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!
One very big part of the holiday season is the idea of giving. What that means to each of us though, can be very different, so we checked in with a few
of our volunteers to ask them, “What does giving mean to you?”
It was so humbling to see how each person, in their own way, expressed that their ultimate way to give was to provide their time and themselves to others
in need. We feel incredibly honored to have volunteers that have found such pleasure in giving openly of themselves to others and that they have chosen
our CCC community to give themselves to in their service.
When you say the word giving, the first thing that comes to my mind is time and being with people that are in need of some companionship, or that appear
to be in need of it, or want some. For example, in my family, a lot of it right now is around them needing me to help out with grandkids. I intentionally
choose to give of my time to them, even if they’re being taken care of in the moment. So there’s the part that’s kind of the needing of my services,
and then there’s the part of just giving of my time and myself.
Peter: And isn’t that something we all wish we had more of: time?
T: I think for me that’s probably the strongest thing I have to offer. And that giving could be listening to somebody, it could be taking
somebody somewhere, it could be just being with somebody. It’s something I want to do, it’s not something that’s like, “Oh my gosh, I have to.”
So that translates to [the Old Town Recovery Center’s Living
Room program] as well. I like being here because a lot of people who are homeless or have mental health challenges or drug addiction… they can
be pretty isolated as individuals and so just them knowing that somebody cares about them. I care. I care enough to sit with someone. So I guess giving
is more emotional—helping to fill a need that somebody might have, or a want that somebody might have… things that we need, or maybe want,
that are good for us.
P: And giving time that openly is really a way of giving yourself.
T: And meaning I care about you. I care. I want to spend time with you. So it’s not like I’m feeling like I have to do it, it’s that I
want to do it. Obviously there’s lots of material things, but that doesn’t mean that much to me, personally. It’s really the offering a piece of myself
to somebody who looks like they might need it.
."It’s really the offering a piece of myself to somebody who looks like they might need it."
I grew up in a small town in Ohio. At that time what giving meant to my family was, if you had, you gave. Whether it was time, money, skills, whatever—that
was just part of life, to share and give. It wasn’t like, “Oh, we’re good people.” It’s just what you do.
When my dad died ten years ago, all these people got up at the funeral and said, “I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone this, but when my dad died in high
school, [Malinda’s father] came to me and said, ‘I’ll make sure you go to college. Do not tell anyone.’” Nobody, even my mom knew these things. So
giving wasn’t something where you wanted to go “Aren’t I great?” It was never that way. I think [my husband] Doug and I have always felt that way.
If you have, give. It rewards you.
You know, we arrived here with no money in 1972, but we had skills, and with skills you make money to donate, which is great fun at our age to be able
to do that. But what both of us love to do is volunteer. Giving means volunteering where we’re passionate. So this is for my passion. Giving is finding
your passion. Giving is something you do. Giving is something you get to do. It’s our opportunity and people that do it get the reward of
being a part of the things we’re passionate about. Not for thanks and not for recognition.
me, giving is, simply put, sharing my free time to help make a difference. Central City Concern changes the lives of so many. I always hope I make
someone’s day a little brighter, because sharing my time certainly makes my day brighter.
For this month’s spotlight, we’re celebrating National Physical Therapy month and spotlighting a volunteer who has lent her holistic approach to the practice
to patients at the Old Town Clinic. Senior Director of Primary Care at the Old Town Clinic,
Barbara Martin, had this to say about Anita’s work:
"Anita August has been an ongoing volunteer with Old Town Clinic, bringing in expertise on both general physical therapy as well as specific types of therapy
to help with pain, such as persistent back pain. She has been flexible with figuring out what might work best for our patients, including group options
or one-on-one appointments. She has also worked around our space and time constraints to help us make the most of her generous gift of time. She
is positive, helpful, and supportive of our patients."
Read on to hear about how Anita got involved with CCC, how her practice of physical therapy has evolved over time, and what she admires about the work
that goes on at the Old Town Clinic!
• • •
How long have you been volunteering with Central City Concern?
Anita: I would say over five years, maybe close to six years.
P: And how did you find out about the agency or the opportunity?
A: Well, I lived in the neighborhood and I was very interested in the Old Town Clinic (OTC). I came to the open house for the new building,
where I met Geoff, who was the Occupational Therapist here. We got to talking and our ideas were so similar I said “I would love to be a part of this.”
And he said, “We can do that!” So that’s how I got involved.
"It takes courage sometimes just to get up in the morning and I’ve found many of the people at Old Town Clinic are courageous."
P: What is your role here now?
A: My role is physical therapy, but not the tradition physical therapy that I have been doing for over 50 years. Some years back, I began
to be dissatisfied with how I was treating people. Mind and body are really one entity and that was what I was not accessing in this traditional type
of PT. You “fix” a shoulder or a knee, but you haven’t changed the things that were behind that injury.
I went back and took a training course about four years ago in Alexander Technique. This is a system of working with people that is very congruent with
Physical therapy. It looks at the way you can change habitual patterns of behavior. That could be how you sit, how you stand. Do you move so abruptly
you “glitch” your joints every time you move? Does your posture have the habitual fear or startle tension patterns? Do you fall because you move impulsively
and lose your balance? It looks at the subtle, hidden patterns of reaction. How do your react when someone accidently bumps into you? Are there people
or circumstances you unthinkingly react to that are not helpful to you?
So that’s Alexander Technique, I think it is the best thing since sliced bread and I tend to go on and on about it. It works really well with Physical
Therapy. There is just no gap between the two approaches for me. Alexander Technique may seem more indirect. I see you for a sore shoulder and I work
on how you sit and stand to start. But in many ways I think it is actually more direct for getting better.
P: It sounds like it is kind of preventative in a way rather than restorative?
A: Both! It is preventive in a big way. For example, if somebody wants to take up yoga, often people go to a class and after the first
or second time they go, they can’t move; they are really hurt. They haven’t known enough to be mindful of how they work to be able to manage themselves
in the class.
P: And that’s an interesting thing because we often recommend yoga as a wellness routine despite the fact that there can be that barrier
for some folks.
A: Not all Yoga is created equal! Out in the community there are different competencies of instructors. Here at Old Town, I have watched
the classes and they are safe and wonderful. But in some community general classes, your instructor gives you instruction and you completely go into
that without thinking. You don’t think, “Okay, stop, I’ve had back problems so let me be sure that my head and neck and torso are in a good place.
Let me see if I can move that way with healing ease of movement.” Do I go as far as I can, especially if the person next to you is a pretzel, or do
I keep good use of myself rather then going headlong into the movement?
But it is not only that; it’s many things. It’s how you react to somebody at work giving you a new task. Do you get so tense that all you can think about
is “I have to do this right”, instead of stopping [and thinking], “Okay, let me see what this part is and step one, and step two, and step three.”
This keeps you safe and also allows you to do a better job!
"I hear how clients are treated [at the Old Town Clinic], what happens here, and I think it’s exemplary. I think it’s something that should be a model. And I’m really delighted to be a part of that."
P: And is that physical carrying of tension something you see a lot with the population that we serve here?
A: Very much. But it’s not just here! People I see here have been through a lot. They’ve been up and down and they’ve dealt with some
tough, tough things in their life. So in many ways, Old Town Clinic clients are more able to understand what I am talking about.
P: Was the population that you served before OTC the same as the one you serve now?
A: I’ve really been around. One of the PT jobs I had was working for a company that did ergonomics, so I was on the floor of Nabisco bakery
and Costco. I loved this job! I learned about Dough Jams and loading cocoa into giant vats. I went home smelling like Ritz crackers!
I had interesting jobs in Hospice and ran a chronic pain clinic for a while in Pennsylvania. I also was administer of MacDonald residence, down the street,
for a short time after it opened.
P: Do you see any differences between the folks you’ve served in the past and your clients at OTC?
A: It’s all the same to me. I like working one-on one, sometimes I like classes but my favorite is one-on –one. In so many ways everyone
is the same and everyone is different.
P: Any stand-out moments during your time here?
A: Many of our people here, as I’ve said, have been through a lot. I often feel a strong connection, great affection, and enormous respect
for those I meet here. Dealing with problems and aging is not, as it is said, for the faint of heart! It takes courage sometimes just to get up in
the morning and I’ve found many of the people at OTC are courageous.
P: When folks ask, what do you tell them about your experience here?
A: I usually start out and say that I feel really lucky to be a part of this organization. I was lucky to meet up with Geoff, and lucky
to have a role here.
P: Anything else you were hoping to be asked about your work or about physical therapy in general?
A: As I said, it’s really a good thing. After all this time, I am not diminished in my enthusiasm at all about where PT is going now.
It is becoming more holistic, and with the Alexander Technique that I am bring into this, I focus on those kinds of principles. I also want to say
something about the values of OTC. I observe how clients are treated, what happens here, and I think it is exemplary. It is something that should be
a model. I am really delighted to be a part of that.
P: What qualities do you see that you would hold up as a model?
A: Enormous respect and empathy. And then kindness, just being kind. Being warm and kind and meeting people where they are. Less judgement,
more empathy. I believe that in a more conventional setting, people would not be doing as well as they do here. The programs that are being offered,
along with the idea of reducing opioid use and supporting a healthier lifestyle, give people a sense that they are cared for. It is very positive.
This month’s volunteer spotlight focuses on a volunteer with the Living Room program at the Old Town Recovery Center (OTRC). The Living Room is a shared, safe place for OTRC members, many of whom are actively living with
and managing behavioral and mental health challenges. The Living Room functions as an empowering healing center, a place for members to come and hang
out, eat, volunteer, build a community, and participate in regular group activities.
Lisa has been a dedicated volunteer at the Living Room and shares her story as part of National Recovery Month. Read on to hear how Lisa’s recovery informs
her service at the Living Room and why peer representation is such an important piece of recovery.
• • •
What is your name and volunteer position? My
name is Lisa and I am a volunteer in the Living Room.
How long have you been volunteering with the Living Room? I think it was April, so about five months ago.
How did you find out about the opportunity? I just was online looking for volunteer opportunities and I read a description and I really loved the idea of this community environment for people
with mental health and/or addiction issues, and the vibe of everyone being equal.
"A lot of people will ask me, 'Oh, do you work here?' or 'Are you going to school?' and I’ll say, 'No, I just like being here. I really want to be around
And have you seen the community environment and structure of equality in practice during your volunteering? Absolutely, yes. Everybody is here to support each other. I feel like the staff treats everyone that walks through the front door like family. It’s
really lovely actually and helpful to me.
I have a history of my own mental illness diagnoses and as well as alcoholism and I was very involved in recovery for a long time, and then I had a relapse
for about a year and I think that there is a definite connection between my current sobriety and volunteering.
Do see you role as a peer as important to your work in the Living Room? Yes, I feel like no matter what our outside life circumstances are, people with mental health struggles and addiction struggles speak the same language.
Nothing really compares to that when it comes to feeling a part of a community and even the people who may or may not have the exact same situation
for themselves, they understand in one way or another, either through family or other experiences that they’ve had. I feel at home here and I think
that’s just because mental health is such a focus here. I come here and I get a lot out of it.
What do you think the importance of a peer is in recovery? It’s almost everything. If you don’t have anyone to relate to, you feel alone. I think it’s really important for the Living Room to have volunteers
too. A lot of people will ask me, “Oh, do you work here?” or “Are you going to school?” and I’ll say, “No, I just like being here. I really want to
be around you.” People that come in will say thank you and I’ll say, “Thank you for being here. I’m getting just as much from this as you are.”
"Everything happens here... all of it."
Have there been any stand out moments at the Living Room during your time as a volunteer? There’s so many, every time I’m here. Just washing dishes with someone and chatting about life is great. I find I have so much in common with people
that I didn’t realize I would. And it’s not always about addiction or mental health, it’s just as people. And I’ve really enjoyed doing little
craft projects here and there and seeing a smile on someone’s face from having a flower in their hair. It goes all the way from serious to something
fun. Everything happens here... all of it.
And, our customary last question: What would you say to someone who was interested in volunteering but was on the fence? I would
say that you must be thinking about it for a reason, so it’s in your heart to do it and you can give it a shot. There’s a lot of opportunities
here, so I think there’s something for everyone.
For this week's volunteer spotlight, we're turning to a volunteer who has already appeared twicebefore in our spotlights, but never as the sole featured volunteer. Given her dedicated service (Judy was one of thirteen volunteers to give more than 100
hours of service in 2017) we thought it was high time she got her own entry.
Judy is one of several volunteers who serve at the Old Town Clinic as
a clinic concierge. The role was designed to help promote the clinic as a welcoming, inclusive place, where the first person you would encounter would
be someone who is smiling and asking how you day is going. Judy exemplifies this role to a 'T.' In addition to the warmth she bringing to her conversations
with people, where almost every sentence is punctuated with a smile and a laugh, Judy also brings experience into her interactions with patients at
the clinic. Read on to see how volunteering helps her connect with her community and about the moments that have made the role particularly special
• • •
What is your name and volunteer position? My name is Judy Sanders and I volunteer as a concierge at the Old Town Clinic.
How long have you been volunteering with CCC? I’ve been here probably not quite a year-and-a-half yet. It was a year in the spring.
How did you find out about this opportunity and/or CCC? Well, I knew about CCC because one of my sons was a client of CCC’s for a number of years. When I moved back to Portland after I retired for real—I
retired once and went off and worked for ten more years—I wanted to do volunteer work. As you get older, you kind of start to question if you’re
earning your place to still be around, so I needed something to do to make me feel like I had some function left in the world. So, I just called up
and asked if you had volunteers.
Had you worked in a clinic before? No, I had never done anything in health care before, but I had worked with people a lot. I did community development work for 20 years for the City
of Portland, so I was used to working with all kinds of people. I was actually in charge of regulatory compliance, so I have come out and monitored
CCC a couple of times over the years!
And your “other job” was in…? Dinosaur paleontology. I did that for ten years while I still had a day job, then when I retired from the City my mentor said, “Come and work for me,”
so then I worked in paleo full time for ten years.
“People sometimes come up and thank me for being there, but for me it’s like 'thank you' for letting me come because it’s some of the best fun I have all
Do you find that those jobs inform your work as a concierge? Well, I’ve worked with all kinds of people, and I did oversee some projects in the city serving people experiencing homelessness. But probably more
than anything it was my son, because he was homeless for some time and he had alcohol and drug addiction. One of the things that I remember he used
to say—that I utilize here—is that he would talk about how he just wanted to feel like a regular person. He hated that everywhere he went
he was a patient or a client and he just sometimes wanted to feel like everybody else. So, when I talk to people at the clinic we talk about all sorts
And some people do want to talk about [their medical stuff] and that’s fine, but I do try to find something to talk to people about other than the fact
that they’re sick or injured.
Since you’ve been here for a while, do you find that patients are recognizing you when they come in? Yeah, a lot of them that come in regularly know who I am and I know more or less who they are. I was talking to [an acupuncture client] today and he
was saying that it made him feel good to have someone there to talk to and I said, “Yeah, it makes me feel good to see you guys.” I think it’s nice
for people to see someone who is familiar; I think it makes them more comfortable. But I think for a lot of people it’s just having someone smile and
say hi, notice them. And for me it’s great. People sometimes come up and thank me for being there, but for me it’s like thank you for letting me come
because it’s some of the best fun I have all week.
Have there been any stand out moments in your time so far? One was just a younger fellow who reminds me some of my son, and this fellow is in and out of sobriety, and when he was in sobriety last he was staying
with his mother and she would come with him [to appointments]. While he was in his appointment, I just sat with his mother and talked to her and she
told me what she was going through and I shared a little of what I went through with my son and kind of said, “It’s okay to feel this way. I did too.”
And so I think it helped her to have someone to talk about it with, because I know when I was going through that with my son, you just don’t feel comfortable
talking to people who haven’t experienced it because you feel like they can’t understand and they tend to judge and tend to think you did something
bad and weren’t a good mother. So, it was nice to be able to be there for somebody else who needed to say what they had to say and not feel that someone
was going to judge them or judge him.
“...it was nice to be able to be there for somebody else who needed to say what they had to say and not feel that someone was going to judge them or judge
There are also a couple people who are deaf that come and there’s one lady who’s really good at reading lips, but I decided, “I’m going to learn a little
bit of sign language.” I just learned to say a few things and I was so proud of myself when she came in the first time and I signed to her and she
perked up. And then there were two other ladies that came in later and they saw me talking to her and they came running over, because they were deaf
as well, and said, “You sign?” And then they gave me some flashcards with the alphabet, because I always have trouble with some of the letters, so
now those two ladies come in and we chat a little.
And what keeps you coming back to volunteer, now that you’ve done a year-and-a-half? For me personally, one thing is just that I do need to be out and doing things, I need to feel like I’m still productive in life. But particularly
now that I’ve been here a while and know some staff and a lot of the clients, I miss them if I don’t come. I wonder if they were there and if they
Usually my last question is what would you tell folks who were interested in volunteering, but since you host so many prospective volunteers who are shadowing the concierge role, I wonder if there’s something that you tell them about the role to win them over? For one thing, I just tell people how much I enjoy it and just what a good time I have! I just find it really rewarding and if I have the chance to
spend time with someone that you know really needed somebody to talk to, it just makes you feel good. I would always, with my son, hope that when he
wasn’t around, there would be somebody that would be there to be nice to him. So, hopefully I’m doing that for other mothers who can’t do that for
Was there anything else you were hoping to tell us? I think one of the things I like about having people come and shadow, particularly ones who haven’t really had much experience with [this population],
is that I think it’s really important that as many people as possible get to be involved with all different parts of the community. The people that
come to the clinic, they’re not any different than anybody else. They have the same issues and problems and I find, in life, that over the years people
just live in their little box and you only meet people like you and it makes all the other people around in the world seem different. It’s not until
you get to know people, and whether its people from other counties or life experiences, you just don’t understand that there is actually so little
difference. So, I really like the fact that people are willing to come and try it out.
They continued to explore their connections to local Pacific Northwest artists and galleries, inquiring about or listening to offers to donate pieces of
art that exude elements of calm and healing. The group also took second and third looks at pieces that had been previously donated but hadn’t yet been
placed, each awaiting the right location and timing to be hung. Members even got together for "framing parties."
Working closely with CCC’s housing community and building managers, the Art Task Force recommended, received feedback about, and installed additional pieces
in several buildings that they believed would add to the overall healing environment. Feedback from CCC staff and clients has been overwhelmingly positive;
just the act of seeing a building’s set of artworks expand garnered positive attention.
In late summer 2017, the Art Task Force received a jaw-dropping and unexpected offer. Dave Dahl, co-founder of Dave’s Killer Bread, expressed interest
in deepening his generous partnership with CCC. Part of his plan to do so included donating pieces of African tribal art that he had been collecting
over the last several years, a passion that had grown into one of the largest African art collections on the west coast. Dave converted his deep admiration for tribal art, his growing knowledge
and research of African tribes, and his business acumen into Discover African Art, which collects, displays, and sells genuine artworks.
The Art Task Force quickly connected the timing of Dave’s offer to the remodel of the historic Golden West Hotel building,
which is home to CCC’s Imani Center program. The building holds a
significant place in Portland’s African-American history, while the Imani Center provides Afrocentric approaches to mental health and addiction treatment.
Several members of the Art Task Force joined CCC’s Director of African American Services Linda Hudson for a tour of the Discover African Art warehouse,
where together they selected two dozen pieces that Dave was delighted to donate, as well as several others given to CCC on loan.
The Golden West’s new art was unveiled during an open house event to show off the remodel work. Guests also saw for the first time
several powerful photo prints donated by local photographer Julie Keefe, who has documented local communities for The Skanner and beyond for more than
two decades. Keefe’s photos were also installed at several other buildings.
Despite this incredible progress, the work of the Art Task Force isn’t done. With CCC’s three Housing is Health developments slated to come online in the
next year, the volunteers are hard at work to find pieces that will live up to the name of the collection. Not only have they begun to reach out to
their contacts, they’ve also started taking steps to expand and diversify the Art Task Force itself, understanding that the group has room to grow
alongside the task ahead. And based on what they’ve accomplished so far—more than 250 pieces of original, high-quality, and healing work—we
have every reason to believe they’ll deliver, even if they want to continue adding some finishing touches.