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

Shatter the Silence

Shatter the Silence…

Today is a big day. It has taken a long time to get here. More than two years ago, a Big Idea student said to me, “I don’t care how many of us you graduate, how about you keep us all alive.” I was dumbstruck by the statement. The young woman shared a story with me about her friend Zach. He had done all the things that indicated things weren’t okay in his life. He started edging away from friends; he quit going out; he got quiet, really quiet; he took down his social media one night. That was enough. She called his mom. That was the night Zach planned to end his life. He didn’t. Stories don’t all end that well and Zach still needs support. But this young woman launched an idea that I couldn’t let go of either.

I began my own learning journey about suicide, suicide prevention and awareness. I have a learned a lot and still have a long way to go. The most important things I’ve learned are that suicide is the most preventable cause of death and it’s because you can ask people if they’re thinking of killing themselves and it’s an effective intervention.
Through United Way’s work in building community, we brought together great partners from Jackson County Health & Human Services, Jackson County Mental Health, Suicide Prevention Council, AllCare Health, Jackson Care Connect, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department Employees and Providence Community Benefit Program to help fund this very creative effort. Our committee is filled with amazing, talented and dedicated people who have helped to shape a remarkable campaign that will target all groups across social media and television. The committee included Amy Belkin, Stacy Brubaker, Curt Burrill, Brande Cowden, Sgt. Julie Denney, Joanne Feinberg, Kristin Fettig, Ashley Hughes, Bill Maentz, Stephanie Mendenhall, Belle Shepherd, Amy Thuren, myself, and was chaired by our board member, Dana Shumate. A special shout out to Jen Urich, who I met for entirely different reasons but helped to inform this work in deep ways. Bill Maentz and his team did some of their best work ever. I believe it will save lives.

You can watch all four spots by going directly to our website,

As the Aboriginal women say, “If you have come to help me you are wasting your time, but if you say your liberation is bound up with mine then let us work together.” We are, in fact, our brothers and sisters keepers. We have a responsibility, in a community double the national average of suicide, to say something. So, as Bill wrote and the ads say…

Southern Oregon, let’s get honest, let’s get brave, ask if they are thinking about suicide! Let’s break, no, let’s Shatter the Silence!

Our Future Home!

Our Future Home!

What an amazing time United Way is in!  We are purchasing a permanent home for the United Way!  I don’t think we ever dreamed of this or maybe more truthfully, I didn’t dream of this.  When I first started here in 1996, we rented and had always rented.  When the economy took a sharp downturn, our board had the great idea to seek donated space.  We sent out an email asking our business partners if they had space available to donate.  On the first day, five local businesses said yes!  And a few asked would we take the best offer or the first offer.  That was really cool!  We moved into a portable building that Providence Medford Medical Center had open on Spring St.  They even helped us with some remodeling and then we outgrew the space.  We sent out another request for a little bit larger space and Banner Bank said yes!  Now, going on five years, we’ve been in donated space by Banner Bank and they need their building back.  That seems fair.  We’ve been pursuing our options for the past 18 months.  We laid them all on the table:  seek free space again, rent (ugh) or purchase something.  We had a building task force and they did great due diligence.  We looked at a lot of spaces that needed a lot of work and I mean a lot of work.  Some that had asbestos, lead pipes and even a little black mold thrown in.  (We’re not moving there.)

And then, thanks to the great partnership we’ve had for years with the American Red Cross, we inquired about their property at 60 Hawthorne St. and we made an offer.  They accepted!  We close on the deal on February 28 and begin renovations immediately.  United Way will have a permanent home that many partners can use for meetings, trainings and events.  There are three buildings on the campus site:  an office building to house out staff; an auditorium building with a kitchen and small conference room; and, a classroom building.  American Red Cross will continue to teach their CPR and First Aid Classes there going forward.  We’ve talked with other partners in the community who are excited to hold classes there including Resolve and Consumer Credit Counseling Service.  The nutrition education collaborative, Great Start East Smart, is excited to have a permanent location too!

With the purchase, United Way is launching a $400,000 capital campaign to purchase, renovate and begin a small building fund for those things that can and will go wrong in the future.  We hope to seek some large gifts:  one –  $100,000; four –  $25,000, ten –  $10,000 and 100 – $1,000 gifts.  We are already at 20% of our goal!  Please join us in continuing the spirit of community that the American Red Cross built in the 60 Hawthorne St. address!  And expect an invite to the dedication in late summer!  Cheerio, Dee Anne

Warm Smile

A warm smile is the universal language of kindness. William Arthur Ward
Happy Holidays! Finally sitting down to blog at work on December 22.  Missing wishing those who celebrate Hanukkah a very happy and joyous one because of my vacation!  I hope the season of light was beautiful for you.  For those about to celebrate Christmas, may it be merry and bright!

I had the privilege recently of attending a Wise Women luncheon.  My own faith community was celebrating the Near 90 women.  Each had their own spur of the moment wisdom after sharing a few stories.  The stories were amazing and I wish it had been recorded.  I did manage to capture the brief wisdoms, as I’ll call them.  They were:

  • Mildred Buck shared to remember to accept others.
  • Donna Stuart shared that we all need spiritual nutrition.
  • Sheila Hungerford shared to be slow to judge.
  • Joyce Seebart shared to pay attention to what you’re doing now because it’s going to matter at the end of your life.
  • Barbara Fitch shared to never stop learning.

Each of these women shared such simple, beautiful lessons that just rolled off their tongues so easily.  Imagine if we could remember them as easily.

I just finished reading an on the 12 guiding principles of what it means to genuinely work in community.  We all have rules.  I even have my own rules for living.  I’ve shared them in speeches.  Maybe I’ll share them at the end of this rambling blog.  Back to the 12 guiding principles.  Here they are:

  1. Include those who live there, those who work there, and those who deliver or support services provided there.
  2. Spend time understanding differences in context, goals and power.
  3. Appreciate the arc of local history as part of the story of a place.
  4. Elicit, value, and respond to what matters to community residents.
  5. Facilitate and support the sharing of power including building the capacity to use it and acknowledging existing imbalances.
  6. Operate at four levels at the same time: individual, community, institutional, and policy.
  7. Accept that this is long-term, iterative work.
  8. Embrace uncertainty, tension and missteps as sources of success.
  9. Measure what matters, including the process and experience of the work.
  10. Build a vehicle buffered from the constraints of existing systems and able to respond to what happens as it happens.
  11. Build a team capable of working in a collaborative, iterative way, including being able to navigate the tensions inherent in this work.
  12. Pursue sustainability creatively; it is as much about narrative, process and relationships as it is about resources.

These are great principles.  I always add know what you can do and what you can’t do at the outset.  It helps.

I hope to write again this year but I could get distracted and excited about year end next week.  So, in case I forget I’ll share my rules for living as I go.  They’re mine.  What are yours?

  1. Know what I’m passionate about and know passion is just an emotion.
  2. Know my purpose – why am I here.
  3. Know what I bring – my special skills.
  4. Come as I am—especially not good at being anyone else
  5. Know the difference between my values and my beliefs—because I can be too sure of myself
  6. Have fun
  7. Remember who I’m talking to — the optimist sees the glass half full, the pessimist half empty, the rationalist sees the glass twice as big as it should be.
  8. Forget the 30,000 foot level. What can you see from there really?  The Lakota believe you should look at things from 2,000 feet where you can see the curvature of the earth and the mouse, an eagle’s eye view.  I want that one.


At our last board meeting, Helen Funk was sharing a deeply personal story that resulted in her learning it’s okay to #embracetheawkward.  Reach out someone in need.  How can you know?  It’s okay to smile at people.  It is the universal language.  We don’t know what burden they are carrying and a smile can lighten the load.  Be well, cheerio,



Guest Blog — Lisa Stauffer

While on vacation in September, my husband and I stopped in Rock Springs, Wyoming to take a stretch break. I was taking pictures of a very old building, and a lady approached me asking if I was associated with United Way because of my Day of Caring T-shirt. She introduced herself as Kelly, a United Way employee. They had just moved two doors down from the building I was photographing, and invited us in to meet the rest of the staff. I met Shelly, Alex, and their intern Rachel. They were very welcoming, and even shared a T-shirt with me! We discussed the differences between the two United Ways, one of which I found particularly striking. For their campaign, staff members have to drive almost two hours to local mines at 4 a.m. to do their presentations before the miners go to work. This got me thinking about how much I take my ten-minute commutes for granted, and how much more time and effort they must undertake to ensure the success of their campaign. I feel honored to have met them, and they will always be an inspiration to me. Thank you, ladies of the Southwest Wyoming United Way! — Lisa Stauffer, Metal Master, United Way Campaign Cabinet and WiLL Council member


Guest Blog, Deelia Warner — Parking Lots


It’s surprising how much time I spend in parking lots.  I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise given how much I drive for my job, traveling to & fro Cave Junction, Grants Pass, Medford area, Brookings, Crescent City, etc.  I can tell you the best lots for shade in the summer, relaxing spots to eat lunch and read a good book, or the most quiet (and safe) place for a short power nap; I could probably point out which lot along the Rogue River is used for drug exchanges (I don’t park there anymore).

People do interesting things in parking lots; perhaps they don’t realize those of us sitting in our cars tend to look up sometimes.  I like observing people wherever I roam. I’ve been accused of stalking before, but it’s not like I follow the same people, right? I’m just curious.

All that being said, I witnessed a few things this past week that have been haunting me, so I knew I had to share to get them out of my head, so to speak.  On Tuesday, I was parked next to a small motel in Grants Pass and noticed a family headed toward their room, or at least I assumed they were a family.  Five people, including two young men, one young woman and two small kids who looked about four or five years old.  The most striking thing about them was that the two guys were dressed in military/camo outfits, with huge green backpacks. The young woman also had a huge backpack and was trying to herd the kids into the room.  You could tell they had been walking a long time and their faces clearly showed relief to be opening a hotel room door. We’ve all seen these families, however they may define family, who are weary travelers, with no place to call their own.

Thursday I had a steady stream of meetings and events in Medford; starting with our United Way Board meeting/Campaign lunch, ending much later after a dinner event. So, in between a couple meetings, I parked in one of my favorite spots by Barnes & Noble to check messages, etc.  I parked in a shady spot, next to a little green pickup on one side, another commuter on her phone on the other side.  I noticed a young man on his phone by the pickup, and didn’t give it a moment of thought as I went into Starbucks for a drink.  When I got back to my car, he wasn’t there anymore, but this time I actually looked at his truck. And noticed the car parked very closely next to his looked like someone was living in it.  There were towels propped up in the windows to create some privacy, and THEN I saw the bags of clothes, pillows, and a cooler in the front seats.  His pickup bed also had bags I assumed were their personal belongings and an old microwave for cooking. I waited as long as I could before my next meeting to see if he, or anyone else, were coming back to the vehicles.  At the very least I was going to offer them the gorgeous plate of cookies I had won at the UW luncheon.

Ironically, the dinner event I attended was the 30 year anniversary of the Medford Habitat for Humanity. While listening to the guest speaker share her story of poverty and homelessness, all I kept thinking about were those young people in the Barnes & Noble parking lot.  Did they have kids, were they ‘working homeless’, had they been evicted…like I said, I’m pretty curious. It bugged me so much, I went back there after the dinner and was hoping they would be there and I could buy them dinner. They weren’t. It upset me, a lot.  The minute I saw my husband Scott, I burst into tears and told him about the two cars.

I know we all see people in these same scenarios all the time, I certainly do. But on my drive home, I reflected on the United Way Campaign Kickoff we (US Bank) had at our Medford Main branch.  I presented the ‘Cross the Line’ exercise so many of us have experienced in other like meetings. The last statement was to ‘cross the line’ if you’ve ever been homeless. I was the only one in our group that crossed the line.

A long, long time ago, I lived on a cattle ranch with my then husband and our infant daughter, Savannah.  When she was 7 months old, he lost his job, and with it, we lost our privilege of living there.  Even though we had family members who lived near us, staying with them just wasn’t an option for us at that time. But luckily, a couple he was studying with offered us an apartment on the second floor of their home, in exchange for some rent and some work around their property. In today’s world, it would be considered more of a ‘couch surfing’ arrangement. About two months into the arrangement, we went away for the weekend, and when we climbed the stairs to what was supposed to be OUR living space, that family was sitting on our couch, eating our food and watching our TV…and didn’t get up to leave until we asked them to.  It didn’t seem to bother my then husband, but I was done. So, I swallowed my pride, asked my cousin for help; she didn’t hesitate to give me money for a small rental house and came the very next day to help Savannah and I move out.

Not a terrible story by any means, but what if my cousin hadn’t been able to help me?  I think it’s important to add here that the month prior to us having to leave the ranch, Savannah had been in the hospital for 10 days with viral meningitis; we came very close to losing her.  But all the time my husband took away from work (unpaid), added to a strained working relationship, plus outstanding medical bills, put us on that slippery slope to homelessness.  We were lucky; altogether my experience was no more than three months before things changed for the better. But I’ve never forgotten how it felt to not know where we would end up, and I am so grateful for the life my family has now because of it.

When I go back to Medford next week, I’m going to check on those two cars next to each other in my favorite parking lot, and if the cars’ owners are present, I hope they don’t mind if I say Hi and ask them if I can buy them dinner.

Deelia Warner, US Bank