Shatter the Silence…http://www.unitedwayofjacksoncounty.org/shatterthesilence/
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, http://www.unitedwayofjacksoncounty.org/shatterthesilence/
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!
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
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:
- Include those who live there, those who work there, and those who deliver or support services provided there.
- Spend time understanding differences in context, goals and power.
- Appreciate the arc of local history as part of the story of a place.
- Elicit, value, and respond to what matters to community residents.
- Facilitate and support the sharing of power including building the capacity to use it and acknowledging existing imbalances.
- Operate at four levels at the same time: individual, community, institutional, and policy.
- Accept that this is long-term, iterative work.
- Embrace uncertainty, tension and missteps as sources of success.
- Measure what matters, including the process and experience of the work.
- Build a vehicle buffered from the constraints of existing systems and able to respond to what happens as it happens.
- Build a team capable of working in a collaborative, iterative way, including being able to navigate the tensions inherent in this work.
- 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?
- Know what I’m passionate about and know passion is just an emotion.
- Know my purpose – why am I here.
- Know what I bring – my special skills.
- Come as I am—especially not good at being anyone else
- Know the difference between my values and my beliefs—because I can be too sure of myself
- Have fun
- 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.
- 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,
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
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
Welcome to a guest blog from our lead office volunteer, Nancy Brophy. Nancy has been with United Way for a long time. She’s been a star volunteer in our two days a week for almost 8 years! Here’s her Live United story. Dee Anne
Hi! First off let me give you a little background about how I became involved with United Way. I was in long term treatment at Addictions Recovery Center, living at the women’s house and the ARC hosted and event called “Walk with Me.” That was a mentor program of WiLL, Women in Living Leadership, a United Way program.
It was a very nice sit down dinner and Diane Matthews, who at that time was the Assistant Director of United Way, sat at my table.
I don’t think I had six months clean at the time and still in somewhat of a fog, found it pretty unbelievable that successful, strong women would want to get to know me or give a hoot and care about me. I definitely hadn’t learned to trust the process yet.
Diane decided to become my mentor and we started hanging out. She’d take me to coffee or just come by to visit. She took me to her job and introduced me to her co-workers.
This was in 2009 when they were located on East Main Street. She had me and (my X at the time) help with direct mail. The X thing didn’t work out but the mentorship, I’m happy to say, did.
Then one day she picked me up to hang out with her and we went to a Head Start conference at the old Red Lion and she was introducing me to people and when asked me to share my story. Seriously? There were over 300 people there and I did it. That may have been my break through moment.
I became like an open book after that. It seemed like you normal people liked me. That was a fear of mine in treatment. What if I did all the hard work involved in getting clean and changing my life, and no one liked me or I didn’t like myself.
United Way moved to Spring Street and I did lots of direct mail, brought in people to help me and the next thing I know Dee Anne asks me if I’d be the Free Bus Pass Lady. It involved giving eligible people (I knew some of them from recovery) a ten ride pass on RVTD. I did that for over a year. Needless to say by then I’d become a familiar face around United Way.
And somewhere in there I have actually been a guest speaker at the October WiLL Event. I’d become a poster child or a success story of what can happen when someone takes a chance, steps out of the norm and chooses to become a friend to someone like me.
Now I volunteer 2 days a week – more during campaign. I post new events on the United Way of Jackson County’s website calendar and mostly do whatever they need me to do. I bring my companion Chow dog, King, with me, we feel safe and wanted there.
A few years ago I became a mentor to a gal that I had lived with at the women’s house. Stephanie had a history of relapse that we didn’t pay much attention to. I liked her and decided I was going to help her. She was very good at doing the hard work, getting everything back. Like her little boy, going to court and groups. She got a job, worked hard, got her own place and a car. It seems like I gave her a thousand rides and she really was my friend. We laughed a lot, she was a very funny person.
What I didn’t realize was she had an addiction to men. It became obvious to her oldest daughter and she wasn’t doing what she needed to do. The last time I saw Steph was the day her daughter and I confronted her and we made arrangements for her little guy to go live with his big sister because once again his Mom had chosen drugs, alcohol and men over him or them.
A few weeks ago I was tagged on a face book post that Stephanie was critical in the hospital and they were trying to find her daughter. I called Lauren and she had already been contacted and had been to the hospital. Her Mom had collapsed from a blood clot in her lung and too many other things to mention. She was on life support and she didn’t make it.
These kinds of things just make most people want to give up. Not you and me I guess. Here we are trying to help, not giving up, trying to raise money and awareness, giving to agencies who are better qualified to help them than me.
There are obstacles along the way of life, in recovery they say life happens. This year on January 1, New Year’s morning, I went out to my van to go to church and the front wheels and tires had been stolen off my van. It was on the ground! Who laughs at a picture like that on facebook?? I’ll leave you guessing.
It’s been a very challenging year for me to say the least. With health issues, lots of invasive medical tests, a trip to OHSU in Portland and the best news, I’m kicking cancer’s butt!
I love my dear friends or family at United Way. I really don’t know where I’d be without you.
Without all of you! Without all of you doing this work in our community where would we be? I applaud all of you for caring and accepting the challenge. It makes all the difference.
My Live United moment has been a journey, not a mere moment. I intend to stay on the journey. Because that is how I continue to LIVE UNITED. Nancy Brophy
I’m proud how we come together as a nation in times of crisis, but I realized that I actually see that spirit here day in and day in this Cabinet. I listen to Ed Sheeran a lot one song that I particularly like has a line that I thought had said “Human beings are destined to radiate or drain”; it made me think you all were the radiators. The real line is “Human beings are destined to radiate or dream.” I had to change my thinking a bit, but it actually makes even more sense. I think we dream of what we want, put it into action and radiate it out. You all Live United all the time, and this is how I see you doing that.
- Brande – through her faithful role behind the scenes in many years as Campaign Leader
- Rebecca – through her passion in mentoring youth
- Nick and Tim – through the countless boards you have served on through the years
- Cassie – through her consistent donations to Teresa McCormick Center of children’s items and dedicated work on the Medford Food Project
- Jolie and Frank – through the tears that come when you are moved by this work or the hardships of others
- Chris – through your smile, grit and determination in conquering the things that life has thrown at you
- Trish- through your enthusiasm and passion in making sure your special clienteles’ needs are met
- Lisa – through being “that volunteer” that always shows up whatever the task
- Erin – through her continually watching for the family she glimpsed one day that needs help
- Marsha – through her willfulness in getting back to the campaign that she so believes in
- Deelia – through insisting that the Big Idea include Cave Junction
- Sharilyn – through her cheerful persistence when tackling hard accounts
- Troy – through your service to country, and your fierce participation in your Rotary
- Dee Anne – through all the crazy ideas that you have implemented that actually work, and the Piped Piper that you are in bringing all of us, and countless members of the community, along in the work that you dream.
I heard of a new meme this morning: JOMO – joy of missing out versus FOMO, the fear of missing out, and it hit me that joy comes to people in many different forms.
To me, Living United is living with joy, or JOLU – Joy of Living United. How’s that for a fancy new meme for this campaign? #JOLU
Becky Snyder, Executive Director, Community Volunteer Network
Today I attended a memorial service. It was among the most remarkable I’ve attended. It honored a very specific person, well two people really. Yet I felt the presence of all my own losses in life and many others I’ve witnessed and learned of on this journey we call life.
The service was a memorial for Wendy’s mother, Melinda, who died 45 years ago in a car wreck that took the lives of others but not Wendy. Wendy was the sole survivor. Wendy chose at this point in her life to honor the loss of her mother through a memorial service and her own path in moving forward. What courage in action.
Earlier this week at our staff meeting, the check-in question also honored the loss of a beloved niece, Emmy, who left us a year ago. Emmy was the niece of one of our staff people. Emmy would have been only entering 4th grade this year and yet didn’t. Emmy was super brave during her struggle with cancer. The check-in question was about when were you brave. The United Way staff all gave beautiful answers and there were tears and laughter. It was brave. On my turn, I shared honestly that I have always wanted to be brave. I have witnessed bravery many times and I always feel lacking. I hope when it’s my turn, it’s somewhere inside me. I really do.
I had a sidebar conversation today that led me down a path I wasn’t expecting at all. It was about a problem in our community and again about bravery. When do we stand up, give up, or give in. And when does giving in look very different from giving up. And when is it time to stand up. I have to work this through longer before I know what step is mine to take. We’ll all learn together on this one.
Back to today. As I shared at the beginning, it was personal. My mother died in car wreck when I was 2 1/2. I was only a bit younger than Wendy. I am lucky to have 3 older sisters and many aunts and uncles and grandparents who jumped in immediately to surround me with love and have always been there for me along with a younger sister and new mom who came along later to help me become who I am. Today though, I went for Wendy as much as for me.
Wade in the Water
Well, I’m doing it. I’ve been asked repeatedly since the forecast started calling for Hurricane Harvey to arrive, “Who should I give to?” It’s like election time when people ask me who should I vote for. My goodness I think give and vote. Both matter. Give. Vote. We have these negative stories overwhelming us so we discourage people from doing both. Stop it. That’s where I am this morning. We don’t need more excuses not to give. Or vote.
So here’s the deal. Do your homework. Do what you care about. This is a disaster. It will go on not for hours or days. Not for weeks or months. It will go on for years. People’s lives and livelihoods were destroyed. Did you know they’ll still owe those car payments? They’ll still owe those mortgages. Unless they had federal flood insurance and they haven’t had three claims already. That’s another matter and we’re not talking about that right now. We’re talking about charity.
So remember if you care about babies and you want to give to diaper banks, think about the fact that the diaper bank place was likely destroyed too and if you only want to provide diapers that’s hard if you’re funding the diaper place that was destroyed. Fund a diaper place nearby that’s working to get diapers there. If you love animals and you want to give to a sanctuary or a humane society or a shelter, know they too have to rebuild as well as care for animals and their staff and and and…
There’s so much to do. It can be overwhelming. But your choice is to give. It’s amazing if you google fundraisers for Hurricane Harvey, you can find numerous stars doing their own fundraising including country music stars, movie stars, pop culture stars and athletes and it doesn’t even say where it goes and the totals are in the millions. There are GoFundMe’s to help individuals who have been impacted without directed stories and GoFundMe is very careful about making sure the stories are true. There’s a guy in California who was impacted by Hurricane Katrina who has started a GoFundMe and it’s in the thousands and is going to help “those” impacted by Harvey. Accountability matters. I’m not saying any of these are or aren’t legitimate. We worry about long term sustainability of organizational infrastructure and grassroots organizing and wonder who’s better at what. Recovery works best when it is local. And local is local. But guess what, we’re local. We’re United Way of Jackson County, locally incorporated, and locally governed. It’s true for groups with names like YMCA, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Humane Society too. Know what their relationship is to the larger national or international group. Ours is we’re a member. We pay 1% in dues for the brand, for federal lobbying, for philanthropic research and to be part of people do great things all over the world. Check out United Way of Mumbai sometime.
So what’s the bottom line? The bottom line for me is I don’t need an excuse not to do a good thing ever. I don’t need a reason either. It’s okay to share kindness. It’s okay to show up for others in the world, in our country, in our state and in our own communities. Wade in the water, in the smoke (for Southern Oregon) and even our folks who need help year round. Show up. Vote. Give.
Saturday, I drove to Cave Junction to talk with a leadership group from Rogue Credit Union and some youth they were coaching during the day. They were having fun too. I was asked to talk about what inspired me or made me strong. I went with what made me feel strong. They were an inspiring group. They gave their Saturday to leadership and what a worthy pursuit.
I thought a lot about broken roads on the drive out there. I’m not sure why but I did and I wondered whose life hasn’t traveled a broken road. Mine has. Hasn’t yours? I haven’t really met anyone who’s life hasn’t had broken roads. I thought about people who have lost people on roads. I have. And I thought about people who’ve just been lost on roads, walking with all their belongings. I realized I haven’t met anyone who traveled a somewhat straight line from here to there. Thank goodness. I’m pretty sure that’s what life detours are about – saving us from going from here to there in a straight line. Think of the things and people we’d miss.
As I was driving, an oncoming car was similar to that of an old love. I wouldn’t trade the hurt for not having had the experience. I wouldn’t trade the loss of places I’ve lived for new places I’ve moved to. I wouldn’t trade the loss of prior jobs for not having new ones. I’d never have moved here or had this remarkable job or done this amazing work with our community. I’m one of the lucky ones.
Some people aren’t so lucky with broken roads. Some don’t come with built in bridges or resilience. Some don’t come with those moments that unite them to the next place or people or jobs or loved ones. It is part of our work and as we move into our campaign that begins in earnest this week, I hope you Live United with us. Build bridges. Build connections. Be part of the solution. Be part of connecting someone who needs help with someone who can. It’s what we do. It’s the United Way.