

• • •

If you are interested in learning more about volunteer positions in at Central City Concern’s health and recovery, housing, or employment programs, contact Eric Reynolds, CCC’s Volunteer Manager, at eric.reynolds@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: January 2017 Edition

Jan 31, 2017

Our first Volunteer Spotlight of 2017 highlights the unique role of Dr. John Bishop, a clinician who has chosen to spend time in Old Town Clinic’s Wound Care Clinic. As the Wound Care Clinic program is in its relative infancy, our lead practitioner, Pat Buckley, had this to say about Dr. Bishop’s contributions:

“Having his expertise as we were developing the program was extremely beneficial because it really helped us ramp up the quality of care more quickly than we otherwise would have been able to… He’s the bomb.”

If you’d like to learn more about Old Town Clinic’s Wound Care program we recommend you check out the National Health Care for the Homeless’s Healing Hands newsletter, where they highlight this young, yet valuable, Old Town Clinic service. In the meantime, take a look below to find out both what distinctive challenges Dr. Bishop encounters while at Old Town Clinic, but also what makes the care process so rewarding to him.

• • •

Name and Volunteer Position: John Bishop, provider in the Wound Care Clinic of Old Town Clinic.

How long have you been volunteering with us?
About year and a half now; it’s been very positive. It’s a different kind of wound care than I was used to, a different kind of situation, but it’s been very positive. Good, nice, qualified people to work with... pleasant, friendly. I like the patients, too. The patients, for the most part, are very nice.

What made you want to volunteer at Central City Concern?
I decided to be retired. And moving to Oregon from Florida there was no real employment for me, financially, in a semi-retired level. I spent many years learning how to do wound care and I didn’t want to just give up that knowledge overnight. It took a long time to develop what I know and I didn’t want to just throw it away so I figured I could use what I know positively for a few more years. And since I don’t get paid, I’d rather take care of people who can’t pay [Note: All Old Town Clinic patients are on a sliding scale fee.] They need the care and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t get it.

Have there been any surprises at Old Town Clinic so far?
Well, the biggest problem I have here is with continuity of care and follow-up. Part of it is me as I only volunteer but two times a week, but part of it is the patients that don’t come back. That’s probably the biggest disappointment.

Then again, that’s the challenge from which we have to work. That’s what’s different from my civilian or private practice before I got here. That’s just one of those things in the practice of medicine.

Have you tried strategies to combat that?
Well it does direct how we administer our care. We have to prescribe a type of care with the assumption that maybe the patient won’t come back. That way, if they don’t, they’re not going to get themselves into more trouble from the care. My philosophy is to be positive, develop a little relationship with them, and have them feel like I’m expecting them so that they might feel more of an obligation from that. I make sure to say “I will see you next week!” and I hope they think, “If he cares enough to be there to look for me I ought to show up.” I don’t know if that’s how it works but that’s my goal.

I like doing wound care, I like taking care of people, and I like seeing wounds get well. It’s a very satisfying thing to start off with a mess and then see the patient eventually walk out and to tell them, “Don’t come back, you’re all done!" And along the way, since many wounds are chronic, there’s a big effort to teach the patient how to take care of it themselves so that they won’t have to come back. I don’t know how successful I am with that but it’s always been my guiding light in wound care. It’s  "Okay, this is what I want to do; if it happens again, this is what you can do for yourself.”

Having practiced medicine at Old Town Clinic, if somebody were on the fence about volunteering here is there anything you would want them to know?
Well I think the volunteering business is pretty nice. The state of Oregon has their physician emeritus program that kind of gives you liability coverage and allows you to practice and keep your skills alive. It lets you use the skills you already have and I think more physicians ought to consider that.

• • •

If you are a licensed practitioner interested in volunteering time with Portland’s vulnerable populations, we recommend checking out the Coalition for Community Health Clinics, a community and care-driven collaborative (of which Old Town Clinic is a partner).

For any other Central City Concern volunteer inquiries, please visit our volunteer webpage.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: December 2016 Edition

Dec 22, 2016

Old Town Clinic’s Wellness Program offers a variety of classes and activities to further patient care, healing, and connectedness within the Central City Concern community. This month we wanted to emphasize the outstanding work of Jeff Beers, an art therapy volunteer who Program Manager Moira Ryan refers to as “a co-conspirator toward the Wellness Program’s aim of encouraging self-acceptance while building community.”

In fact, when approached about Jeff’s wonderful service being the spotlight for December, Moira jumped at the opportunity to provide a glance into her work and experience with Jeff:

San Francisco-based artist Jeff Beers has years of experience working with diverse populations as an arts educator. Jeff joined us in July and has been a fantastic peer volunteer and co-facilitator of several Wellness groups. In our Art for Everybody and Art Journaling groups, he’s brought a more tactile experience of art-making as we practice trying out working with oils, inks, powder tempera, collage, collagraphy, and even found items! He draws upon his experience as a self-taught artist and encourages mistake-making, regularly reminding folks that we have permission to practice not being perfect here. Additionally, drawing from his experience as a certified instructor of Thai Massage, he’s developed curricula for a group we’re calling Eastern Techniques for Health and Longevity. In that group, we draw on trauma-informed somatic experiencing precepts as we explore tapping, brushing, acupressure, stretching, and other acts of gentle self-love.

With Moira’s enlightening recap of Jeff’s involvement, read below to hear his own words about how he utilizes personal experience with a desire to help others through one of his greatest passions—art!

• • •

Name and Volunteer Position: My name is Jeff Beers and my volunteer positions are for Art for Everybody on Mondays, and then on Wednesdays we do table-top Games and then I lead a group in Eastern Techniques for Health. On Thursdays I do ceramics and the art journaling as well.

So a pretty wide array of activities. What’s your background?
My background is in art for the most part; that’s what I do. Every year I choose an organization I want to volunteer for. Money comes very low on my priorities so I feel like it’s a way I can give back since I can’t give back monetarily. So I just find places that I really believe in and then volunteer. I get to pay it back and do what I love.

How have you been able to use those skill sets to connect specifically with those that CCC serves?
Well, I really like the clients. I have a lot of admiration for them because I know that they’re struggling with one thing or another and I just admire their efforts to reach out for help and be there. A lot of the groups, they vary in sizes, but it’s just cool to see the people regularly and to be a part of their lives. And just to contribute whatever I can, which would be a positive attitude, and some skill sets, but mostly just showing these people my admiration for what they’re doing.

And I want to make it worth their time too. I always feel conscious that if people make the effort to be in the class or in the group it should be worth their while. I keep that in mind and try to get a lot of feedback from the people and just tune-in to what they’re interested in; that’s been a lot of fun.

Have you had any cool projects that have been more successful or well-received that stick out?
Yeah! In Art for Everybody on Mondays I’ve been having a lot of fun introducing different techniques to the clients and they’re usually always interested in at least trying it out which is great. They find their voice and the right materials they want to work with. Then all of a sudden they become artists. Before they were always saying, “I’m not an artist, I’m not an artist,” and that’s hard for me to hear, so I like to bring them forward and show them what they can find in themselves.

And then the Eastern Techniques Class, that’s been a blast. Although it takes more preparation for me to package and present all of these techniques I’ve learned through the years, it’s been a lot of fun. I ask the clients for a lot of feedback and they’re usually pretty forthright about just coming up with critiques so it’s been fun to constantly let that group grow in that way.

Do you feel like the activities are a good fit for CCC and the Wellness Program?
Oh, very much so. Your guys’ program is just fantastic. When I was a client I just was blown away by all of the services that were provided under one roof so people didn’t have to go to different parts of the city to receive different services. I thought that was great. Of all of the private insurances I’ve had in the past this was easily, no contest, the most fantastic clinic I’ve ever seen. And so, it was an easy choice to volunteer.

I mean you even have volunteers who work at Old Town Clinic cleaning up things, setting up different things, I think it’s great. I think your program should be like a model for most of the clinics in the United States. It’s a great example of what you can do.

And lastly Jeff: if somebody were on the fence about volunteering with Central City Concern or about getting involved, would you have any advice or words of wisdom for them?
For me, I’ve always had a respect for people no matter what their situation is and I want them to know that. I think it’s a good thing for volunteers to show their genuine respect or admiration and not feel that it’s something out of obligatory need. I’m blown away by some of the people CCC serves and what their stories are that they share. So I think for volunteers in general that would be the most important thing.

And I think that anybody that would find interest or have the time to volunteer at CCC should never have to have any doubt about the value of what they’re bringing.

• • •

If you are interested in learning more about volunteer positions in at Central City Concern’s health and recovery, housing, or employment programs contact Eric Reynolds, CCC’s Volunteer Manager, at eric.reynolds@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.



Following the Recipe for Health and Community

Dec 20, 2016

''The frittata and the carrot muffins were the favorite thing we made.'' -Stykhead (in red)''I feel more confident that I can leave here with what I learned as we cooked every week.'' -Josh''My favorite thing we made was shepherd's pie. Instead of using a recipe they gave me, I kinda put my own spin on it.'' -Tom (in green)
''The best part was learning, especially how to budget. And you know what? The volunteers… they really, really care. I didn’t think theyd be so personable, but they are. It really touched me.'' -Kristina
Next

Cooking Matters, a partnership between Central City Concern and the Oregon Food Bank, teaches clients the skills and knowledge required for healthy cooking and eating habits. Click on a photo to begin the slideshow.

• • •

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in November, the kitchen of Central City Concern’s (CCC) Living Room community space filled with sounds most could recognize as busy food preparation. The rhythmic rocking and knocking of a knife, the hollow echo of water falling on aluminum, the unmistakable crinkling of plastic packaging being opened and emptied, and even the overriding din of playful banter—all there.

Behind that noise? Eight people, all participants and soon-to-be graduates of the six-week Cooking Matters program, a partnership between CCC and the Oregon Food Bank. This was their final session as a group, so they were reveling in the chance to put what they’d learned in the weeks prior to good use. And based on that kitchen banter, they were having a blast doing it—together.

Since their first session, participants had gained a soup-to-nuts education on the skills and knowledge required for healthy cooking and eating habits, including following recipes and meal planning, shopping healthily on a budget and maximizing resources, understanding food labels, and even knife skills and food safety. At the end of each class, they received a grocery bag of food with which they could replicate the course they made that day.

According to CCC Health Educator Kerith Hartmann and Population Health Coordinator Linda Nguyen, the Cooking Matters curriculum can help address a number of issues common among Old Town Clinic (OTC) patients: food insecurity, weight gain, hypertension, coronary issues, and diabetes or pre-diabetes.

In fact, OTC primary care providers had been clamoring for a nutritional guidance program for patients for years and Kerith had often recommended Cooking Matters classes hosted by Oregon Food Bank elsewhere in the community. But the idea to bring the class to patients instead of referring patients out became more and more appealing, and soon enough the need was undeniable. “You wouldn’t necessarily think that there would be a cooking class based out of a medical clinic, but it makes so much sense, especially for the people we’re working with,” says Kerith.

With Oregon Food Bank on board to pilot a Cooking Matters class at CCC starting in late spring 2016, it was off to the races to find participants.

Approximately half of the Cooking Matters participants were identified and referred by their OTC primary care providers based on their medical histories and the level of engagement with their care. Because Cooking Matters builds on each week of curriculum, patients who showed an active engagement in their own care would benefit most.

Other participants were recruited through CCC’s Housed+Healthy initiative, which coordinates services between CCC supportive housing services and CCC’s health care programs. The work Housed+Healthy staff members do within the walls of CCC housing allows them to show clients that Cooking Matters is well worth attending, even if that means showing up at their doors prior to a session and walking with them to the Living Room.

“People living in our housing are inherently good candidates to benefit from Cooking Matters,” says Permanent Housing Manager, Dana Schultz. “They’re living in low-income housing, so they have budget restrictions and limited cooking resources. On average, people living in our housing are about 59 years old, which is when you see a prevalence of chronic conditions that can be managed through diet.”

Dana adds, “Plus, people who live in low-income housing have to be proactive about combating social isolation daily.”

Knowing that, the sounds heard in the Living Room kitchen take on a slightly different meaning. Those aren’t just the clatterings of making a meal. It’s the sound of people—all some combination of vulnerable, unwell, or isolated—coming together as the ingredients of community. Over the course of six weeks, they’ve encountered unfamiliar ingredients, learned new skills, grown in confidence, and broken bread—literally—together. They’re not shy about talking of this community aspect, either.

Tom, a Cooking Matters participant, says, “My favorite thing was being around these people and being able to cook something with different people around and eating together.”

Another participant, Stykhead, says, “The camaraderie here is great. Getting together and thinking of how we can cook better for ourselves. It gives a whole new outlook on how to cook.”

For Josh, Cooking Matters helped her extend community to her home. “I was able to share the food I made with my housemates.”

Though Cooking Matters at CCC has only completed two cohorts, stories of the program’s impact can start filling up a small cookbook. One patient lost enough weight to get a surgery she needed. Another participant loved learning how to make burritos so much that he not only stacked his freezer with them, but also gave them out to friends. Yet another made a lasagna for her neighbors. A few participants who lived in the same building developed a friendship during the program and held potlucks after they graduated.

Kristina, a participant in this latest cohort, says, “I can actually do a prepared meal on a regular basis. Before this preparing meals felt so tedious and hard to do. But now I have a plan in my head and it happens.” She pauses and lifts her chin up proudly. “And my son likes it.”

“I learned a lot as far as being able to buy healthy,” Stykhead shares. “It’s nowhere near as hard as I thought it was.”

Based on the popularity of Cooking Matters, Oregon Food Bank has committed to bringing the program to CCC for three more sessions through 2017. Their partnership, which includes providing additional volunteers, the curriculum, and all of the food used during each class, has been extraordinary, says Kerith.

Incorporating Cooking Matters into CCC helps send clients and patients on a trajectory to a better quality of life, Linda says. Participants have secured housing; with Cooking Matters, they are working their way toward securing health and moving toward overall wellness.

“It’s a joy to watch people’s faces light up when they try a new vegetable they love or even hate. At the end of the day, they get to enjoy a meal with people they like. And having that group of people to do this with compels them to believe that they can make all these skills a part of their daily life.”



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.

 

 



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: October 2016 Edition

Oct 25, 2016

In breaking the mold from our typical Q&A-style monthly volunteer spotlights, this October we wanted to bring a narrative regarding the transformational, sustainable, and invaluable work of Central City Concern's longest-tenured volunteer, Annette. Read below to hear from current and former staff members, and Annette herself, about the amazing impact her time has had on Old Town Clinic and those they serve.

• • •

Central City Concern serves individuals who suffer from homelessness or low incomes through diverse programming focused on housing, health care and employment. Within one of our Federally Qualified Health Center sites, Old Town Clinic, lies the CCC Pharmacy which serves “the uninsured as well as those who have a hard time negotiating the outside world,” as put by CCC’s former Head Pharmacist, Sandy Anderson. It is here that CCC has benefited from the amazing service of Annette Moreau, a volunteer whose time and commitment to Old Town Clinic predates the pharmacy itself.

Annette began her time at OTC as a volunteer registered nurse in 1992 and soon shifted her focus from rooming patients and drawing blood to organizing the in-house medicine closet that was “just a mess” as she recalls. Creating a sustainable organization to the med closet, Annette inserted herself as the initial point-person for tracking any donated incoming medications, medication expiration dates, patient prescriptions and use, and a script system implementation. Thanks to Annette’s diligence the prescribing physicians at OTC were able to more efficiently track and access needed medications, allowing them to spend more time with their patients and less time digging around the med closet.

“Basically, my portion was to help out in any way I could as a volunteer,” describes Annette. “I just see myself as a cog in the big wheel that is giving the patients what they need as far as medications because many of these patients would not be able to afford them at an outside pharmacy.”

When one has a mental illness diagnosis, suffers from chronic back or joint pain, or needs assistance dealing with an ongoing condition such as diabetes, even the simplest of responsibilities may seem daunting. The most basic interactions can take an extraordinary amount of effort and regular tasks, such as visiting the doctor or pharmacy, can quickly overwhelm.

It is in these situations that Annette’s professional background as a registered nurse shines through. Kristine Palo, a CCC pharmacy technician, states that Annette’s earnest nature “just creates a lot of trust between the pharmacy and the patients; she’s definitely helped out with that.”

And adds Sandy, “A lot of [our patients] she knows either by name or by face.” In a clinic where the patient-practitioner relationship is truly vital for positive outcomes, Annette’s openness and encouragement oftentimes serve as a conduit for client success.

Annette’s 24-year impact at Old Town Clinic also extends to CCC’s staff members. “For the first time I was able to really learn about relating nursing with pharmacy,” expands Sandy. Annette’s time, composure, and consummate professionalism “really strengthened the inter-professional relationships between RNs and pharmacists and technicians. She taught us how to relate to RNs.”

In a clinic where more than 5,700 unduplicated patients are seen on an annual basis, strong staff cohesion across departments is tantamount to successful health outcomes. By exemplifying how healthily and productively RNs can partner with pharmacy professionals, Annette’s knowledge base, compassion, and charisma, in their own way, have led to better care for those OTC serves no matter the diagnosis, pain level, or condition.

In August 2012, after Annette had been volunteering with Old Town Clinic for 20 years, she had a minor setback. As Sandy Anderson describes:

“Annette was volunteering one day and I thought she had a heart attack! She just went to the floor and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh she’s had a heart attack!’ So I went and got Todd [a clinic physician] and we were asking her ‘Can you move? Can you move?’ and Annette is saying, ‘No! I can’t move, I can’t move! I hurt, I hurt!’”

As it turns out, Annette had been taking a medication that had slowly dissolved the bone tissue in her femur. On that fateful day Annette had actually shattered her femur while performing her regular volunteer duties.

But little could a broken femur and two surgeries keep Annette away from her volunteer shifts at Old Town Clinic. “She was using a walker for a little bit but she came right back as soon as she could,” says Kristine.

“Her dedication to us is just amazing,” reiterates Sandy, as Annette was back in the pharmacy by December of that same fall to help with whatever administrative tasks she could.

The CCC Pharmacy fills over 14,000 prescriptions each month for those who are either homeless or living on low incomes. There are now eight full time pharmacists and a bevy of pharmacy technicians, interns, and volunteers ensuring that those prescriptions are organized, handled, and distributed so that their patients don’t have to live in chronic pain and suffering while also navigating an oftentimes intimidating world to those who may be down on their luck. Before any of this growth—including a new state-of-the-art bubble-wrapping machine, insurance billing, and the current modern building—there was Annette.

Annette’s realization of the potential for growth and change at Old Town Clinic and within the pharmacy has made a true community impact that continues each day. What was once an afterthought—the medicine closet that Annette first began organizing and managing 24 years ago—now allows Old Town Clinic, and Central City Concern as a whole, to provide better services to more individuals in need. Without Annette, it is difficult to think such an impact would have been made.

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If you are interested in learning more about volunteer positions in at Central City Concern’s health and recovery, housing, or employment programs contact Eric Reynolds, CCC’s Volunteer Manager, at eric.reynolds@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.



September Volunteer Spotlight: Recovery Month Edition

Sep 30, 2016

September is National Recovery Month, a time to celebrate recovery and share stories about how substance use treatment and mental health services have helped people live healthy and rewarding lives. 

This month we were honored to connect with an Employment Access Center (EAC) Clothing Closet volunteer who also identifies as being in recovery. Read how recovery has impacted Dikeeshea’s attitude towards volunteerism, her interactions with others, and her career aspirations.

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Name: Dikeeshea Witherspoon

Position: I volunteer in the clothing closet at the Employment Access Center.

Could you tell me a little about your duties in the clothing closet?
My duties in the clothing closet are going through any clothing that people donate to Central City Concern, [deciding] what I think should be put in the clothing closet and then organizing by size and style. I also help when people come in and need an outfit put together for an interview; they’re looking for a certain size of pants, or a shirt, or if they just need some clothes. It’s fun because me being the age that I am (millennial) I can kind of hit towards the hipper stuff to wear.

What first drew you to Central City Concern?
I was working but I wanted to give back to the community that I took from. Using drugs, stealing, like all of the crazy stuff that comes along with using drugs and drinking and being homeless, I wanted to give back. So I started volunteering at the St. Francis Church in Eugene after two people in recovery told me about it. Boy, was it an experience! To be able to feed the community no matter what walks of life they went through; I was eager to be a part of something like that. I wanted to stay volunteering and after I came to Portland, I wanted to keep being a part of a group. That’s what really pushed me into Central City Concern.

Since coming here do you feel like you’ve become a part of the bigger group?
Oh yes! Especially since I got a nametag and my picture is on it and it says “volunteer” on the bottom. I feel like I’m part of the community just because I am a volunteer. I can walk into the EAC and feel absolutely comfortable. Yeah, it’s homey. I’m there and it’s good for me.

How would you say your recovery has informed your volunteerism and vice versa?
I go to NA meetings and I have a service position, but for me that’s not enough. Being able to volunteer for a community that is the same as what I’m going through or what I’ve been through—like the community of being homeless, the community of looking for a job and trying to survive outside—I feel like it’s helped my recovery tremendously. If I didn’t volunteer, I’m not sure my recovery would’ve blossomed as much as it has. It holds me accountable. Like, if I don’t volunteer am I giving back? I’m not.

I started out doing drugs and drinking and not thinking about who I was hurting, about the people I was hurting outside of myself. You know, like my family, like all the crimes I committed while being under the influence, not worrying about taxpayers money, not worrying about anything. I just didn’t care. But now that I’m clean and sober I see all of the people that I hurt, how much I hurt myself, how just, disgusting I felt inside. And how pure and clean and open I feel now that I’m clean and sober and I’ve been able to help with volunteering and even working. It’s very full circle.

Have you had any experiences in the clothing closet that have stuck with you or just made your day?
So one day there was this gentleman who was really early on in his recovery. He came into the clothing closet and he didn’t have any teeth in and he was really embarrassed. He was talking like his mouth was almost closed and he had his hand over his mouth and I was thinking “oh my gosh, why is he doing that,” you know? And then he said, “Oh, I’m sorry I’m talking muffled, I just don’t have my teeth in. I haven’t got them yet.” And so for somebody to come in and try to find clothes because he has a job interview and he doesn’t even have his teeth yet, that touched my heart. He’s still looking for work and he’s going to go into this interview teeth in or not! I don’t know if I didn’t have teeth in, or if I couldn’t take a shower, or if I couldn’t do my hair or put on makeup, I don’t know if I would have gone to the clothing closet and attempted to get some clothes for an interview or even had an interview.

And I actually saw him just yesterday and he was grinning from ear to ear. He’s been working, and he was just smiling, and I thought “oh my god, that is the same guy that I saw months ago but with all of his teeth now.” They were just bright and shiny. And, every time I see him I think about that because I see him in the community and yeah, it touched me. It gave me hope in people.

Any thoughts or parting words you’d like share?
I would say that Central City Concern has really helped me. It opened up my eyes to see the community of where I came from to the community of where I want to be. It’s opened my eyes to get back into school. This will be the first time, my going to college. It’s helped me to bring it all together to know what I want to do with my life. Being able to talk to people about their job or how they got there and me wanting what they have. I didn’t used to think that way but seeing how many people have walked the same life that I’ve walked and now look at them; so successful. That’s my parting words.

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If you are interested in learning more about volunteer positions at Central City Concern’s health and recovery, housing, or employment programs, contact Eric Reynolds, CCC’s Volunteer Manager, at eric.reynolds@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: August 2016 Edition

Aug 30, 2016

After July’s Jesuit Volunteer Corps Anniversary edition of the Volunteer Spotlight, we’re now taking some time with one of CCC’s most flexible volunteers, Deborah, as she tells us about her behind-the-scenes tasks, many volunteer roles and impressions of CCC!

 

Name: My name is Deborah Dory, as in finding Dory…but I do know who I am, ha!

Position: I would be considered an On-Call Administrative Volunteer.

What kind of projects have you participated in as an On-Call Administrative Volunteer?

Let’s see, you might have to jog my memory on some things but I enjoyed them all. I can remember the childcare, the donor envelope filling and signing addresses, and doing some [phone-call] invites for one of the donor programs a couple of times and medical records filing and archiving quite a bit. Data entry with the grants documentation with both the Quality Management and the Supportive Housing programs. The recent one was with the Imani Program: some of their photocopying and re-orchestrating their filing. Just all the range is very enjoyable and it’s just a great program that you guys are doing. Great work. I like it all.

How did you first hear about Central City Concern?

Well I always knew about Central City Concern. It was a long time ago…when I was working at DePaul Treatment Center, and I knew about it then because a lot of the clients were going into housing and there were some other programs, the Letty Owings Center [and others], that we referred to through outpatient and things. And then of course you’d hear about different things you guys were doing and you’d see the buildings that you guys were doing.

Do you think you’ve learned a lot about the organization since you first started volunteering?

Well, I think one of the things I learned is that the staff is committed, both emotionally and professionally. You want to assume that when you’re doing nonprofit work but it just more solidifies that the people are devoted and happy that they’re there.

Of these various projects that you’ve done with CCC, do you have a favorite?

I like the donor program. Helping with that you realize that people are going about their daily lives and so it’s using your charisma to encourage them to continue supporting the work. You had to use some of your skillset more than just being in a room and filing or being at a computer doing data entry.

And of course, I think I’m just simple. I enjoyed filing the medical stuff because I take that in very high regard and I take pride in filing things right. I guess I could say something that I’ve learned, or something that I already know, is that I’m a person who really upholds confidentiality and I hold that sensitivity to a very high esteem.

What words of advice do you have for somebody on the fence about volunteering?

Just go to the site and see what they do. For me, I kind of got a feel before I started so for the most part a lot of people would have heard your name before too. It’s not many hours you have to commit, so it’s worth a try because it’s good and necessary work that you guys do, and from there you can be hooked. What’s a small commitment for at least an emotional reward?

Do you have any parting words about your time as a volunteer?

Well, I think I just enjoy the process. It wasn’t that I could just walk in and start volunteering so I appreciate that professionalism. I look forward to doing more things and learning more about the programs but so far they have been vast and all of them exciting. I don’t want to just say that I want this specific thing because I know there is so much more. And just connecting with the human condition and there are all these different issues as far as trying to empower people so I know that I don’t just want to commit to one specific area.

 



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.”

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