As we enter the thick of the holiday season, lots of people ask how they can support Central City Concern. After all, the season is just as much about
giving back as it is getting gifts, and we rely on your support to help our most vulnerable community members find stability, wellness and opportunity.
So we’ve put together a list of all the ways you can support us during the holidays. We hope that you can find at least one channel of generosity that
works for you to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve!
Willamette Week’s Give!Guide:
Portland easiest path to year-end giving. Visit CCC’s Give!Guide page to make a gift while earning fun incentives. Give!Guide also has a
few Big Give Days remaining: give $10 or more on those days for a chance to win an extra special prize package! Further, CCC also has a number of
mouth-watering incentives exclusively for our donors.
Make a one-time gift online:
Make a one-time monetary gift through our secure donation website and know that your donation will make a difference in the lives of people CCC serves. Even a $50 gift can be used to provide shoes for three children
in CCC’s family housing program.
Become a recurring donor:
Instead of giving once, set up automatic payments to make a contribution at an interval of your choosing. Recurring donations help us know the support
we can count on while you make a difference all year long. Become a recurring donor on our secure donation site.
In-kind Wish List:
People on different parts of their journeys toward stability need different kinds of things. We’ve put together a list of in-kind needs that can benefit our clients, no matter where or how we meet them. We accept most items
in new or like-new condition.
Amazon Wish List:
Our Amazon Wish List offers a convenient way
to purchase and donate items to meet our current needs. Check it out, purchase some items and have them shipped directly to us.
Many people find Amazon.com to be a convenient way to take care of their shopping. The AmazonSmile program allows you to link your Amazon shopping cart to CCC so that a portion of your Amazon purchases will be donated to us.
Fred Meyer Community Rewards:
Did you know that you can support us while shopping at any Fred Meyer store? All you need to do is link your Fred Meyer Rewards account to CCC. Once
it’s linked, Fred Meyer will donate a portion of your spending to CCC! Follow this link,
sign into your Fred Meyer account, search for Central City Concern and enroll!
Two local art exhibits will generously donate a portion of their proceeds to CCC! The Elisabeth Jones Art Center will donate 10% of all sales from
their “Artistic Sketchbook II” exhibit of
sketches by local artists. Steve Diamond’s “From a Distance” photography exhibit running at Mississippi Avenue Lofts; he will donate 20% of the proceeds
Giving can always be more than about money or items. CCC volunteers give their time, skills and presence to help our programs do more and do better.
Visit our Volunteer page to learn more about
our opportunities or submit an interest form.
Michaelle, a peer support specialist with Central City Concern’s (CCC) Veterans Grant & Per Diem Program, was home one evening when she noted a post
on the St Johns neighborhood’s NextDoor.com page.
“I’m looking for an organization that can take donations,” the post read.
Looking to give back, St. Johns resident Jenni Jo planned to run a donation-based introductory body rolling class and was looking for local nonprofits
that could use the donations. Michaelle’s thoughts went immediately to the veterans she works with, many of whom come to the program with nothing,
sometimes straight off the street. She quickly responded to the post.
The two connected and established a plan. Michaelle would survey the veterans in her program for a list of items they needed — things like coffee
pots, sheets and day planners — and Jenni Jo would host a free introductory body rolling class for donations of new or gently used items and
cash. The connection they made there would create effects that rippled out in both the CCC’s and Jenni Jo’s communities.
Also known as “The Tension Tamer” and “massage therapist to the rock stars,” Jenni Jo is a successful businesswoman who has been recognized for her unique
approach to taming tension and pain management through body work. Her choice to pursue a career in tension taming was inspired by a childhood spent
seeing her grandmother live with rheumatoid arthritis. Knowing people suffered from chronic pain, feeling trapped in their own bodies, she was driven
to pursue alleviating pain. One of her favorite methods? Body rolling.
“Body rolling is like your own massage therapist and physical meditation in a ball. It stimulates bone health, lengthens muscles and has many of the effects
of a deep tissue massage, including stress relief and deep-seated therapeutic effects when practiced correctly.”
"Jenni Jo has a deep intuition about who is going to recoil. Even people who are normally very resistant to touch let Jenni Jo come and
help adjust them. Her personality is so welcoming and gives confidence to everyone.”
While Jenni Jo describes herself as nomadic by nature and an avid traveler (including going on international tours with rock stars), she is also incredibly
grounded in her local community. Last year, she decided to do something to impact her neighborhood of St. Johns. The original idea was simple:
Jenni Jo would host a free class for people interested in learning more about body rolling. The class would be donation-based to benefit a local
As Jenni Jo and Michaelle worked together, it became clear that Jenni Jo had a deeper connection with the veteran program at CCC than just living in
the area. Her family history, including chronic pain and PTSD from military service, gave her insight into the experience of our veteran clients.
Connecting over their shared compassion, Michaelle invited Jenni Jo to attend one of the monthly resident meetings and lead a body rolling session.
Jenni Jo arrived, various balls in tow, to greet a group of hesitant and unsure veterans. But when Michaelle and Jenni Jo started demonstrating the
movements, the group quickly got into it. Jenni Jo led the group through some simple exercises and meditation aimed to reduce tension and pain,
as well as to teach tools that allow practitioners to create quite moments of mental and physical peace.
Jenni Jo seemed to have a natural instinct for how to interact in a trauma-informed way. According to Michaelle, “Jenni Jo has a deep intuition about
who is going to recoil. Even people who are normally very resistant to touch let Jenni Jo come and help adjust them. Her personality is so welcoming
and gives confidence to everyone.”
These sessions were well received and many of the vets were able to use balls that Jenni Jo donated to practice on their own. But her impact on the
program was just beginning.
As she shared stories of her volunteer work, her whole family became involved. Her father and her children helped run some of the sessions. Jenni Jo’s stepfather, a Vietnam vet, donated many high-quality items of clothing...
As she shared stories of her volunteer work, her whole family became involved. Her father and her children helped run some of the sessions. Jenni Jo’s stepfather, a Vietnam vet, donated many high-quality items of clothing; Michaelle eventually set up a “shop” for the veteran clients. According to Jenni Jo, this meant a lot to her stepfather:
“Because of his PTSD, he doesn’t often have the ability to engage personally in volunteer work with fellow veterans. So it was really special for him to be able to give back and see his donation go to such a good cause.”
When Jenni’s mother heard about her work with CCC, she nominated the organization for a grant from Leupold and Stevens, where she serves on the charitable giving committee. To the surprise and joy of Michaelle and CCC, L&S donated over $10,000 to the veterans program. This donation gave Michaelle and other staff the ability to provide special holiday gifts to the veterans. Even her children got involved with spreading the good work. Jenni Jo and her kids made goody bags with hand warmers, granola bars and information about how veterans could access services. She handed these out to her clients to give to homeless veterans they might see. Her hope was to inspire connection and maybe help veterans experiencing homelessness find their way to services.
Her decision to get her kids involved was a way to show them the importance of volunteering. “I am a single mom and it is incredibly important to me to teach my children to know what is going on in the world, teach them compassion and not to take things for granted. I want my kids to have really big hearts and to know they can make a difference and think outside of themselves.”
We are all inspired by Jenni Jo’s work at CCC and in our community. We look forward to other ways her kindness and compassion “roll forward!”
Recently, Volunteer Program Manager Westbrook Evans sat down with Jim, a volunteer in Central City Concern’s (CCC) Living Room program, which functions
as a shared, safe place for Old Town Recovery Center patients, many of whom are actively living with and managing behavioral and mental health challenges.
Read on to find out what drew Jim to volunteering with us, how volunteering aligns with his personal journey and more.
• • •
Tell me a little bit about your role here at CCC?
I volunteer one day a week at the Living Room at the Old Town Recovery Center. I help facilitate breakfast and group activities with members of the Central
City Concern community.
What are some parts of your volunteer role that you particularly enjoy?
Hanging out with the community. The day I volunteer we do meditation. I meditate in my personal time, but it is nice to do it with a group of people. It
is pretty powerful to have 20 people in a room taking a few minutes to reflect.
Has there been anything that has been challenging or difficult?
Getting up at 7 to make it to the Living Room! [laughs] It can be hard to get out of bed but I’m always glad I did. Every morning we start off with a “Hope
Scale.” When I come in, I’m a six out of 10. When I leave I am at an eight or nine.
What drew you to wanting to volunteer with CCC specifically?
For a lot of my life I held a lot of fear and anger about injustice and problems in our society. I spent time in the Bay Area and Portland and I just found
it overwhelming that as a wealthy, developed nation we can’t provide simple services for people who need help. Having experienced houselessness, drug
addiction and alcoholism I felt a connection to the work CCC is doing. Part of my recovery and healing is sharing what I have and to be of service.
I had volunteered with Alcoholics Anonymous but never volunteered with an organization like CCC.
"Every morning we start off with a “Hope Scale.” When I come in, I’m a six out of 10. When I leave I am at an eight or nine."
Can you share a little about how your recovery has led you to volunteer?
Something I have gotten better about through working with my sponsor is learning more about my mission. My mission isn’t to fix the world or every problem,
but if I can help one person see a little bit of light in their recovery, my purpose for that day has been met. If we all did that a little, it builds.
There is a phrase you hear from old-timers in long-term sobriety: “You can’t keep it if you don’t give it away.” The only way for me to step out of my
own self is to be of service to another person. When I am doing service in the Living Room or just asking someone how their day was, I’m not stuck
in self-centeredness. I can finally be honest with myself.
When I first interviewed you to become a volunteer you had an interesting story about how you heard about us…
At the time I was already seeking some way to volunteer. A friend and I were having coffee when a Central City Concern truck pulled up to clean up a pile
of trash. My friend started asking questions and we learned a lot of the guys were in recovery and working for CCC, keeping the streets clean. I found
CCC’s website later that day and signed up to volunteer.
How has volunteering with CCC affected your life?
I see people all over town who are affected by CCC. I even see people who graduated from the Living Room, but they still go. I sit there and realize I
was a few turns away from being at CCC’s door with a backpack. A few less supportive people in my life — easily. It is crazy to think about.
Some of the fear and resentment [about injustice] I had before starting my volunteer time with CCC was softened by realizing how much groups like CCC are
doing in the community. It was a moment that showed me there is a collective community effort that has been going on for a long time. It is exciting
to be a part of that work and start learning the intricacies of the work. It’s really impressive.
Most Portlanders know John and Renee Gorham as the duo behind some of the city’s most exciting restaurants like Toro Bravo and Tasty n Alder. Their cuisine
is renowned for the breadth of inspiration they draw from all over the world — from Spain to Israel to the Carolinas.
when it comes to making a difference, the Gorhams focus on their own community. This holiday season, John and Renee are leveraging their star power
to support Central City Concern’s (CCC) Give!Guide campaign, as well as those of several other nonprofits, particularly
those addressing the homelessness epidemic in Portland.
We caught up with John and Renee for a quick Q&A to learn more about how they approach giving and doing their part to elevate the community.
Why did you decide to partner with CCC for the 2019 Give!Guide? CCC’s wide range of services and versatility offers the most wraparound and overarching support to transform the lives of families and individuals
in our community. Partnering with CCC in Give!Guide opens up the opportunity for us to reach a broader audience to support the critically important
and necessary work with the most vulnerable populations of our community.
What inspires you to give? In the restaurant industry we provide a service to those who can afford to dine out, but we also offer jobs and build a community within our group.
There have been several points in our careers where we found family within the industry, so trying to create that sense of community beyond the walls
of our restaurants is what inspires us to give.
How is your giving different than in past years? Each year we shift our focus to an area of larger need. Right now it’s abundantly clear that homelessness is the most immediate problem facing our
community. We’ve learned that collaborating with organizations who are on the ground providing services that make real differences in people’s lives
allows us to leverage what we can do to make a meaningful impact. We want to be a part of the solution.
“Every person deserves an opportunity to better their lives and have a chance to champion the best life that they can live.”
What message would you like to share with the community? Homelessness in Portland is something that needs all of our attention and our focus. Changing the lens of the way we all see homelessness is the first
step all of Portland can take. Whatever got a person or a family into the situation they are in is irrelevant. Every person deserves an opportunity
to better their lives and champion the best life that they can live.
Beyond what we see on the streets there is a huge population of people living on the cusp of homelessness. There is so much opportunity for us all to put
our money where our mouths are if we want to make meaningful change in this community. We just can’t rely on someone else to fix a problem that is
bigger than us all.
It’s just the damn right thing to do.
• • •
Give!Guide goes live on Friday, Nov. 1! Check out the details of our exclusive incentives
for donors who give to CCC through Give!Guide this holiday season.
On Tuesday, Oct. 15, Central City Concern (CCC) held our annual Compassion In Action fundraising luncheon at the Hilton Portland Downtown. This year, CCC
used the opportunity to celebrate not only all that is possible when community members work together to bring lasting change to people in need, but
also four decades of helping people find home, hope and healing.
With a blast of horns, Portland-based 12-piece funk and soul band Soul Vaccination kicked off the day’s program, performing their hit song “Funk P-Town”
with several lyrics altered to celebrate CCC’s 40th anniversary.
President and CEO Rachel Solotaroff then took the stage, thanking elected officials in attendance; the event’s Presenting, Home of Our Own and Ready
to Work sponsors; and several corporate partners who have generously given to CCC for more than 20 years.
Rachel went on to speak about a concept that is vital to the staff members, clients and the very spirit of CCC: resilience. She shared that resilience
“isn’t something people are born with. It’s something people are given, and they are given it through human connection.”
“Resilience requires relationships, not rugged individualism,” Rachel continues. “We are not the survival of the fittest. We are the survival of the nurtured.”
“Resilience requires relationships, not rugged individualism."
G. Robert (Bobby) Watts, CEO of National Health Care for the Homeless Council, served as the luncheon’s keynote speaker. Bobby tapped into the deep familiarity
with CCC’s work that he’s developed as the leader of the nation’s preeminent membership organization of homeless health care organizations, people
with lived experience of homelessness and advocates. CCC is, Bobby said, “doing some things that no one else is doing and they are doing some things
better than most others are doing. We, as a council, are going to rely on them.”
Bobby then pivoted to speaking about homelessness as a national epidemic. He shared that our collective hope and goal should be moving toward “compassionate
justice”: a society that not only sees housing and health care as human rights, but provides them as such. Our path toward that goal consists of doing
what we know works: affordable housing and housing subsidies, health care to people experiencing homelessness, supportive housing, medical respite,
practicing a Housing First approach, trauma-informed care, harm reduction and addressing racism.
The audience was treated to the premiere of “40 Years of Hope and Healing: The Human Connection,” a video feature that showed the transformative ripple
effect of making human connection through the stories of two long-time CCC employees, Bobby T. and Medina. (Watch the video for yourself at the end
of the post.)
Stacey Dodson, market president at U.S. Bank, followed the video to make the pitch. Before she began her ask, however, she shared about her intimate connection
to the devastation that addiction can ravage on families, making the work of CCC all the more vital to our community.
Soul Vaccination closed the program with three more songs, including a raucous version of Earth Wind & Fire’s “September.”
In total, CCC’s 2019 Compassion In Action campaign raised over $290,000.
Central City Concern (CCC) wrapped up National Recovery Month on a powerful note this past Saturday, Sept. 28, at the second annual Walk for Recovery,
where members of the Portland recovery community and their families united to improve Oregon’s fractured and incomplete addiction recovery system.
CCC staff and clients, along with their friends, family and hundreds of other community members and organizations, took part in the two-mile walk from
southwest to northwest Portland, which felt more like a political march than a fundraising event. Key legislators and decision makers helped kick off
the walk at an opening rally, sharing words of encouragement to participants about why mobilizing to address addiction is so important. Representatives
from Oregon Recovers, which organized the Walk for Recovery, emphasized the goal of building a movement of people in recovery in order to drive widespread
support for addiction prevention and treatment across Oregon.
During the walk, as participants passed by multiple addiction treatment and help centers — including CCC’s own CCC Recovery Center, Imani Center
and Old Town Recovery Center programs — they proudly help up hand-made signs with messages of encouragement to those in recovery and calls to
action for elected officials to increase access to treatment.
One of the largest contingents at the Walk for Recovery was made up of staff, clients and alumni of Puentes, CCC’s culturally specific recovery program
for Spanish speakers. Ricardo Verdeguez, a recovery mentor
and drug and alcohol counselor at Puentes, highlighted a significant barrier in recovery services: the lack of Spanish-language treatment programs.
"Today I have a life and I have a family because I am in recovery."
“After 30 years of battling addiction, there was no treatment for me as a third-generation Latino,” Ricardo shared during his speech at the Walk for Recovery
rally. “I found treatment with Central City Concern and I’m grateful, because they have culturally specific treatment. Today I have a life and I have
a family because I am in recovery.”
Puentes’ large presence at the Walk for Recovery was fitting, where increasing access to recovery services was a reoccurring theme. Oregon ranks 50th in
the country — last place — in access to treatment. Puentes has worked hard to welcome Portland’s Spanish-speakers into a culturally responsive community where things like language,
country of origin and documentation status are not barriers to beginning and maintaining a life in recovery. While much work remains in breaking barriers
to preventing and treating addiction, we are proud to serve the Latino recovery community through our Puentes program.
With hundreds of Portlanders in attendance and over $100,000 raised to improve Oregon’s addiction recovery system, the Walk for Recovery was a success
that CCC was thrilled to be a part of. While National Recovery Month might be over, our work to bring hope and healing to those struggling with addiction
continues with the same determination and fire we witnessed during the weekend’s events.
We close out our National Health Center Week 2019 series with a unique take on what it means to be “rooted in community” by focusing on Central City Concern
(CCC) volunteers. CCC Volunteer Manager Westbrook Evans shares several ways our volunteers help CCC take root in our community, as well as how volunteers
themselves become part of the community to which they give their time.
• • •
This year’s theme of National Health Center Week is “rooted in community.” To honor this theme, we’re highlighting a group of people that elevates CCC's
work and roots it in the broader community every day: our health center volunteers.
From administrative tasks and customer service roles, all the way to volunteer providers, more than 200 volunteers worked in our health care sites over
the past year. On top of the positive impact volunteers have on our clients and staff, volunteers are often some of the best ambassadors for our mission.
They share their work and experiences with their families, friends and co-workers. Volunteers truly spread our roots throughout Portland!
Check out some of the ways volunteers make a big difference in our community health centers.
The Living Room
The Living Room program is at the cornerstone (literally) of two Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) sites, Old Town Clinic (OTC) and the Old Town
Recovery Center (OTRC). The Living Room is a program for CCC patients who are living with and managing behavioral and mental health challenges, and
serves the spiritual and community needs of patients engaged in our medical services. It is a peer-led, community-driven program, and a place for its
members, CCC staff and our members of the broader community to come together and support one another through activities, conversations and relationships.
According to Living Room Coordinator Hayden, volunteers are an integral part of the work the program does. Volunteers participate as part of a service
team alongside staff, helping set up and facilitate Living Room activities. Most importantly, they spend time with members building relationships while
participating in the programing. An important part of well-being is building and creating positive community connections.
Volunteers often help to bridge the gap between paid staff and users of CCC services. I asked Beau, a Living Room volunteer, what being “rooted in community”
means to him in relation to his volunteer role. “To me, it means people. People make up a community with the knowledge and ideas they share with each
We are so grateful that the Living Room volunteers show up every day to share this experience and build the community.
Clinic Concierge Program
The Clinic Concierge program is in its fifth year at OTC. The concierge role is part of CCC’s goal to create a clinical environment where those alienated
from mainstream medical services feel welcome. When a concierge is on shift, visitors are always met with a friendly smile. As in the Living Room,
knowing that the volunteers show up just because they want to be there emphasizes that our patients are valued members of the community. In the words
of an OTC staff member:
“The concierge program has been awesome. They may be the first point of contact when someone walks into the building. They are full of information and
resources, and may have a friendly conversation with our patients or help the patient to find their way around the clinic.
“Patients are always really happy to see them; they are one of the first people they see or approach. Concierges improve patient flow. We get so busy up
front that sometimes we forget to smile, but the concierges are always ready with one. Some form really good rapport with the patients. The concierges
make an effort to let patients know they are welcome here by learning their names, their pets’ names, and remembering specific facts about them. They
are a lovely presence here in the clinic.”
Other volunteer activities
Within OTC and OTRC and across our 13 FQHC sites, volunteers assist in many more ways. We have volunteer pharmacists, medical providers, administrative
and data entry assistants, translators and more, all freely giving their time and energy to our clients and staff. We are so grateful for all our volunteers
and how they root our health centers in the community!
"Transformation" is a wall-length mural in CCC's Blackburn Center, designed and painted by Baba Wagué Diakité, and partially funded by Regional Arts and Culture Council. The mural is based on the stories of CCC clients and staff. Click on a photo to begin the slideshow.
The walk up the steps from the main lobby of Central City Concern’s (CCC) Blackburn Center to the second floor is an exercise
in slow revelation. “Transformation,” a new mural created for Blackburn Center by renowned Portland artist Baba Wagué Diakité, is positioned at the
top of the stairs to meet all visitors — less a gatekeeper and more a welcoming party.
Upon the very first stretch of the upper floor wall that comes into view, it takes a second to register the figure of a vibrantly colored tree, evaporating
any expectation of a sterile, sparse waiting room. Your eyes can’t help but trace left to follow the procession of animals large and small, winged,
scaled and legged. Bright music notes pop out from what you quickly realize is a mostly black and white, wall-length mural of a fantastical scene framed
in earthy gold.
As you reach the top of the steps and approach the wall, you notice the impossibly intricate patterns that fill in the animal outlines. Only now do you
find a mandala of words: “hope,” “caring,” “journey” and “joy,” among others. And as much as you want to press your nose up to it, you feel similarly
pulled to take several steps back to take the entire mural in at once.
There’s no wondering what would be said if this wall could talk. This one proclaims the CCC story.
Months before Wagué first laid his brush to the wall, CCC Art Task Force volunteer Alice McCartor came across a Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC)
grant intended to support projects that invite the community to participate, including underserved communities. With the Art Task Force — an all-volunteer group of community members who procure donations of and curate fine art to beautify CCC
buildings — already in the thick of procuring art for Blackburn Center, Alice immediately saw a golden opportunity.
“I thought a mural here could be a good match because RACC makes an effort to bring art to the public in multiple ways,” Alice shared. “I could envision
many people walking into the clinic — people who don’t have easy access to galleries or the museum — and being able to see fine art in
There’s no wondering what would be said if this wall could talk. This one proclaims the CCC story.
The rest of the Art Task Force agreed and began discussing local artists whose style and experience would be right for such a project. Wagué, whose work
and reputation as a writer, illustrator, ceramicist and muralist is eclipsed only by his truest artistic identity as a storyteller, quickly became
the group’s first choice.
Growing up in Mali, Africa, the power and magic of stories settled deep into Wagué’s bones as he listened to stories told by his grandmother and village
elders. These stories often depicted animals as the characters to represent our human foibles, our strengths and our resiliency.
As an established artist, he developed a storytelling program called “What’s Standing on Your Soul?” that allows participants to exchange ideas based on
their own lives. What better person, what better way, to bring to life a mural based on and in CCC’s community of clients who receive support to find
stability and wellness, as well as the staff who offer that help?
“I first learned of CCC’s work when an artwork of mine was donated to the organization’s Healing Through Art collection a few years back,” Wagué shared. “I was absolutely humbled when I was approached about this project.”
A few months later, RACC notified CCC that they would award the grant for a mural project.
CCC arranged three sessions for Wagué to facilitate his workshop: the first for a group of Old Town Clinic patients, the second for a group of CCC staff
members and the last for staff members specifically from CCC’s Eastside Concern program, which would soon be absorbed into Blackburn Center to provide
substance use disorder counseling and peer support services.
Over the course of a few hours, Wagué shared about storytelling’s capacity to connect and challenge, recounted stories he’d heard growing up in Mali and
set the stage for participants to share stories based in their own experiences.
“It meant quite a bit for me to be a part of that,” shared Zibby, an Old Town Clinic patient. “To me, it meant that my story has value. It recognized my
love for art.”
Though a skilled facilitator, Wagué knew that participants would have to meet him halfway to fully unlock the power of storytelling. “They have beautiful
ambitions of many good things they want to accomplish, but I would have never learned any of that without them trusting me. So I’m grateful,” he says.
“It was also evident how much pride they have in their daily progress. They are determined and grateful for the opportunity to become the best they
can be. That really stuck out to me.”
"It meant quite a bit for me to be a part of [the storytelling sessions]. To me, it meant that my story has value. It recognized my love for art.”
At each session, Wagué was accompanied by his wife, Ronna Neuenschwander, an accomplished and well-known artist in her own right. She listened alongside
Wagué, documenting phrases and narratives the participants shared. After the workshops, Wagué and Ronna reviewed her notes, identifying themes that
emerged across the conversations. Then he got to work translating the collective story of CCC staff and clients into imagery steeped in Malian traditions.
“I focused on the positive direction people want to shape their lives toward, such as ‘being well and doing well in life,’ ‘being able to trust again,’
and ‘helping others so they will not experience what I went through.’
“Some things we heard are represented by words, others are represented with images of favorite animals and scenes of nature that have helped them through
The resulting design was a sprawling, 30-feet by 10-feet mural, as bold in its entirety as it is delicate in its individual elements. Creatures of all
kinds march, fly or catch a ride on others toward a lizard playing music.
“I wanted to include animals that are metaphors for the stories that they shared: in my culture, Elephant represents strength, Turtle represents courage
and endurance, Hippo is the symbol of large vision, Birds are symbols of knowledge, Lizard represents welcoming and happiness,” Wagué explains. “All
of them are carrying others on their backs, symbolizing diversity and acceptance. The bird’s nest shows nurturing and caring. The baobab tree carried
on the back of the tortoise is the sturdy and long-living tree of life.”
Transferring the design on paper to the wall was a month-long endeavor that, like the best of stories, took a few unforeseen turns. Wagué and Ronna worked
side by side nearly every day in June. They initially invited one other Portland artist, Kendra Larson, who wanted to learn about mural painting techniques.
“They have beautiful ambitions of many good things they want to accomplish.... It was also evident how much pride they have in their daily progress. They
are determined and grateful for the opportunity to become the best they can be.”
As the weeks passed, many others came along to help, delightfully mirroring the caravan of creatures in the mural itself. Ronna recounts, “One of Kendra’s
students was interested in helping, so he joined. Construction workers and electricians and CCC’s own tech people would comment on the job daily, explaining
our mural to us as it progressed. Then they began asking if they could paint a little spot in the mural. We felt honored that they had taken on ownership
of the mural and wanted to leave a visual mark of their hand in the building.”
Blackburn Center staff — in the building to prepare for the start of services— popped by between meetings and tasks, eager to fill in a pattern
here, widen a line there. CCC’s Art Task Force volunteers joined in, too. Wagué hadn’t set out for the painting to be a totally communal task, but
he and Ronna readily embraced it. “Many helping hands involved in the mural to me is a symbol of love and harmony and the mural itself is now a monument
of our accomplishment together.”
No Blackburn Center staff member would take credit for more than the tiniest contribution, but the opportunity to make a mark colored how they view their
own experience at the new program.
“Many helping hands involved in the mural to me is a symbol of love and harmony and the mural itself is now a monument of our accomplishment together.”
“I painted one tiny orange circle and one tiny blue circle,” says Lydia Bartholow, Blackburn Center’s Associate Director of Behavioral Health. “But painting
these circles felt very much to me like my involvement in the overall Blackburn project: there was a larger vision that centered the stories of our
clients, and I was lucky enough to get to contribute to something much larger and more beautiful than myself.”
Dalando Vance, a peer case manager for Blackburn Center Apartments, shares, “I felt a great deal of gratitude. Even though the part I painted was super
small, I got a feeling of empowerment and togetherness.”
Wagué made his final dabs and strokes on June 28. Since then, scores of staff members, clients and community partners have stopped in their tracks in the
second floor lobby, pausing to interpret the images for themselves. Often, what they hear is their own story spoken back.
Alice, the Art Task Force volunteer who first set this project in motion, couldn’t be more pleased. “Wagué's story-telling process, his resulting design
and his welcoming of all comers to share in painting the mural is just what we hoped for — a joyous reflection of the healing process at CCC
for and by clients and staff.”
City Concern (CCC) supporter Kelli Payne is a courtesy signer for real estate closings, helping people through the paperwork for buying, selling and
refinancing their homes. She donates five percent of her business proceeds to local nonprofits, including CCC.
“I’ve seen and experienced the transformation that happens when people have a loving home,” she says. “I’ve lived in cities where there were clear social
problems, but it was easy to drive or walk faster past these problems and go about my life. I’ve been given the opportunity through volunteering to
talk to people impacted by homelessness and mental illness and see my own human struggle and suffering reflected in their stories.”
Kelli finds it easy to simply share a portion of her earnings. “Giving a percentage makes my contribution manageable and ties my business to the incredibly
impactful work of organizations like CCC,” she says. “When I conduct business I do it to better my own circumstances and to lift up my Portland community.
This amplifies the meaning I find in my work and going about my day.”
“[Giving] amplifies the meaning I find in my work and going about my day.”
When it comes to choosing where to give, for Kelli, the choice was easy. “CCC does life-saving work of helping our Portland neighbors recover from homelessness
to live productive lives,” she says. “CCC confronts the complex and often overwhelming issues around homelessness, and provides a tunnel out with resources
and opportunities. Anyone driving around Portland can see that CCC is doing exactly what this city needs, helping people find a way into a life in
recovery. I have a friend whose son’s life was saved by CCC. It’s an honor to carry their mission with me every day.”
Kelli recommends the percentage model when it comes to businesses sharing with the community. “Contributing a percentage has made it manageable,” she says.
“Giving back has improved my relationship with money as I’m better with budgeting and embraced an abundance mindset. I listened to my own heart song and
took the leap, and it has been truly rewarding.”
Happy National Volunteer Week! My name is Westbrook Evans and I am the new Volunteer Manager at Central City Concern (CCC). I have been working at CCC
for two years now and am thrilled to take on a position where I get to work more closely with the amazing volunteers who support our mission in so
many different ways.
National Volunteer Week is an initiative by Points of Light, an international nonprofit dedicated to engaging people in solving social problems through
voluntary service. Each year nonprofits across the world come together around a theme to recognize the volunteers that make our organizations run and
enrich our community. This year the theme is “Celebrate Acts of Service.”
Service, to me, has always been transformative, not only in the community where the work is done, but for the volunteer. Acts of service by our volunteers
don’t begin and end with a single shift because our volunteers become advocates for the people we serve and our work 24/7. We highly value our volunteers
not only for their work, but also for the message they bring back to our community about the importance of engagement. This week I would like to celebrate
the acts of service our volunteers do every day for the people we serve!
Throughout the year we will continue to highlight individual volunteers and the work they do here at CCC. But for this Volunteer Week, we will celebrate
our volunteer community as a whole. Please check out this article from Points of Light about service and if you know anyone who volunteers, help us celebrate them for their acts of
I look forward to getting to know all our volunteers!