Unsuspected Reserve

“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 us.

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 family member. 

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:

Rent                                        $16,563.77

Emergency Childcare              $8,050.00

Nonprofit Organizations          $7,000.00

Utilities                                     $6,373.99

Homelessness                          $5,000.00

Car Insurance                              $389.43

Car Payment                               $349.58

Property Taxes                            $136.00

Prescriptions                                 $66.33

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.

“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,

Mental Health Court Advisory Committee

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 system.

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 know!  Onward

Big Idea TIME!

Big Idea TIME!

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!  Onward,

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,