September 11 — Never Forget

Today as many of us reflect back on where we were, what we were doing and who told us, we have many stories to share with young and old.  While we live in a small community in Southern Oregon, we have ties to that terrible tragedy and many more than I know of.  Today, I remember Dr. Kerri Hecox’s brother who died in the World Trade Center buildings.

I also think of that morning myself.  When I wake up each day, I generally turn on the news.  That morning, I did not.  I was in a rush for the annual United Way campaign kick-off.  I had to make a run to the store for fruit and snacks for our meeting of 40 people to get busy in our community helping others.  I was racing along.  And while standing in the checkout line, someone said, “Did you hear?!”  I was in shock.  I called Jan Sanderson Taylor on our staff and wondered what we should do.  We agreed to meet at the location and see what our volunteers wanted to do.  Well, they wanted to do a good thing.

Our chair was Rick Rankin.  He’s such a great human being. The room was filled with great people that day as is always the case at United Way.  Everyone wanted to stay.  And they all did.  They all repeated they needed to be doing something good.  I remember Reverend Ernestine Lee saying a blessing for our country.  She made a lot of people feel better that day.  I remember a young woman from Rogue Credit Union found out she was pregnant the day before.  She wanted to remember she was volunteering that day and wanted to tell her child one day.

We went about the work of doing good.  We moved more slowly.  We cared for each other.  We reached out a lot.  We knew that while what we were doing mattered, being together mattered more.

That Saturday was our Day of Caring and we didn’t know if anyone would show.  Again, the United Way committee and staff showed up and so did the volunteers.  People wanted to do more good.  It’s not a unique community response.  People all over this great Nation wanted to do good that day and want to do good most days.

As we kickoff our annual campaign this Friday, 18 years later and with the Big Idea students in their final year of high school, I wonder if that young woman from the credit union might have a Big Idea kid.   If she does, does that student know what their mom was doing that day?  Maybe…

Let’s do some good.  Onward,

New and improved

New and Improved…

As Sam Waterston said, “There is no problem that is not improved by effort, and no effort that is too paltry to be worth undertaking.”  I’ve been thinking about our long vision statement for some time and began a conversation with my Board of Directors late last year.  We had several United Way folks in attendance at the Oregon Nonprofit Leaders Conference breakfast and were inspired by Paul Nicholson’s presentation.

As a result of that and some hard work with amazing volunteers, we’ve improved our mission and vision.

Our new vision statement is…

Creating positive community change.

Our vision is…

Mobilizing caring to affect change.

We added a value that we believe was always the center of our work and we’re calling it out now as a value.  Our values are:

Community, Compassion, Empowerment, Vision, Integrity and Inclusion.

Inclusion is the addition.  We’re in the process of creating our equity statement and once it’s adopted by the Board, I’ll be sharing it with all of you!

We remain focused on the building blocks of a good life – education, income, health and transportation.  Our goal for education is increasing high school completion and for income our goal is increasing financial stability and independence.  In health, we’re working to maximize wellness and in transportation, we remain focused on removing barriers to get to work, to school and to needed appointments.  We hope this year to create transportation opportunities for people in powerchairs and/or scooters to go to activities like Britt or the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and have transportation to get home in the evening.  Right now, there is no public or private transportation available, unless you personally own it.

Other big news is that we are standing up to stay that we believe the following:

Everyone is housed.

Everyone has food.

Everyone has health care.

Everyone is safe.

And we’re working toward these statements.  It’s not easy work and these are strong aspirations.  These are clear, concise and credible.  Our community has serious issues with housing and homelessness.  We have real issues with food insecurity and food deserts.  Everyone does not have health care or access to the care they need.  And finally, and importantly, we need to be safe.  And safe comes in all different forms – housing, food, health and where we are in community.  We need your help to do our work and we’re counting on you.  There are committees you can join around the areas of education, income, health and transportation.  There’s public policy work.  There’s the Day of Caring where we do physical labor projects in the community.  Accept the challenge!  Join us!

Mural and Values

Mural and Values

Sometimes you come to work on a Monday morning and you’re thinking about what your day is going to be like, maybe what’s your first meeting or your last meeting or what you left behind at home or traffic or whatever.  And sometimes you’re lucky enough to round the corner as your approach the door and see something amazing and wonderful and hopeful that looks like this…

I was out last Friday, at an all-day meeting but that’s way down the road on this story.  Last fall, a young woman came to my office.  Emma said she really wanted to paint a mural.  Did I know anywhere she might do that?!  I said, how about our building?!  She’d done a lot of homework.  She knew murals were healing in community, made people happy, brought energy and light.  She knew they often appeared after tragic events and mentioned several in different communities around the country.  She knew they often celebrated big events or moments.  Emma wanted to do a mural as her senior project at St. Mary’s.  As you can see above, she’s a fine artist.  She had ideas and they were fast flowing.  We didn’t drive her project or the timing.  She gave some ideas and Jan Sanderson Taylor, the creative soul, on our staff and I met with her a few times.  Emma got very busy with track, school, college applications and graduation.  I knew she’d come back.  I didn’t know when and I didn’t know what it would look like.  I did connect her to people who know murals like Denise Donohoe Baxter, who painted the amazing Guanajuato mural in Ashland, and Joan Thorndike, LeMera Gardens, to talk about local flowers.  We knew wanted be indigenous and about local because we are local.

And then a week ago, Emma sent an email saying, “Can I come on Wednesday until I finish on days, nights and the weekend.  I don’t have much time before I’m traveling this summer and off to college.”  And you can see sheer beauty has landed on our wall!

And here’s what’s amazing.  Emma Bennion learned about us along the way by talking to us and looking at our website and talking to her mom, who’s on our board.  And last night while visiting with her I realized how much hope and inspiration and amazement she gives me when I talk with her.  And as we talked about our favorite parts of the mural, I realized those parts are the values of United Way embedded in the mural, maybe with Emma’s knowledge or maybe because they are part of this place.  Community is there in hands and the weaving together.  Compassion is there in the woman’s face and in the words.  Vision is there in Emma’s signature on the mural.  Integrity is there without question in giving her the space to do her amazing work.  And the hands are inclusive in their various colors.  The mural represents us and Emma Bennion did it.  We are forever grateful for her and her work!  If you know her, thank her!

Service–What calls us

I’ve been thinking a lot about love these past few months.  In my naiveté, I always believed love could get you through.  It’s gotten me through my toughest times because someone loved me and held me up so it led me to believe it worked for everyone.  This year, I’ve met some folks, on a deep personal level, that were loved and it didn’t work.  And really bad things happened to them and they, in fact, did really bad things in return.  It’s hard to explain.  And it’s not necessary to explain.  What is necessary to explain though is my own myth was exploded.  Love wasn’t the answer.  It sure helps though especially when love doesn’t waiver.

I watched an interview with Wes Moore this weekend.  I think he’s such an amazing man and if you haven’t read his books or seen any of his interviews, they’re worth a look.  As a reminder, Wes Moore wrote the book, The Other Wes Moore.  It’s a powerful true story of two men named Wes Moore, one a Rhodes Scholar and one a murderer who grew up blocks and worlds apart.  During the interview, he was asked about how you know you’re doing what is right for you.   Wes Moore also wrote, The Work.

As you think about what calls you to service, you might want to read this book.  During the interview, there was also a moment when they spoke about what you fight for and who you stand with.  That’s when I realized that maybe I’d been thinking about love being the answer quite naively.  Love isn’t weak.  It’s strong and powerful.  And can stand in the storm.  It is about who you stand with and who you’ll fight for.  It can be ferocious.  If you’re up for the fight to raise more than $1.2 million over the next few months, it’s about time to volunteer for the United Way campaign.  Over the next few months, a small and mighty group of volunteers raise that amazing amount of money to help people in need in our community.  They stand with all of us.  They fight for all of us.  They are doing the work!  Let me know what you think.  Email me at  Onward,

The Shutdown…imagine

Imagine you work for the Federal government because you thought it was a secure job and a way to make a good living for your family.  Imagine you are the sole support for your family while your husband goes to college.  Imagine your child needs a prescription.  Imagine you’re going to work again today and not being paid again.  Imagine your family is actually hungry.  Imagine you’re walking to work because you can’t afford the gas any more.  It’s not that far and you can walk the four miles and then you stand most of the day.  Imagine you’re a single mom and you can’t afford diapers.   Imagine you’ve never had to ask for help.  Imagine you have cancer and you can’t afford the blood or iron you need this week.  Don’t imagine, it’s real.  These are the stories we’re hearing this week and last.

United Way of Jackson County has stepped up to offer $300 Safeway and Fred Meyer cards that help to cover food, gas, diapers and prescriptions through our Hope Chest fund.  We’re not alone in this community doing this work.  There are many others helping furloughed workers.  Now’s the time to step up and give to those providing emergency services.  And when the Food Project rolls around in February, give two bags, not just one.  Because regardless of the fact if this is settled, we have a lot of hungry people in our community.  And if it’s not settled, we’ll have more than 40,000 hungry people because SNAP won’t be funded. 

Call your representatives.  It’s time to solve this shutdown.  I don’t care what side you’re on.  Just call them.  Here are Oregon’s representatives and their phone numbers.

The White House email contact page:

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley

313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-3753
Fax: (202) 228-3997

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden

221 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C., 20510
P: (202) 224-5244
F: (202) 228-2717

Congressman Greg Walden

2185 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Phone: (202) 225-6730
Fax: (202) 225-5774


Dee Anne