18 October 2008

Is it really October?

The last couple of months have included volunteering in New York City on September 11th, volunteering lots with AmeriCorps Alums, and volunteering on a TeamWorks team on cycling with Hands On Portland!

New York City on September 11th
I had the honor of participating in an event called the Service Nation Summit on September 11th-13th in New York City. The event included a forum on service with both Presidential candidates the evening of September 11th and then a day of summit-ing on both the 12th and 13th. At the summit I heard Queen Noor of Jordan, Jeffrey Sachs, Jon Bon Jovi, Senator Chris Dodd, First Lady Laura Bush, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Orrin Hatch, Mayor Bloomberg, Caroline Kennedy, Alicia Keyes, and lots of other leaders talk about the importance of service. It was very inspiring!

To watch the candidates...
McCain... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdjO055AChs.
Obama... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1yPFwtF5M4

To learn more about Service Nation and sign your declaration of service.

As part of the summit Orrin Hatch announced a new national service bill that he and Senator Kennedy developed. It is thrilling to see national service on both candidate's agendas and to see such wonderful support from Congress for its expansion!

Hands On Portland Team Works
One great program that happens at many Hands On organizations is something called Team Works. It is an opportunity to link together a few different service projects all around one theme. I have been participating in a Team Works team all on cycling the last month. We have assembled safety kits for the Portland police to distribute to cyclists who don't have lights on their bikes, we have helped with a celebration for Bike to Work month, and tomorrow we will be at the Community Cycling Center, which is a great local biking organization. The great benefit of this format is that one can start to see how different organizations work together or how to address community needs with the new knowledge one gains from different approaches to the same need.

AmeriCorps Alums
Things are going well with Alums. Locally we hosted a great focus group on the future of Alums and mobilized to encourage Gordon Smith to co-sponsor the Kennedy Hatch Bill that I mentioned above. We now have a reputation with Smith's office as being "aggressive!" Ha! Nationally we have developed our three year strategic plan, chosen an amazing new group of Leadership Council members, and have our fall retreat in a little over a week.

TOTAL VOLUNTEER HOURS as of 10/18/08: 241.25 in 253 days. I am 12 hours behind my one hour per day goal... but I'll catch up!

19 August 2008

Vancouver Olympics Volunteering

Here is information on being a volunteer in Vancouver for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics!

Olympics Volunteers

How many volunteers do you think it takes to put on an Olympics?


Try 1,700,000!

Here is more information from the Beijing Olympics website...

I am thinking about being a volunteer in London. Anyone want to join? I bet you get a great t-shirt and maybe a coke every now and then!

09 August 2008

New Volunteering Research

I have admitted previously that I love volunteering research. There is some exciting new stuff out that shows city trends, too!

Click here for all the great information!

Total Volunteer Hours as of 8/9/08: 212.75
6 months in... an average of 35 hours a month... a little over an hour a day!

Today I thinking being a volunteer at the Olympics must be an amazing opportunity! Maybe in Vancouver in two years?

Let's get it started... again.

I had a friend send an email as the "Blog Police" asking what happened to the blog. I appreciated the nudge. After the May 20th entry, I set a standard I couldn't keep up. Volunteering with a former president? How do I follow that?

Well, I got myself psyched out. Sometimes I find it scary to volunteer. I will admit it. One Saturday I was signed up to volunteer at an organization that I LOVE... this was the first time I had a chance to volunteer with them and I was so excited they called me. But, as the opportunity got closer, I started to get nervous. I thought to myself "I won't know anyone there." "What if I can't do the work?" "What if I hate it?" I did the unthinkable... I didn't show.

I was a NO SHOW!

I am embarrassed to say it.

But, the reality is... volunteering can be scary. A new locale. A new group of people. A new skill. AAAHHH!

It's not always easy!

20 May 2008

It's Primary Day!

Hello Friends!

Today is May 20th and if you haven't heard, it's Primary Day in Oregon. If you are in town, then you know it is hard not to trip over a candidate (or a former President!) On Sunday, I had the pleasure of volunteering with Bill and Chelsea Clinton at the I Have A Dream Foundation in Portland. I have to say, just knowing that the Hillary campaign wanted to volunteer in our community made me happy. I think service is important and so do they... here are his comments .

I wanted to participate in the project because Bill Clinton was the President who signed the National Service Bill establishing him as the "Father of AmeriCorps". I was in AmeriCorps when Bill (now I can call him that because we are tight!) was President. When he walked up and shook my hand, the only thing I could say was, "we are all current or former AmeriCorps Members and we thank you for the experience." I think he said "Yea, I gathered that." There you have it... my first encounter with a President!

I am glad that Bill didn't ask who I was voting for or what I had planned that afternoon, because from there I went to the Obama rally in Portland. Over 75,000 Portlanders turned out to hear Obama speak. Now if we could just get him to volunteer!

11 May 2008

Cares Day is my favorite day.

Hands On Greater Portland's Cares Day is one of my favorite days of the whole year. I told a few people that I like Cares Day better than my birthday and was greeted with some confusion. I mean it… I LOVE Cares Day.

SO… Cares Day is a big day of service put on by Hands On Greater Portland. This year there were 13 or so sites and somewhere around 1,300 volunteers spread to those sites. I was a Site Captain at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School in Oregon City. In a matter of hours, about 60 employees from Comcast painted the gym, painted a computer lab, spread truckloads of mulch over the grounds, and spread bark chips over the playground. The transformation was amazing. I love it when people come together and are focused on making a difference. I will post pictures when I get them.

Where’d she go?

Not far! It’s been a busy couple of weeks! Work has taken over as of late, but the volunteering is still a goin’… I just haven’t had much time to write. The last couple of weeks have included all of my regular favorites.

A few highlights…
- Hands On Greater Portland CARES Day (more on that in a minute!)
- Tabling for Hands On Greater Portland. It is so fun to talk about Hands On.
- SMART reading. This most recent week I worked with a kindergartner who did cartwheels down the hall on the way to the SMART room. Next week is the last week before summer break.
- AKA Science – weeks 3 and 4 included discussion of earthquakes and tornadoes. Now when I ask what causes certain types of weather… the answer tends to be “the combination of hot and cold air.” We continue to start each class with running or walking around the school to expend energy. I joined them in a race one week.. I don’t think they knew what to think when they found out I can actually run as fast as they can.
- AmeriCorps Alums Leadership Council – we are gearing up for a national conference on volunteering in Atlanta at the end of the month. We have talked about wearing superhero capes to stand out in the conference of 4-5,000 attendees. Whatever it takes to stand out.
- Oregon Commission on Service meeting – Friday’s meeting was in Albany, OR. 4 new Commissioners add great energy to the mix.

Total Volunteer Hours as of 5/11/08: 115.75
3 months into the adventure.

28 April 2008

Week 2 of science fun

After I discovered the students in the science class had unbridled energy when class started at 3:15pm, this week we started with going outside and researching clouds. Part of the research was to run really, really fast while taking notice of the different kinds of clouds in the sky (while also paying attention to large obstacles on the playground). After running around for a bit, we went inside and got to the business of learning about thunderstorms (which rarely happen in Oregon... some of the students had never heard thunder!)

This week they made Leyden jars to create static electricity and chewed up wintergreen lifesavers in the dark observing little flashes of light as the sugar molecules got broken up. Science IS fun.

Things are still going well with my SMART reading... every Tuesday for an hour I read with a 1st grader then a 2nd grader. I am getting quite up to date on hip kids' books.

The school put on Annie last week. One of the students I read with was "orphan in the 2nd row, third from the left." When I asked her what her favorite Annie song was, she started singing "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile" and broke into dance as we walked down the hall. I can't imagine a better way to spend a Tuesday afternoon!


Do you wear earrings sometimes?

Do you wear earrings sometimes? Are you married? Do you have a daughter named Olivia? Do you have a son?

And so begins my stint as an after school science instructor!

I can’t say that anyone has ever asked me about my earring wearing habits within moments of meeting me. Even before the “what’s your name” part. I guess that is where a 3rd grader’s mind lives… good to know.

Week 1 (which was two weeks ago! I am behind in my writing… I've had some crazy work weeks!) included talking about weather disasters. One boy student likes to whip out whatever science lingo he has when I ask a question. I asked “what is the coldest recorded temperature?” He answered, “are you talking about Earth or another planet?” I said “good question… Earth.” He then said, “I think it is negative 122.72 degrees Fahrenheit.” I am not sure I knew Fahrenheit in 3rd grade, but maybe I did. I appreciate his use of decimals and multi-syllabic words whenever he gets the chance.

Of course the other three students are throwing things at each other… seeing which can scream louder… and “racing” each other whenever we are walking from one place to another. There is no order in this court.

Here are the class rules (developed mostly by the students):
• No torturing the class animals
• Don’t be reckless
• Have fun (that one was mine)
• No yelling (I think that one was mine, too)
• No farting (not one of my rules, but I do appreciate it.)

And we are off on a science adventure!

14 April 2008

What does it all mean?

This week has a few of the usual suspects and one new endeavor. I read at SMART on Tuesday, worked with our local AmeriCorps Alums chapter, and went to an orientation at Fernwood Elementary/Middle for a new Monday activity; teaching science in an after-school program through AKA Science.

I spent Saturday at the University of Oregon at their student leadership conference. I presented a workshop called “Civic Engagement a.k.a. how to be a superhero in your community.” There were 25 or so college students in the room and I decided to utilize their experiences in a focus group discussion about community involvement.

We watched a video about the 4 college freshman in NC who changed the world by having a seat at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in February of 1960. Within 1 month 54 cities had similar sit in’s. Those 4 young men made a difference.

The U of O students worked through a couple of scenarios where they were called on to react to theoretical situations on campus: a dorm fire and a campus policy change on recycling. The students had great short-term and long-term actions for the scenarios. Then we talked about one’s responsibility in the community. It is easier to react when something hits you, but if we were to talk about the every day things students do… what does it mean to be a “citizen”? In Ancient Greece, an idiot was the opposite of a “citizen” or someone involved in community.

The students discussed the idea of volunteering and whether that should be a part of citizenship. Some thought a requirement was good… others thought is should be by choice and related to one’s interest. They mostly agreed that being informed was an important component of being a citizen. This led to a discussion on voting and whether that was an important component of citizenship. The students thought that voting without information was useless and should therefore be a neutral indicator of citizenship. Do you agree?

By the way… if you are in Oregon, please make sure you are registered with a party so that you can vote in our primary on May 20th. If you are an independent, then you cannot vote for a major party candidate. Your vote matters! Please register by April 21st. More information on registering to vote is here!

Total Volunteer Hours as of April 13th: 87.5

06 April 2008

Cirque: 2008 Annual Art Evening and Auction

The state of HIV/AIDS in Oregon… about 4,500 individuals are living with HIV/AIDS in the state.

The mission of the Cascade AIDS Project is to lead efforts to prevent new HIV infections, care for people affected and infected by HIV/AIDS, educate communities to eliminate stigma and shame, combating the pandemic. I encourage you to watch the short video on their website for more information about their work.

The Art Evening and Auction is CAPs largest fundraising event during the year. It is an evening that combines silent and live auctions of art along with amazing food and entertainment. CAP gathers over 300 pieces of donated art for this event! In this its 29th year, it attracted 700 people as attendees!

Our volunteer job (my fella, his dad, and I) was to carry the art on stage for the live auction. A team of us carried twenty pieces up and across the stage as the auctioneer yelled out prices faster than we could walk. All in all the art all sold and we didn’t drop anything.

The results… We learned about HIV/AIDS in our state and the work of CAP. We witnessed an amazing event and now our feet are tired from standing on concrete. Not sure that we had a major impact on others, but I think the three of us were affected in our own ways. We might think a little differently about HIV/AIDS in our community, we might talk about it to others we encounter, and as we look for other opportunities to get involved, this just might be an organization we want to support again.

Volunteer Hours as of 4/6/08: 84

Did April start like a lion or lamb?

The first week of April was a busy one! I reconnected with my SMART students after they had a week off for Spring Break. They had energy before, but after a week off? WOW!

Wednesday evening I double booked the evening with volunteer trainings. First I stopped in at the Cascade AIDS Project for a volunteer training for their big Art Auction that my husband, his father, and I participated in last night. Then, I headed to North Portland to a training with AKA Science. I will soon be a volunteer science teacher in an after-school program for 3rd and 4th graders.

Thursday, I spent the day with a volunteer team from Wieden + Kennedy. W+K have produced some of the most amazing communication campaigns for Nike, Starbucks, and many other common name companies. As part of their Founder’s Day, 300 employees dispersed to 10 or so projects around the city organized by Hands On Greater Portland. I lead the project at Multnonmah Arts Center with 25 or so folks from W+K. MAC is a great organization that offers community-based arts education. The W+K folks painted a stage, organized costumes, cleaned windows, and worked in a children’s art room. Everyone got along beautifully. There was plenty of work to do. Folks felt like they accomplished a lot in their few hours and then they were all greeted with beer as they got back on the bus to go home. I like the way they work!

Lion or lamb? Not sure but there was a whole lot of volunteerin’ goin’ on.

Hours as of 4/4/08: 79
2 months gone and I am volunteering an average of darn near 10 hours a week.

Alums Meet in Denver

As I mentioned early on, I sit on a couple of boards. One that I work with is the Leadership Council of AmeriCorps Alums. It is not a typical board with fiduciary responsibilities because AmeriCorps Alums lives inside of a larger organization, Hands On Network. The organization has been a stand alone 501( c )3 in the past, but it couldn’t find sustainable footing so now it is housed in a larger organization. Probably more information than you care to know… but I think it is important to look at the sustainability of the nonprofit sector as it grows to provide services and organizing of our communities.

The last weekend in March I traveled to Denver for a meeting of our Leadership Council. I was on this body a few years ago and stepped off for a year and now I am back. It has been interesting to watch this organization grow. I am very excited about where we stand and where we are headed. AmeriCorps has now graduated 500,000 some odd AmeriCorps Members into the community. That is 500,000 Alums that we have as our constituency. There is an African proverb that say something about “when spiderwebs unite, they can tie up a lion…” this is one big spider web!

So in the last 3.5 years, AmeriCorps Alums has established nearly 200 chapters across the country, created a strong advocacy committee to address national service legislation, and is on its way to a strong governance structure that consults on its strategy and sustainability.

We have infrastructure... We have a great mission... we are on our way!

Hours as of 3/29/08: 71.5

26 March 2008

Immersion in community

This past weekend, my husband and I participated in a short “homeless immersion” activity in Portland through Hands On Greater Portland. Typically this activity is an overnight excursion where someone stays outside overnight, has limited or no money, and has a series of activities they must complete like finding a loaf of bread without paying for it, finding out the process to get a single room occupancy in a hotel, and finding bathrooms open all hours.

Our experience was over a few hours… just a taste. We met in Old Town a representative from JOIN and a fellow who had spent many years living on the streets. We walked through Old Town learning about shelters, service organizations, and the reality of living on the street.

Things I learned:
• There are no family shelters in Portland. Families are often split where a male will go to one shelter and the female and children to another. This is not unusual. Baltimore has just one family shelter.
• There are no shelters for women in downtown Portland.
• There are about 2,000-3,500 people living outside in Portland. 1 in 4 of those individuals are children. As a point of comparison, there are 12,000 people who are homeless in Washington, D.C.
• There are beds for about 25% of the homeless in Portland.
• Most shelters require a TB card to stay there to verify they do not have tb.
• One shelter requires that the men lock up their own clothes during the night so they won’t leave in the middle of the night.
• JOIN has an innovative model where they get people into houses first and provide services to help with the transition. An alternative model is to piece together services after eviction or to focus on employment first.

One of the parts of the afternoon was to eat at a shelter along with folks living on the street. I had a strong reaction to this opportunity. I felt like it was disrespectful to “parachute in” for one meal and know that I could walk away and buy lunch wherever I wanted to. It felt like I was a tourist in their life. Would me eating there keep someone else who needed a meal from eating? I didn’t take the opportunity to eat in the shelter. I am still thinking through that decision. Maybe I should have focused on listening to the other’s I had the potential to eat with and then tell their story to others.

It was an emotional day. Learning the reality of living on the street and the difficulty of getting an i.d., getting services, finding a place to eat, and finding a place to sleep was palpable. But it was just a few hour experience. What’s next? What do I do with the emotion in my gut and questions in my head?

One of the questions to our leaders was what should we do next? They recommended volunteering our time in a shelter or supporting one of the organizations we heard about. Is that enough? Does that make a difference?

So many questions. It is good to have questions and it was a very valuable experience.

21 March 2008

Stand for Change.

The most difficult part of service and volunteerism is not getting up early or making the time... It's not the sweat that is sometimes required... the most difficult part of volunteerism is making change that lasts... it's looking someone in the eye and being able to relay back to them that their needs will be taken care of not for now, but for always.

I can serve thousands of people a meal, but is that addressing the root cause of their hunger? I can build a hundred houses, but will that address the root cause of homelessness? I am at a point in my life when I need answers to those questions. I see a need for increased dialog in our communities about why people are hungry. I see a need for increased dialog about why we have such division of wealth in our country. I see a need for discussion and ACTION so the root causes of suffering are addressed!

Over the last two days I have had an amazing opportunity to listen to a few of our future political leaders about how to create lasting change. No doubt change sometimes has to happen at a policy level. Yesterday I went to a Portland Mayor’s debate. I was listening for action and next steps more than platitudes. I got some action steps. I am interested in hearing more about how new city leadership will address our pressing needs (and I want to hear less drama about polls.)

Today I rolled out of bed and waited for over 3 hours to hear Barack Obama speak in Portland. One friend woke up at 2am to make sure she was there at the front of the line. (K you are AMAZING!) I was definitely not that motivated. Getting on a bus at 6:30am seemed like enough of an effort. I have to say, seeing the crowd that turned out early to make sure they were in the room is prime evidence of people's interest in change.

I was listening for action. I was listening for next steps. And I was listening for the leadership that can call us to action. Wouldn’t it be great if communities all over the country came together to talk and act so that we all are safe, healthy, and full of life?

This fellow can take us there. He is inspiring without question and substantive without measure.

(I love taking pictures and wish I had taken these, but I found them on Flickr taken by another person at this morning's rally.)

TOTAL VOLUNTEER HOURS as of 3/21 = 55.5

15 March 2008

What does it mean to “volunteer?”

Recently I was looking at research on volunteering. I have to admit, I love reading research on volunteering and service-learning. I see it as “fun”. There is research out there that shows that when volunteers feel more attached to their community through indicators like homeownership, they are more likely to volunteer. There is also a discussion in this same piece on the connection between socio-economic status and rates of volunteering. Simply put, if you aren’t worried about where you are going to find food to feed your family, then you have the luxury of volunteering. Hmmm.

That’s what the research says, but is it reality?

I grew up in Indiana in a small town of about 10,000 people. The main industries at that time were agriculture and factory work. Now this small burg had no volunteer center. We did not have a bustling non-profit sector, but had some of the regular players; Big Brothers Big Sisters, the United Fund, and the American Red Cross, for example. Social services were provided through churches, city government, and neighbors.

In my hometown… When someone passes away, the cooking starts; casseroles, desserts, and the like descend upon a family. Are the cooks volunteering?

When someone needs a ride to a doctor’s appointment, there isn’t necessarily a formal nonprofit that makes the connection. Neighbors step up. Is that volunteering?

I babysat for a friend’s two girls last night. We played Monopoly to pass the time. At 34, I am not a typical babysitter. I do not have a “fee” for such an evening. I wanted to help out my friend and enjoyed spending some time with their amazing daughters. Was that volunteering?

I define “volunteer” as one who is willingly fulfilling a community need. Typically there is no compensation, but there are exceptions to that rule. AmeriCorps is one example. I think the service or kindness needs to be for someone else’s benefit and that someone else is ideally involved in defining that need or the volunteer is part of the community being served.

So, in my mind, the examples ARE volunteering. That does not bode well for the world of research as we need to start knocking on each and every door to get the true story of volunteering.

What does it mean to “volunteer?”

Total Volunteer Hours as of 3/14/08: 52.5

Coming up:
- Photography at a reunion
- Continued Reading on Tuesday afternoons
- A homelessness immersion
- An Alums board meeting in Denver
- An evening with the Cascade AIDS Project
- And I'm looking for interesting new opportunities!

07 March 2008

And so it goes...

This week has slowed me down a bit. I have been sick which makes being perky out in the community tough.

This week has included another day reading at Sunnyside. I am getting really good at reading "I Spy" books with Davis and Mia picked two Shel Silverstein books this week. The Giving Tree always makes me tear up. To hear her read it made it even more emotional. What a great way to spend an hour amongst my work hours! I always leave with a spring in my step.

Last night was our AmeriCorps Alums leadership meeting. We are reforming our leadership structure and infusing more energy into the work. It has been fascinating to watch the ebs and flows of our work. It is time for another surge of energy which is exciting. Soon I will have a new website to share with you!

Total Volunteer Hours as of 3/6/08: 46
It has been one month! Average hours per day = 1.6. Yippee!

06 March 2008

Johnson Creek Watershed

Last Saturday was a big AmeriCorps Alums project. The day before, I had a good 20 people signed up and was very excited that the project was so popular. As B and I woke up on Saturday, I peeked out the window to see some ominous clouds. Sure enough as we pulled up to the project site, the rain started. Even though Portland is known for its rain, it is still shocking and brings one pause as they start the day wrapped in rain gear. Our attendance was hurt by the water coming from the sky, but those who showed impressed the heck out of me with their dedication.

So... the rain came and went Saturday morning, but the volunteers never wavered. At the end of the day, over 600 native plants were put into the ground. And luckily it rained to get the plants off to a good start.

Total Volunteer Hours as of March 1: 44.25

Brothers and Sisters... can you spare a dime?

AAAHHHH! I am behind in my blogging! I have overdue library books... quel horreur! And, I nearly had an overdue movie rental tonight. I am slipping. In addition to this volunteering adventure, I have also started a new job. I am an Executive Director in a wildly exciting nonprofit. Get on board folks... it is going to be a wild ride the next few months!

My thoughts for today...

Brothers and Sisters can you spare a dime?

How does one decide where to give?

Do you run into people who ask you for money? If you are in a city, you might think of a homeless person. I am guessing the emotions that come up are not positive… thinking about someone on the street asking you for money might conjure confusion, anger, empathy, or sadness. If I said the person was me, and your investment could change the lives of thousands, you might have a different thought in your head.

My husband and I recently decided upon our yearly giving. I feel like I missed the day where I learned about what is “right” when it comes to giving monetary gifts, but I am trying to make up for it. We are committing 5% of our gross income to our community in 2008. It’s a start.

Now, I am asking YOU for a dime or whatever you can muster.

I am a new Executive Director in the nonprofit world. I lead an organization called Oregon Campus Compact. We are a membership organization of colleges and universities across Oregon who believe in the transformative power of service.

My organization, Oregon Campus Compact, leverages financial and people resources which gets students and faculty into communities. ORCC offers AmeriCorps Members, training, technical assistance, and pass through grants towards this end.

We raise the voice of every student across the state towards addressing our community’s most pressing needs. We want to students to graduate with an education in community.

So why would you want to send a donation to this effort? Because…
- you can be part of something big, something that transforms. (That will feel very good.)
- I will take good care of your investment and hey... you like what I am doing here.
- We need YOU.

Please offer what you can to:

Oregon Campus Compact
c/o Portland State University
PO Box 751
Portland, OR 97207

Checks can me made out to: Oregon Campus Compact. You will receive an acknowledgement for your records as your donation will be tax deductible as allowed by federal law.

Thank you for your investment in this work.

27 February 2008

February 26th - Re-launching a campaign.

Last night was the big event for Sam at the Wonder Ballroom. It went off without a hitch. Volunteers were in abundance.

I love movies. Above is a movie that was produced about Sam's vision for PDX. It was premiered last night. I love the quote... what would our communities looks like if we "work(ed) as if we are in the early days of a better nation?" Hmmmmm. Go ahead and try, okay?

For those of you who don't live in Portland... Sam is feeding his rooster in the beginning AND he lives within the city limits. And, yes it is not uncommon for people in suits to ride their bikes. One more thing.. Portland is just as cool as the video shows. Come visit and we can volunteer together!

When I was at Hands On Baltimore, some college students made an orientation video for us to show prospective volunteers how fun it is to volunteer. The number of volunteers who left our orientation and then volunteered at a project skyrocketed.

There is much power in moving pictures.

Total volunteer hours as of 2/27/08: 40.25

25 February 2008

The Value of Service

I define values as things that one can’t justify. When I think of my values, service is there at the top. It might not make sense to others why I would leave work to go volunteer and get home after 8 at night. It might not make sense why I would spend a sunny weekend day out pulling ivy, an invasive species that is choking trees across the city. It might not make sense. I mean it might make sense here and there, but nearly every day? That is crazy!

I believe in the power of service to transform others. There is research out there that says if students volunteer they are better citizens… they vote and participate in community activities. There are academic outcomes when service is incorporated in a curriculum. Now, I don’t think it is exactly figured out yet what makes some service activities transformative, but those exist. Right? Some people have an experience and they can’t go back. (Write me back in the comments and tell me about yours.)

I can point to volunteering in high school at the Red Cross. I had to complete 75 hours of service to graduate. My mom set me up at the Red Cross because I was terrified to call them myself. I loved the experience. People gave me things to do and when I did what they asked, they would smile. I could connect with people and I didn’t have to say a word. I had their respect just because I was there. I learned more in one summer than in any given class in school. I was hooked.

I believe in the power of service to transform me. My own tragedy comes from a loss of people dear to me… both too young… both too fast. I lost part of me then and I can’t say I have felt really happy for over 13 years. I’ve made stupid decisions because I thought I deserved to be sad. Now, I have made some good decisions and I have had some good days, but I have not felt this good in over 13 years. I believe without any doubt that my service is the reason for this difference. It is like waking up from a dream.

I believe in the power of service to transform communities. So far in this “project” I am not sure if I am transforming communities. A wonderful leader in the nonprofit sector, Bill Shore, says that working in community is like building a cathedral, the work is not always realized in one’s lifetime. I want to be part of something big. I know I can’t always know that this is making a difference, but maybe it just is!

I Made It!

I completed the triathlon. I have to say it was harder than I imagined. Somehow I had it in my head that swimming was easy. Oops. After one length of the pool, I was tired. I bounced back on the bike. As a Portlander, I had to represent. I was 5th in the women’s division on the bike. I really think I just programmed in the right music for that portion.

There were several times during the swim or run where I wanted to give up, but I had one thought in my head… the Stroup Family. This was about them.

The day was fantastic. Last year over 60 individuals signed up for the event, this year it was over 100! Whether they knew it or not, each one of those people made a difference with every drop of sweat, along with every huff and puff.

Total Volunteer Hours as of 2/25/08: 34.75

22 February 2008

What would you do if it were you?

Everyone has tragedy and loss in their lives. It is one of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths. Sometimes it hits you personally, sometimes it hits people you know, and sometimes it hits people you don’t know yet it affects you. But, when it hits… what do you do? I have two friends in Baltimore who are facing their daughter’s rare disease with courage and action that stops me in my tracks.

In October 2004, Addie had her first seizure. I remember the call like it was yesterday. Tina and Trent had taken Addie to the hospital and they were doing lots of tests. We all waited for some hopeful report that it was an allergy or something “simple”. After months of tests and medications that made Addie cry nonstop and not sleep, she was diagnosed with Aicardi Syndrome, a rare seizure disorder that affects girls.

Over the last three years, Tina and Trent have faced on-going tests and no certain answers about Addie’s future. Would she walk? Would she talk?

There have been ups and downs…
Seizures come and seizures go.
Thoughts of surgery are there.

And some answers…
Addie walks.
Addie talks.
Her brain has miraculously reprogrammed itself to its other side.

Two things stay constant, Tina and Trent’s unwavering hope and their positive attitude.

This weekend I am flying to Baltimore to participate and volunteer in the 3rd Annual Tri to Help indoor triathlon. (I didn’t even know how to spell triathlon until this experience!) Trent and Tina have channeled their energy into putting on this event to raise money for epilepsy research.

I know that flying across the country puts a ridiculous amount of greenhouse gases into the air, but these two have strength and courage that amazes me. It is a no brainer to hop on a plane for 36 hours in Baltimore where I am going to swim for 10 minutes, run for 20 minutes, and bike for 30 minutes. It is the least I can do. What would you do?

Week 2!

This week has flown by! On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings I spent time in the campaign office gearing up for our big community event next Tuesday evening. While I was there Tuesday night, another volunteer in the office who I had never met said, “hey are you that girl that volunteers every day?” I guess word is traveling around! She asked me if I work on top of the volunteering… I said, “yes, I have a full-time job”. She was surprised. I can say that I am feeling tired, but it is the best tired I can think of at this time in my life. I have the opportunity to give back. I have the opportunity to give my time. I don’t have a ton of money, but I can give my time, my ear, my voice. I am lucky.

On Tuesday afternoon, I read again with Davis and Mya. I learned all about Jedi training with Davis and I was surprised to hear that volunteering in one’s community was not a key component of Jedi training. I was, however, pleased to read that peaceful conflict resolution was their first line of defense in a battle with the Dark Side. Maybe Gandhi learned it from the Jedis or was it the other way around?

I also read a book about spiders with Mya. I learned that Mya’s sister regularly eats spider webs, she can spell her sister’s name really fast, and her favorite food is Mongolian Beef. I am learning so much! (In case you were wondering, Mya’s High School Musical valentines were a big hit!)

TOTAL VOLUNTEER HOURS as of 2/22/08: 24.75

17 February 2008

AmeriCorps Alums Oregon

I am involved with AmeriCorps Alums Oregon, our local AmeriCorps Alumni chapter. A team of us have been building this entity for the last two years and a bit. Our database shows a good few hundred Alumni who have participated in social endeavors, service projects, trainings, and the like.

Saturday was one of our monthly service projects. This month we volunteered at the Rebuilding Center. The Rebuilding Center is a great building supply nonprofit that recycles building materials and sells them to the community. This place has materials with character! Knobs, tile, windows, wood; all saved from landfills. Our house boasts raised garden beds from recycled wood from the Rebuilding Center. My fella has also built a picnic table from finds at the Rebuilding Center. It is a great place to get materials for your home project, but also a great place to volunteer.

The task was to reorganize donated tile. There were 16 hands dedicated to the project so the load was light. I couldn't stay for the whole three hour project, but I did get in my 1.

Sunday included work on Alums stuff; both national and local. I wrote up notes from our 2/14 exec team meeting and worked on recruiting volunteers for an Alums OR project that I am planning on March 1st.

Total Volunteer Hours as of 2/17/08: 17.25
Average of almost 2 hours a day in the first 9 days. It's happening and I am tired in the best way possible.

It's my birthday and I'll volunteer if I want to!

An update of the week...

Wednesday- Another hour and a smidge in the campaign office preparing for the Feb 26th event. Wednesday there were more volunteers than work and I could see we were going to run out of things to do. Others teased me about being too intense as I ran around trying to get things ready so folks weren't sitting around with nothing to do. I hate wasted time, but what I sometimes forget is that talking to one another and not working... is NOT a waste of time. Breathe, E!

Thursday- My birthday! The morning started out with an Exec. Committee meeting for the AmeriCorps Alums' Leadership Council. AmeriCorps has now graduated over 500,000 AmeriCorps Members. These folks are out in communities all over the country and around the world. That is a powerful group of people who have delved deep into community change! If they were all in one place, they would be the 33rd biggest city in the U.S. They could change an election! I know that each one of them has good ideas about making the world a better place.

AmeriCorps Alums is an organization whose mission it is to harness the power of Alumni. There are AmeriCorps Alums chapters all over the country including one in my neck of the woods. I have the honor to sit on the Leadership Council and Exec Committee of this organization. I get to help organize this amazing human force of change.

After the conference call, I joined some of my fellow Gulf Coast volunteers at the Hands On Portland Heart of the Community Awards. This is an annual event that showcases volunteers from around the area. There was not a dry eye in the house as the room watched short videos of the amazing volunteers and what they have accomplished over the last year. It was very inspiring.

Total Volunteer Hours as of 2/14/08: 14.25

14 February 2008


I now have a regular Tuesday gig... I am a SMART (Start Making a Reader Today) volunteer at Sunnyside Environmental School. Every Tuesday afternoon, I go to Sunnyside and read with students for an hour.

This was my first week. I started with a little training and orientation then got straight to the work. I worked with a kindergartner for 30 minutes... he read a bit and I read a bit. We read Bark, George and Six Dinner Sid and a book about an ogre. He loved to tell me to read faster. The second half hour I worked with a first grade girl who told me all about her High School Musical valentines and the time she saw the tooth fairy.

Ah to be young...

Volunteer Hours as of 2/12/08 = 12

How do you win a city?

I have dabbled in politics from time to time... whether watching friends bloody their knuckles on door to door voter registration or working in the Lt. Governor's Office in Maryland through AmeriCorps... I have been a dabbler until now.

I have thought I would love to work on a campaign. I think that work in addressing critical community needs is like getting elected, but it is about building a coalition to address issues like hunger, homelessness, and access. It is about building community support and moving forward together. There are so many connections.

I now have my campaign and my candidate, Sam Adams.

Sam originally comes from Montana, but has lived in Oregon for some time. He went to school and college in Oregon then got involved in various campaigns including working for Vera Katz, a previous mayor. As most people, Sam has a story one should listen to. Currently Sam is one of our City Commissioners in charge of transportation and is running for Mayor of Portland.

I got to have breakfast with Sam a couple of weeks ago after an event. (And by breakfast, I mean it was Sam and a few of us volunteers and his Campaign Manager, Jen. We were a small table talking about changing the world... a typical Sunday.) This I know... He believes in the power of service in schools and the community, so he has my vote. He believes in the importance of public transportation, so he has my vote. He believes in the potential of our city to live sustainably, so he has my vote. He believes in our potential... so he has MY vote. He is a gardener, too! One has to support a gardener.

I have been volunteering in the campaign office for the last month or so. From the first night I knew I was in the right place. I love the energy. There is a team of us all working towards one thing... it is a blast.

Right now we are gearing up for a large community event on February 26th. We have been making neighborhood signs for folks to hold up like a Presidential Convention. We have been making calls. We have been gearing up!

From a volunteer perspective, Sam's campaign staff, Jen and Megan, are great! There is always enough work for folks, they are constantly thanking us for our time, they feed us, and there is great music! They are activating folks to use their skills and talents. Did I mention it is fun?

So... if you are in Portland and you aren't busy, join the team with your time or money AND YOUR VOTE FOR SAM IN MAY. And come out on February 26th and see what it is like to be amongst 700 of Sam's supporters.

I am ready for the bloody knuckles!

As of 2/11/09

13 February 2008

The Worst Day of the Year Ride

Portland LOVES to bike. Bicycle Magazine named Portland the no. 1 cycling city two years running. Portland boasts somewhere around 200 miles of bike lanes and boulevards to ease the riding and the bike industry is moving en mass to our Rose City. We got it goin' on.

This past weekend I got out amongst the mob for the Worst Day of the Year Ride . This 18 or 40 mile ride is a benefit for the Community Cycling Center, which is a great nonprofit that offers bike safety training and gets bikes to kids who need them.

The name of the event comes from research done on the strangeness that is our Portland weather. They looked into it and typically last weekend contains the worst weather day of the year. I have to say it disappointed a bit as it was mild and overcast.

My volunteer gigs were to hand out packets on Saturday and then be a course marshall on Sunday for the actual ride. Handing out packets was... handing out packets. I spoke to a lot of people (over 150) in a short amount of time. Sunday I was a couple miles into the race standing on a corner making sure folks made a turn. For a good 2.5 hours I jumped up and down, did my best “John Travolta Turn Here Dance, ” yelled, screamed, and made a general fool of myself for the nearly 2,000 bike riders. They returned the favor with crazy costumes, dinging their bells, and constantly yelling things like “volunteers rock”. Portland has to be the nicest city in the country.

Other Portland volunteer opportunities with your bike. (Please add more from your city or mine in the comments area!)
- On the last Friday of the month, a nonprofit called Shift to Bikes will give you free coffee and doughnuts as you ride across the Hawthorne or Steel Bridges. They need help spreading the joy.
- Bicycle Transportation Alliance has great biking events as well as on-going volunteer opportunities for you.
- And don't forget the Community Cycling Center which takes used bikes and fixes them up for folks who need 'em. In addition to the Worst Day of the Year Ride, they also offer the Hottest Day of the Year Ride.
- If you are female and like to perform, look into the Sprockettes, they do amazing things on their bikes while they encourage others to bike.

Get on your bike and RIDE!

Total Volunteer Hours: 9

09 February 2008

Gulf Coast in 2007

A team of us from Portland went down to the Gulf Coast last October. Organized by Hands On Portland, this week was one of the formative volunteer experiences I have had lately, and a large part of the inspiration for this adventure. Here are pictures.

This is a Hands On Portland newsletter article that went out about our trip...

15 Volunteers, 5 Days and 2 Hurricane Ravaged Cities:
Hands On Greater Portland Volunteers Help Rebuild Gulf Coast

On August 23, 2005, one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States hit the Gulf Coast. The declared federal disaster area covered an area the size of Great Britain. The loss of lives and livelihoods was devastating; without accurate measure.

More than 2 years after the disaster, the region is still rebuilding. If standing in some communities, one might think the hurricane hit yesterday. In other communities, the buzz of tools and the banging of hammers quickly communicates the rebuilding is happening. It is estimated that rebuilding could be a twenty year effort. Two decades of sweat, buzzing, banging, and amazing dedication from people all over the world.

Hands On Greater Portland had been dreaming of sending a group of volunteers to the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina hit the region. The call went out this past Summer and thanks to the giving nature of the Portland volunteer community, we had no trouble forming a group to go down to the Gulf to lend a hand in the rebuilding effort.

On Sunday, October 28th, 15 Portland area volunteers met at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, Louisiana.  This was the meeting place and launching point of the first Hands On Greater Portland Gulf Coast Rebuilding trip.

For the first 3 days, the group volunteered in Biloxi, Mississippi.  In Biloxi, the hurricane hit and within eight hours, the water receded. Though the water was gone quickly, it is estimated that there are still over 17,000 FEMA trailers being utilized in the state of Mississippi.

Upon arrival, the group met volunteers who represented all parts of country. Many volunteers are AmeriCorps Members and it was not uncommon to hear them declare that they are staying “until the work gets done.” The Portlanders were incredibly inspired by the volunteers and the staff at Hands On Gulf Coast. There was also frustration at the large amount of work still to be done in the community.

“I felt that there was more to be done.  Whatever task I was doing at that point was just a small piece to a bigger puzzle.  How do you go about rebuilding the lives and homes of people…when can you say that your job is fully done?  You can fix the house…help the kids on a test…but when will they be fully “rebuilt”?”

“I thought this work was representative of a great deal of work that is left because of the number of houses that have not yet been cleaned up or demolished since the storms. I really enjoyed this project - a lot of hard work, and I felt at the end like we had really helped both the homeowner, and the Hands On team in Biloxi. The work we did saved the two-person mold team several additional days worth of work.”

The Portland volunteer’s dedication was very apparent in the amount of work they accomplished.  In three short days in Biloxi, Hands On Greater Portland volunteers:

- Rebuilt/redirected more than 1 mile of hiking trails and picked up trash throughout Cedar Lake Island Park
- Completed 85% of the mold remediation needed at Mr. Lawrence’s House; mold scraped from every interior surface of the house, mold spores vacuumed and every surface primed with special anti-mold paint. Mr. Lawrence can now finish his house and move out of his fourth FEMA trailer.
- More than 12 children were tutored at the local elementary school
- 6 donated bicycles were tuned-up for a brand new physical education program that will get students riding bikes.

For the final 2 days the group was in New Orleans.  In New Orleans, the water stood in many communities for weeks. Faced with a different type of disaster than Biloxi, one of massive failure of the protective levees, volunteers rallied around the needs of the local community thanks to the great leadership of the Hands On New Orleans project development staff and another amazing crew of volunteers, this time reaching internationally.  

“Volunteering is not just about what one can give. It is also about what one can learn in the process. This reciprocity is one of the greatest experiences.”

In New Orleans, the Hands On Greater Portland volunteers again accomplished a great deal.  In short volunteers:
- Prepared dinner for both the entire Hands On Gulf Coast and Hands On New Orleans short and long term volunteer residents
- Sorted and packed more than 11,000 pounds of food at the New Orleans Food Bank
- Weeded and tested soil in public spaces throughout New Orleans
- Tiled, painted and performed general carpentry work at 3 residential homes in both Biloxi and New Orleans
- More than 50 kennels and cages cleaned out, 40+ food bowls cleaned, sample pet food repacked, carpets shampooed and numerous dogs walked at the only no kill animal shelter in New Orleans
- Tutored students and reorganized a charter school library
- Assisted HIV positive residents at the Lazarus Project house by assisting with general maintenance, clean-up and errands          

“I felt plenty of emotions on this trip.  I was disappointed and perplexed that the Gulf Coast was still at the state they are in.  2 years and things are slowly recovering.  I also felt alive…as I was doing/working on something that would make a direct impact on someone’s life.”

There is still work to be done. The rebuilding is just beginning. An estimated two decades of sweat, buzzing, and banging. The call is still there. Will you answer?
Here are some reflections and comments from the volunteers:
“I was very impressed and inspired by the volunteers and relief workers that were still there.  We met several volunteers who were on their 2nd or 3rd stint.  I noticed that for the most part, the Hands On efforts were also run by fairly young adults.  They seem to care and that was their mission.”

“When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, I felt that I needed to go to the Gulf Coast and help.  But I was afraid and was not sure how except for donating money.  2 years later and an email from Hands On Greater Portland, I decided to follow through on that urge.  I also thought that this would be an interesting way to get to know an area I’ve never been to.”

“Please continue doing this! I think that are group has built lifelong friendships and that we are more energized to do work in Portland because of the trip. Though the mission of HOGP is to work in Greater Portland, this trip addressed a critical need in another community and makes us much stronger HOGP volunteers.

“I would have liked more time. I think that a two week trip, with that group, would have been amazing. I don't know if all groups would be as cohesive, but this group was amazing. I was very sad to leave.”

Project Reflections
“Helping to make homes livable was rewarding - It was frustrating because there is still so much left to do –“

“In New Orleans I worked at the Food Bank, helping repack over 11,000 lbs of food to redistribute. Rewarding because we were told how few volunteers are available to them now, and how the food can't go out without volunteer labor.”

“Mrs Severs---Leadership was exceptional!!!! Total refurbishing of her home.. Tiled, Painted, general carpentry. I felt competent in my abilities here and felt I was utilized in the best possible way. Most meaningful in that she was the reason I was here to begin with.”

“Mold remediation: Day 1, 2, 3- Scraped, treated, and painted a house to eradicate mold that had returned to the structure. Completed about 85% of project. Personally, I thought this was a great project, although somewhat tedious. We worked hard but had fun doing it.

“Another establishment where volunteers make up almost the entire staff. We cleaned cages, dishes, dogs, driveways, carpets. We also fed the animals and walked the dogs to give them some exercise. Sometimes the pets of Katrina were forgotten and many of them are still roaming the streets with no where to go. The emotion and dedication the woman who ran the rescue (Robin) showed was amazing. She also voiced frustration with the government but a love for all the volunteers who help everyday. At one point she did get a little choked up when talking about the situation down in New Orleans which points out how real this situation is for those who are still living there and how much help they need even two years later.”

“My first project was working on de-molding a home in Biloxi, MS. The owner of the house was present every day that we worked, and our team leader - Emily - was enthusiastic, direct and positive through the entire 2-1/2 days we were there. I thought this work was representative of a great deal of work that is left because of the number of houses that have not yet been cleaned up or demolished since the storms. I really enjoyed this project - a lot of hard work, and I felt at the end like we had really helped both the homeowner, and the Hands On team in Biloxi. The work we did saved the two-person mold team several additional days worth of work. Seeing Lawrence, the homeowner, so happy was also very nice.”

“My favorite project was visiting the Lazarus Project because it was the most difficult for me and because I will always remember the stories that the residents shared.”

“The schools. Even though the results/accomplishments of this task will not be seen until a latter stage, I felt that this could be one of the most impactful as you help a community member.”

So it begins...

Yesterday was the official start and I am off and running!

I have the pleasure of sitting on a few volunteer boards and yesterday I had a committee meeting for one of them. I serve on the Oregon Commission on Voluntary Action and Service and on their resource development committee. I will speak about the other boards as they come up.

A Commission exists in most states as it is the entity that receives and distributes funds for AmeriCorps and often leads statewide volunteer initiatives. I sat on the Maryland Commission for 5 years and it was one of the best experiences I have had as a volunteer. I appreciate having the opportunity to see things on a bigger scale from time to time. AmeriCorps changed my life. I completed two years of service over ten years ago. I am happy to do whatever to keep AmeriCorps thriving.

So, yesterday was a meeting of our resource development committee. We are figuring out how to raise money for the Commission. I don't have much to say about the experience. An hour... check.


How the heck?

I got this wild idea a few months ago and thought I would start on January 1st.. keep it to the calendar year. Turns out I was in Germany on the 1st and traveling all of the 2nd, so I had my first adjustment to make. I then decided February 8th would be a good start... 2/8/08.

As I seriously considered this adventure, my initial thought was that I would volunteer every single day for one hour. The reality is, there is no volunteer opportunity that is just one hour. There is at least a half an hour travel on either end and most opportunities are more than one hour. Rats!

And as I thought a bit more, there are my other commitments... a husband, friends, family, a yard, eating, exercise, doing nothing from time to time, a new job (priorities not in any particular order). How could I possibly volunteer every day and not lose all of my other priorities?

Then came all the travel that I do... how would I squeeze in volunteering on a day when I am flying 7 hours or more to get to family and friends? Travel days would have to be exempt.

I was hoping I could go to Hands On Greater Portland for ease of setting up opportunities. I am a huge fan of the Hands On Network and their ability to make volunteering easy. As I look at the HOGP calendar, they don't have something every day, travel will be a consideration, and I want to volunteer at opportunities I am passionate about (not all of their opportunities are so interesting to me.) Finding opporunities is going to take more work than I thought!

So here are my parameters to start; with inevitable adjustments to be made.
- I will volunteer 7 hours a week, an average of one hour per day. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, people my age typically volunteer 37 hours a year or a little more 3 hours a month. I will be volunteering 9-10 times as much as the average me. (http://www.cns.gov/pdf/VIA/VIA_summaryreport.pdf)
- I will bring along another person at least once a month.
- I want to have one opportunity that I consistently do to build a relationship with an organization.
- I will make adjustments as I need to.
- I will blog about this year at least three times a week so I have an opportunity to reflect upon the experience regularly.

Here we go!

05 February 2008

Why the heck?

When I lived in Baltimore, it was part of my job to volunteer. I would pop around town to our different projects and wherever I went, I ran into G. One night I asked G if he volunteers every day. He said, "yes, when I can't find a project I fix sandwiches and pass them out to people who need them." Not only did G volunteer every day, he also brought dozens of cookies that he had freshly baked that morning to share with volunteers. He didn't make a huge batch of cookie dough and freeze it... he made cookies every day to take to volunteer projects. I asked him why he does what he does and he simply said, "I want to help others like they have helped me." I think of Gene often.

I am fascinated with folks who do things every day for a year... wear the same dress (http://www.littlebrowndress.com/) or not buy things for a year (http://judithlevine.com/index.html). When I think of making a year long commitment to something, it has to be volunteering. Considering G's commitment to Baltimore and my commitment to connecting with community... it just makes sense.