Thank you, Volunteers! #NVW2016

Apr 15, 2016

What a National Volunteer Week it's been at Central City Concern!

Volunteer Manager Eric Reynolds wrote about his thankfulness for volunteers and underscored the importance of their service, saying that "every smile, every handshake, and every moment here matters to someone."

Two of our volunteers—Anne and Janet—shared the very personal reasons they choose to give their time and presence to the residents of a CCC supportive housing site.

Dale, who serves as the connection between our residents and our volunteers, told us how volunteer service changes people: those who are on the receiving end of volunteerism, as well as those who are giving their time.

We even told the story of volunteer impact at Central City Concern through some incredible numbers!

To close the week, all we have left to do is say "thank you." We put together a little video to express our gratitude to each and every person who has chosen to give time, energy, and presence to those we serve. Happy Volunteer Week, and enjoy!


How Volunteerism Changes People

Apr 14, 2016

Dale Noonkester’s job is to understand the needs of those who live at Central City Concern’s Martha Washington supportive housing community. As their Resident Service Coordinator, she helps residents find and build upon daily successes. She is also known across CCC as someone who is incredibly adept at fostering a sense of community; she’s deeply in tune with her residents.

After talking with two of the great volunteers who give their time at the Martha Washington, we thought it would be worthwhile to ask Dale about the volunteers she works with, why she values them, and what message volunteerism sends to those who live at the Martha Washington.

• • •

I love volunteers.

For one thing, I’ve always enjoyed being a volunteer. You feel like you have purpose. You learn. So having been on that side, I can understand what a volunteer wants and needs when they’re giving their time. 

I worked a lot with volunteers at a previous job. I actually helped to take that volunteer program from three people and turn it into a volunteer force of 72. When they started talking about closing down some of the services, we had 72 volunteers going “NO! DON’T DO THAT!” So I learned that a big thing about volunteerism is that they quickly recognize and value what the organization does. They help you build community support.

I also saw volunteers gain a better understanding of the situations people you’re serving face. It gives them a different understanding, moving away from “why don’t they just…” toward understanding how complicated their lives can be. And maybe more importantly, that perspective gets disseminated to their personal networks.

Our volunteers at the Martha Washington bring a lot of energy and love and support, especially to folks who don’t believe they’re understood. The population at the Martha Washington is so diverse. The volunteers gets to learn about a whole different world. When you see someone with schizophrenia on the street, yes, it can be scary. But when you meet them and work with them, they’re not so scary. You get a better understanding.

When a volunteer comes in, residents believe that they’re important and valued enough to have someone spend time with them. It changes people. And honestly, it happens on both sides.

Like [volunteer] Janet—she does a lot especially around Thanksgiving. It’s a tradition with us now. We go to WinCo and she buys the supplies for a Thanksgiving dinner. To bring that back to the building and show them that this is how much she cares, it’s huge!

And there’s Reese. People here find him so engaging and are always excited to hear about his ideas. They love when he comes to play pool with them. I’ve shared before that the basement when Reese comes to play pool becomes full of residents coming together, having fun, and getting to know each other in a whole new way.

Our residents love doing art projects with Anne, especially because she’s got great communications skills and boundaries and shows so much respect to our residents. When I say that Anne’s going to be here, everyone gets excited.

The residents can see that somebody cares who’s not getting paid to care. Someone wants to come and then they want to come back? That consistency is huge and it makes a difference. For our residents to see people come back over and over, it’s empowering to them.

I am so thankful that our volunteers continue to come back and bring their enthusiasm, their energy, their commitment to our space and to help make our space more connected. They energize us. They really do.

5 Questions with a Volunteer: Part 2

Apr 13, 2016

Yesterday, you met the first of two volunteers who give their time at CCC's supportive housing program at the Martha Washington building. Today, meet Janet Hammer, who has spent the last two years bringing laughter, games, and even Thanksgiving dinners to the Martha Washington residents.

• • •

Janet Hammer, All-purpose Volunteer; has been volunteering for 2+ years

Why do you volunteer with CCC and the Martha Washington?
I think a lot of it stems from knowing that “there but for the grace of God go I.” It’s a hard world and it’s getting harder every day and crueler to those who don’t have the means in this world. When I hear that things have been taken away from people here because of funding cuts, that just drives me crazy. It makes me mad that things are taken away from people who don’t have that much and are trying so hard, but are slapped down by this world. That’s why I volunteer.

[What brought me to CCC is that] I read about the wonderful thing you do for vulnerable people who have just had surgery [CCC’s Recuperative Care Program]. Where the hell are people [in that situation] supposed to recover? Who even thinks about that for these people? And that did something for me. That you guys did something that touched my heart, and that was a big part of it.

What is it about the folks who live at the Martha Washington that you enjoy so much?
What struck me so much when I was first there is the generosity of the people who have little or nothing. It floors me. Absolutely floors me. I find that so many of the people there are really very nice and do need the help. They’ve landed in these situations not by being bad people—so many people have that feeling that if you were homeless that you did some bad thing in your life or were wasteful and that is just not the case! There are so many great people there.

What do you feel like you “bring to the table” when you volunteer?
Honestly, I don’t know… I hope it’s something! I’ve got a good sense of humor and we spend a lot of time laughing. I don’t feel like I do anything big or special at all. I just feel lucky to be who I am and if I can help somebody to make their life just a little bit easier, I’d like to do that.

What have you learned through volunteering?
Not knowing a lot when I first got there, people would tell me some problems they were going through and I would say “Oh, what about this? Or what about that?” and I’ve learned—Dale [Noonkester, the Martha Washington's Resident Service Coordinator] mostly—to just shut up and listen. That’s what people need more than anything: somebody who hears them.

What is an experience you've had while volunteering that makes you smile?
I had just started painting after not doing it for 40 years. I mentioned it to someone at the Martha Washington and she says “Oh, wait just a minute!” and she ran to her room and brought me an art magazine that was so very helpful and wonderful. I’ll never forget that. It was so sweet and so generous and so open and giving.

5 Questions with a Volunteer: Part 1

Apr 12, 2016

As you saw in the infographic we shared yesterday, volunteers can be found across 26 different Central City Concern programs and locations. For National Volunteer Week, we want to bring you into the volunteer experience by focusing on a special place in the CCC community: the supportive housing program at the Martha Washington building. The Martha Washington serves an incredibly diverse set of residents, among them: female veterans, people in recovery as well those not in recovery, and people living with varying degrees of mental illness (anywhere from daily depression to schizophrenia). 

We sat down with two of the Martha Washington's long-serving volunteers to ask them five questions each about their volunteerism. Their responses were encouraging, insightful, and humble—a true testament to the type of volunteers CCC is lucky to have.

First, meet Anne Nutwell, a long-serving volunteer who facilitates a popular arts and crafts activities group for the Martha Washington residents.

• • •

Anne Nutwell, Volunteer Art Group Facilitator; has been volunteering for 2+ years

Why do you volunteer?
Unlike my job where I have an agenda that I need to accomplish, when I’m volunteering I have a lot more freedom and creativity. I got to choose what kind of volunteer position I wanted to ask to be included in and it’s really fun. It’s really enjoyable to be able to bring things that I know people are looking forward to. When I bring a project to the MW, everyone’s like “it’s the arts and crafts girl! What kind of projects did you bring today?” I do work there, but it doesn’t feel like work.

What do you feel like you “bring to the table” when you volunteer?
I want to make sure that what I’m bringing is something that’s going to be accessible. I spend a good amount of time looking for projects and testing the projects before I bring them so that I know they’re going to work out how I think they are. I know people who... some people are arts and crafts people and some people are just “oh that sounds like fun” and I want to make sure that what I bring is accessible to everyone, not just people who are already into arts and crafts. I’d like to think that I approach things with forethought and planning that help the project be accessible and fun for everyone.

What do you enjoy about volunteering?
I try not to have a lot of expectations and instead let people be where they are. I know that sounds sort of hippy. There are some people who show up frequently, some people who show up occasionally, there are some people who have come and realize that this is just really not for them. Everybody is where they are at in their lives and I get to meet them there. And so I really try and just be open to what’s going on. And if somebody gets really inspired and really enjoys a project then that’s awesome; and if somebody is like that’s not for me then I want to make sure that they feel like I acknowledge and appreciate their experience.

What have you learned through volunteering?
I think the most interesting or striking thing that I’ve learned is how to occupy space in a way that is welcoming and helpful and warm but still very respectful. I want to make sure that everything that I’m doing, you understand where my intention comes from, and that I communicate my willingness to do what I’m saying I’m going to do, but also the fact that at any time you can say no and I will be ultimately respectful of what you want.

Volunteering here has really informed how I interact with people. I think my experience at the Martha Washington has really informed my presence.

Why do you choose to donate your time to CCC and the Martha?
I love the diversity of people I get to interact with. I know that folks are in really different places in their lives. It’s really enjoyable to get to interact with so many different people in a way that’s fun and informal. I really enjoy getting to see everyone’s real personality and getting to interact with them in a really genuine way.

I used to live in Old Town. I actually used to live in the apartments right across the street from the Sally McCracken Building. That’s part of why I thought to volunteer with CCC. The whole organization and the focus on essentially the people who used to be my neighbors feels really important. There are lots of ways to spend time and attention to try and help people but it feels really personal when I work with this organization. It feels like it’s helping people I used to pass on my way to work and I just love that so much and I appreciate the folks who work every day with these people.

Central City Concern Volunteers: By the Numbers

Apr 11, 2016

Just how much of an impact do Central City Concern volunteers make? We figured National Volunteer Week would be a great time to look back and make some calculations. Take a look at some of the numbers behind the service! 

To learn more about volunteering with Central City Concern, visit our Volunteer page.

(Download a PDF version of this infographic here.)

Central City Concern Celebrates National Volunteer Week 2016!

Apr 11, 2016

This week is National Volunteer Week! We at Central City Concern have a lot to celebrate, and we’re excited to share with you about our volunteers in a number of ways throughout the week. CCC’s Volunteer Manager, Eric Reynolds, kicks off #NVW2016 with some thoughts for and about our volunteers!

• • •

Each September Central City Concern is honored to be invited to a colossal volunteer expo that, quite literally, fills every nook, cranny, and brick of Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square. Row upon row of 3-foot by 8-foot tables are placed in the open plaza so that over 125 Portland agencies can squeeze in, lay down their table cloths, put out their promotional pamphlets and freebies, and present to the general public about their various services and accompanying volunteer programs. Whether environmental, animal-oriented, or services for a very specific population, each organization in attendance most certainly has their noble causes and thus competition for potential interest at this event can be rigid. Some organizations have the always lovable "adorable puppies" strategy to draw attendees in. Others wisely have delicious cookies or ice cream to share. Central City Concern has our mission...

Providing comprehensive solutions to ending homelessness and achieving self-sufficiency.

Despite not having much in the way of bells and whistles to hand out, I somehow always manage to pack up and walk away from the festivities with a raspy voice and fresh sunburn due to the amazing interest we receive. Portlanders seem to understand that this community they live in—the one we all share—is only going to get better if we make it better. It is this collective sentiment that has led Central City Concern to engage nearly 350 volunteers over the past year.

Whether it is eloquently explaining how to correctly take a daily medicine to someone in pain, forming an assembly line to stock and pack hundreds of move-in kits for folks transitioning to life with a roof over their heads, or taking the time to organize clothing so a job applicant has a tie to wear to an upcoming interview, our volunteers each have their own version of what a solution may look like. All of them help.

Every smile, every handshake, and every moment here matters to someone and that kind of altruism deserves to be recognized. With that, and on behalf of Central City Concern and those we serve, I want to kick off National Volunteer Week by celebrating the service of those who have so graciously given their time to CCC by simply saying "THANK YOU."

We may not have wet-nosed puppy kisses or double scoops of chocolate swirl, but we do have a way to ensure that our volunteers are truly helping their neighbors and our community.


Eric Reynolds
Volunteer Manager