“We all have an unsuspected reserve of
strength inside that emerges when life puts us to the test.” – Isabel Allende
I hope she’s right. I wonder though. Those of us who have much may have that
reserve. I’m using mine and I hope you’re
using yours. When I say much, I mean a
roof over your head, heat in your house, food in your pantry, people in your
life (distanced for sure) and all that.
If you have that, please share your wealth with those with less among
We launched our COVID19 Fund on March
13, 2020, Friday the 13th.
Donors have been so generous! The
Ben B. Cheney Foundation, Pacific Source Health Plans, Oregon Community
Foundation and the Joe & Frances Naumes Foundation have given large
grants. And so many of you have jumped
onto our Facebook page or our website and made gifts. These all matter.
Before processing today’s stack, we have
invested $44,237.35 of the funds we’ve raised to help each other. Because right now, that’s who it is. It might be your neighbor, your friend, your
We’re helping artists, estheticians,
restaurant workers, hotel staff, nonprofit employees, the list is painfully
long. And I do know some of them,
personally. The people have been great
even with great stress in their lives.
Here’s a summary of what we’ve paid for so far:
Car Insurance $389.43
Car Payment $349.58
Property Taxes $136.00
Birth Certificate $43.25
These times are
challenged and they allow time for realigning priorities in our lives. I’m an introvert and I realize my extravert
loved ones are really suffering. I kind
of get tickled with my sisters and yet I realize it’s really hard for
them. Mostly I just try to make them
laugh. I worry about my niece who was amazingly
successful in nursing school and is now among those needing masks and personal
protective equipment. I worry about my
friend the paramedic. I worry about my
friends with cancer who have to go get treatments or make the horrible choice
between going and not going. These are
times that challenge us and yet we can still smile at one another over Facetime
or Zoom or whatever electronic meeting we do.
We may see people from our cars and we can wave. We can check in on one another. Yesterday I realized all the news stories
about domestic violence and child abuse increasing because people are trapped
in what might be profoundly difficult situations. And what can I do? I can say I’m here. And I am here. Check on those you love, those you like, and
those you sort of know but wonder about.
Check on whoever crosses your mind.
May we come out of this caring more for one another and ourselves. Thank you for what you’re doing. Stay healthy and safe!
“I’ve got this.” So
yesterday afternoon during the sunny time, an unhoused person sat on the large
rock outside my office window. All
afternoon. I thought when I left I’d
offer him some hand warmers because I carry a box of them in my car. The person was all bundled up in larger than
necessary clothes. And it was a
woman. I opened the window in my car and
asked if she’d like the handful of hand warmers I was offering. She said, “No thank you. I have some.
Please give them to someone who doesn’t.” She kept walking and pushing her cart. I started to drive away but couldn’t. I turned around and came back and said that I
had $10, could I give that to her. She
said, “No thank you. I have money. Please give it to someone who doesn’t.” I asked if she was sure. She ended with, “I got this.”
I drove away and I cried.
We’d been helping people all day.
Some were happy and some weren’t.
These are challenging times and panic levels are high. Reactions are all over the place and this
sweet woman shared, I got this. I’ll
look for her today and bring food. May
she’ll want some. Maybe she won’t but as
I fly through the day working hard to be helpful while we’re in crisis, I’m
going to hold her words gently. I got
this. May you “got this” too. Onward,
Two blogs, one week.
As I’m flying through attempting to catch up on things, I see next week
brings the Mental Health Court Advisory Committee. It is such a remarkable privilege to sit on
this committee. And, if you don’t know
about this specialty court, you should. I
have observed Mental Health Court and have never witnessed such compassion,
caring, deep listening, recognition and reward for people working hard to
resolve their criminal issues along with trying to stay housed, on medication
often, clean and sober, and/or maintain employment. I took a friend once to observe. She was curious and said she’d stay an
hour. We went right after sharing some
yummy lunch and then sat by one another blown away by the compassion, the grave
realities and frailties of life, and the genuine care and concern for people
and community. By the way, she still has
lunch with me!
Mental Health Court began here almost in 2015 by Judge Lisa
Greif. While I can’t speak for Judge
Greif, from a community perspective, the Mental Health Court started almost
informally because of the case load. And
the Court functions as a team – a Judge, a therapist, a probation officer, case
managers and more. It’s impressive.
Since the court was formalized in 2015, there have been 48
participants, all with severe/persistent mental illnesses (bipolar,
schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder) and nearly all of the participants had
co-occurring substance abuse disorders.
This is profound work and definitely not easy. Of the 48 participants since the beginning,
19 have graduated and 11 are still in the program. Of the remaining folks, 15 had to be terminated
because it’s still court and there are real requirements to complete Mental
Health Court successfully. Terminations
sometimes come from refusing to make progress, continuing to use substances,
and, there are some diagnoses that research shows specialty courts don’t work
for. What happens when someone
terminates out of Mental Health Court – they go back into the regular court
Of the 19 graduates, here’s some frame of reference. Total arrests for the 19 people prior to
entering Mental Health Court were 325!
One participant had 114 arrests and had zero for one year following
graduation! There have only been 4
arrests one year after graduating. These
are profound results.
As of last quarter, we had 11 participants. There were 8 males and 3 females; they range
in age from 24 to 67; all 11 are housed; and, all have felony charges.
We have seen the great work of Adult Drug Court, Family
Court, Recovery Opportunity Court and Mental Health Court. And while all of our systems are somewhat overwhelmed,
we do see remarkable results in our specialty courts.
At our task force, the Judge shares an update on
participants, connecting resources happens across agencies and there are no
silos in the room. People are in the
room to help make a difference in protecting people who need help and
protecting our community. I’m grateful
for the opportunity to serve.
Hope you’re volunteering somewhere. If you need help figuring out where, let me
It’s been a long time since I blogged. I make these commitments that I’ll do it Sunday
afternoon or evenings. I should keep
that promise because it’s often when my mind is running freely. Apparently so freely, I forget to blog…
Remarkably enough, we have arrived at Big Idea completion
time. The students graduate in
June! When we began our “homework” for
what would become Big Idea – 100% High School Completion for the Class of 2020
in 2011, many people didn’t believe we’d stick with it for the long haul. We’re here.
The kids are here and we’re seeing them through. Not to 100% but a lot closer than before!
It’s time for a real update and for much gratitude. Attached is a photo from a flip chart that
shares how many partners we’ve had in this process although not all. So many funders believed in the project
including: AllCare Health, Anna May
Family Foundation, Ford Family Foundation, Jackson Care Connect, Leightman-Maxey
Foundation, Lithia Cares 4 Kids and Providence Health & Services. The districts were all in: Medford School District, Eagle Point School
District and Three Rivers District. OHSU
at SOU was amazing and surveyed the kids each year on drop-out risk. This was an incredible partnership for Big
Idea kids, United Way and OHSU at SOU.
The Southern Oregon ESD took a chance on a pilot project
that has resulted in full time graduation coaches at Eagle Point and Illinois
Valley High Schools! Laura Porter and
ACE Interface took the opportunity to develop a curriculum to teach the students
at Eagle Point and Illinois Valley that their present or past doesn’t equal
their future and even taught students brain health! Gilda Montenegro Fix shared her wit, wisdom
and grace teaching the students cultural agility. The students knew the work; they didn’t have
the vocabulary until Gilda spent time with them! Teresa McCormick Center and Harry & David
helped with thousands of pounds of fruit and healthy snacks for after school
programs and I mean thousands – one year it was 16,000 pounds!
SOU hosted 1,100 7th graders for a field
trip! They were so amazing and divided
the students into small groups and gave them all individual experiences for the
day making college not seem like a dream but a reality. RCC hosted the Illinois Valley students at
the Table Rock campus to show how cool vocational education programs can be.
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley spent time with the students and
presented a flag that flew over Congress to the students. My favorite question was “What made you think
you could be a Senator?” Senator Merkley’s
answer was great. He said he remembered
being a student in middle school when a senator visited and he wondered the
same thing. Maybe there’s a future
Oregon Senator in the Big Idea! Let’s
hope so; our future depends on it!
Dutch Bros. donated their time, treasure and talent to share
a half-day session on leadership, passion and gratitude. Those flamingo Dutch Bros. hats remain
coveted swag! And maybe, just maybe, the
lessons sunk in too.
We had countless volunteers from one on one experiences to
group welcome tunnels freshman year. We
are so grateful for their commitment to students and our collective
future. So many nonprofits in our community
as well as small businesses stepped up with doctor visits, well child checks,
sports physicals, eyeglasses, physical therapy and more.
I’ve learned so much.
If one shines a light bright enough, things change. You all helped us to shine that light. Thank you!
We have a plan for moving ahead and it’s not time for that. It’s time to get these students successfully
through high school.
As of last quarter, there are only 229 students off track
with opportunities to improve that over the next two quarters! This is amazing! And you helped to make it happen! Thank you!
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…