541-773-5339, 60 Hawthorne Street, Medford OR 97504 office@unitedwayofjacksoncounty.org

Yesterday 12/8/2020…to Jan

Yesterday…12/8/2020, To Jan

After 24 years of bringing her whole self to work at United Way of Jackson County, Jan Sanderson Taylor retired.  I wanted to write this yesterday but quite honestly I cried too hard.  Jan is the first person I hired to work here.  She had previously served as head of Camp Fire Boys & Girls, led a small business, headed a family of three children and lost one child.

We partnered on so many projects over 24 years together and created positive community change!  She will be deeply missed not just by me.  She’ll be missed by hundreds of volunteers and all our staff.  She had profound accomplishments in her time at United Way including Project Community Connect, COAD, Consortium, VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) and more.  We changed how we funded programs together, introduced equity into our process years ago.  She built relationships with everyone she met and was able to hold space for the hard conversations.

And then there’s the real life stuff.  We both lost loved ones over this time; we lost personal relationships and created new ones.  We held on to each other in times of great sorrow and great joy.

And last night as I was choking back tears walking her to her car, I remembered the most important lesson in life that we’re all just walking each other home.  So glad to have shared this walk with her.

PS If you think she can actually retire from helping people in need, you don’t know her well enough.  She’ll still be volunteering for COAD and for Consortium.  Be lucky enough to walk with her.


Thanksgiving in hard times is an interesting holiday.  And in COVID19, it’s very hard to not be with our loved ones.  In a meeting this week, the check in was what is your favorite Thanksgiving side dish?  I said my loved ones that I can’t be with this year:  my mom, in an assisted living center, in Arizona and my spread out sisters who live in California, Arizona, Texas and Virginia and their kids and and and.

And here’s what makes thanksgiving extra hard here.  2,605 families in our community lost everything on September 8.  United Way of Jackson County launched a Fire Relief Fund, United Together that very day.  To date, we have raised funds from a person in every single state and 5 foreign countries.  What does that say?  It says Thanksgiving!  We are deeply grateful for those who have recognized the torn fabric in our community. 

We received 763 applications for our Fire Relief Fund and today we have cut the first 197 checks totaling $336,550!  We are working hard to move through the verifications process and complete the application review and awards by December 15.

And on this Thanksgiving eve, we are grateful for your support, your prayers, and your wisdom.  We need you now and you’re delivering!  We’ve raised $2.5 million to date and want to be at $3 million by year end.  Please consider a gift.  100% is going to help folks in Jackson County recover, rebuild and renew their lives.


May you take a moment this Thanksgiving to find wonder in something, a perfectly formed leaf on the ground, a smile, your favorite food, a smile across zoom.  Feel free to share what brought you that wonder.  Stay safe and be well.

The Sky is Clear

It’s been more than a month since the fires of September 8 that changed so many lives.  I want to say everyone’s but that’s just not true.  Did you know there are people living in our Valley who have not journeyed to see the damage yet?  I’ve been sharing a devastating Washington Post article from 10/20/2020 and the link is below.  The video can and must have a trigger warning from me.  I’ve heard from folks I’ve shared it with how devastated they felt.


I’ve received emails saying, “How can I help?” from people who live here.  My first answer is go see it because it’s clear in the conversation they don’t yet understand that the 2,605 residences included:

  • 11 mobile home parks
  • 2 low income apartment complexes
  • 2 residence motels
  • 1 senior assisted living complex
  • And two plus subdivisions

We also lost 198 commercial buildings, mostly small businesses that drive the economy.  And we lost 6 public buildings including the Southern Oregon Education Service District building that housed the people and equipment that provided special education and migrant education services.

The communities of Ashland, Talent and Phoenix were ripped apart.  The Phoenix/Talent School District has been profoundly impacted and is working so hard in this wacky school environment.  They are there for their families!  They are the model of what community school can be.  Thank you to them.  There are tons of shout outs that can be done on this remarkable community. 

Here’s what is really different about a clear sky on a beautiful fall day.  Jana, the woman who helps me almost every day at Starbucks, lives in Talent.  Her house survived miraculously and it’s right across the street from mass destruction.  She lives in her house again and sees that every day.  The smell, that’s what different.  We’ve had plenty of smoky days in the Rogue Valley.  We haven’t had the burn smell after the rain washed away some dust.  It’s a different smell even on a beautiful day.

I live in Ashland and I used to take I5 to work and back each day.  Now I consciously choose to drive 99, to feel the pain, to see the pain, to smell the pain.  Please go see it if you live here and haven’t been through yet.  Tell me what you think.

While the race is long, we have plenty of tortoises and hares who will get us there.  Be you!  We need you now.  Thank you.  Onward,

A Grateful Heart

Wow, I’ve just spent some time prepping for our Fire Relief Committee.  We knew gifts were coming in from all over the country and from some countries around the world.  Thanks to the New York Times article, “An American Dream, Scorched in Oregon” and to the many groups like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival who shared our donation link, we have received gifts from 44 states and 5 countries!

I am overwhelmed each day by the notes of support, the calls to see how we are, the stories of those directly impacted and the generosity of people sharing their wit, wisdom and wealth.  On Monday and Tuesday, I spent the day at Harry and David giving away Skechers and Hanes donations.  People would cry at the drop of a hat, well literally, the drop of a McDonald’s card or a listening ear and heart.  I met Bobbie Sue who was still wearing her house slippers because that’s what she ran from her mobile home in; Pam who is brain injured and struggling with FEMA paperwork; and, Oscar’s little girl who got a groovy new backpack from Skechers.  While the best part of my job has always been hearing stories, the stories are hard.  I heard many times how weird it is to adjust to losing everything.  A woman shared she was chilly in her apartment and went to get her…  She stopped and realized she can’t go get anything she used to go get.  I cried then.  I can’t get her out of mind and that is good.  We have much to do and there’s a place for all of us in this recovery.  Find your spot and do it.  Please consider at gift to our fire fund at www.unitedwayofjacksoncounty.org/give.  Thank you! Onward, Dee Anne

And so it is done

And so it is done, for now…

I knew we’d get here and I thought I’d feel great and proud of what we’ve done at United Way during the COVID19 crisis.  I do feel great and proud of what we’ve done and I feel profoundly sad that we have exhausted the funding for the COVID19 relief.  There are still places to go for help and we all need to do what we can to make sure the word gets out for folks.

Why?  Because we’re not to the really hard part yet.  Many companies are still using CARES Act funding to keep payroll going and many individuals still haven’t received their unemployment.  And there will be more layoffs.  Our businesses can’t keep opening and closing and/or being limited to a minimum amount of customers.  We need to take needed precautions and take care of one another.

There are thousands of dollars available for rent relief and utility assistance.  Please make sure you know where to send folks to get on lists for help.  And it takes time.  Immediate relief isn’t always immediate.  Here are places to call for help:

•             211 – for information and referral resources

•             Access – 541.779.6691

•             Ashland Resource Center – 541.631.2235

•             Housing Authority (only if tenant) – 541.779.5785

•             Mercy’s Gate – 541.601.6190

•             St. Vincent de Paul – 541.772.3828

United Way has raised $386,468 and we have spent $386,912.  Yes, we went over a little.  And we had to stop.  For now.  We have helped 1,097 individuals and families and 42 agencies who helped countless more.  Each one of these folks is a story.  A story of hard work, seeking assistance often for the first time, of having worked in a service economy getting by until they weren’t:  a mom with kids who made tamales to support her family has doubled up with her sister and her kids and still can’t get by; a woman who worked three jobs, not just one, to get by and had never asked for help before; too many dealing with violence in their lives or hunger or confusion or loss; and, the man who needed his rent assistance check reissued because the first one was stolen from a mailbox in Ashland and now is being held as evidence in California.  Even the California State Police called to verify that it wasn’t going to be cashed.  Here’s how the money was spent :

Nonprofit Capacity18,470
Mental Health8,000
Transitional Housing3,000
DV Exit1,000
Baby Supplies736
Business License200
Property Taxes136
Drivers’ Licenses120
DNA Test100
Birth Certificate43

As the system falls apart, we have to follow the thread or find the thread.  Years ago, one of my sisters was awaiting a lifesaving organ transplant and one of the coolest people I’ve ever met told me a story of growing in the Philippines.  Her name was Tuesday and she shared, on one especially hard day, that in the Philippines during typhoons, children were roped to trees to help save their lives.  And she shared that old wisdom about the knot at the end of the rope, there’s no knot.  Right now, there’s no knot.  Tuesday was right.

We can and will work together to create change in how we serve people in need.  There are many great efforts underway.  Be part of the solution.  Now.

The Way it Is, William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among

things that change. But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

In closing, here’s the gratitude from last week and today…

Oh, thank you very much!!! I’m so grateful to you and to those who are donating funds to help.

Thank you. Brenda

Thank you so much from all of us. Know that I’ll put back in 2 keep the cycle going when I’m able 2. I appreciate it God bless.  Justin

Thank you so much. For your help and I am forever so grateful. Vanessa

Thank you so much!   You are a life saver!  Vicky

I really want to thank you so much!  You have really made a difference.  I so really appreciate your help!  Thank you so much, Thomas

Thank you so much! I appreciate a million tons.  Kyleigh