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…
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…
Our vision is…
Mobilizing caring to
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:
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
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!
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,
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Onward,
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.