#GivingTuesday Series: Oregonians Building Thriving Communities
Each week as part of our MCNW Giving Series leading up to #GivingTuesday, we will share with you personal stories from donors and volunteers highlighting why they give to and believe in Mercy Corps Northwest.
Our first story highlights Kathleen– a long time donor-turned-volunteer who is driven by her belief that we have a responsibility to help people in our community. After a successful career in Sales and Marketing, she wanted to commit her time helping out others but was uncertain how.
As it turns out, in 2006 her daughter was offered a job working in international humanitarian relief at Mercy Corps—our parent organization. Intrigued by the possibility of helping a great cause, she quickly became a volunteer. Little did she know that her volunteer involvement would only grow—but not just at Mercy Corps.Through volunteering at Mercy Corps, Kathleen would find out about us, Mercy Corps Northwest. Compelled by our mission to strengthen the Portland community, Kathleen became an integral part of the Mercy Corps Northwest team as a donor and volunteer.
At Mercy Corps Northwest, Kathleen has worn several different hats. Kathleen supported us in our purchase of our current building—which we share with Mercy Corps—in Ankeny Square across Waterfront Park. While she jumps at the opportunity to help wherever she can, Kathleen has formed a special affinity for our work with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. All too often, formerly incarcerated individuals are faced with bleak opportunities for employment and housing and no resources to ease this difficult transition. Our reentry program provides resources to help formerly incarcerated individuals find housing, employment, and post-counseling sessions upon their release.
It is Mercy Corps Northwest’s ability, Kathleen says, to ‘anchor people back into the community’ that makes this program vital to a population that is often stigmatized and overlooked.
Kathleen was most impacted by her experience sitting in on a LIFE course at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, Oregon’s only women’s prison. As she sat there, completely immersed in the classroom, the ‘hope and energy’ that radiated through each and every woman was uplifting. Seeing women who are in these difficult situations so upbeat and hopeful was truly shocking while inspiring.
In an attempt to connect all the different people that strengthen our organization, we brought together donors, volunteers, and clients in our Holiday Open House last December. Without a doubt, this is Kathleen’s favorite memory of her work at Mercy Corps Northwest and one that firmly cemented the power of personal connections. According to Kathleen, getting the opportunity to put a face to names and know them on a personal level is a remarkable experience and the highlight of her time here. For many, a food cart might simply be another delicious place to stuff their faces with friends and co-workers, but for a recent immigrant or family recovering from bankruptcy; it may be what enables them to provide for their children.
Kathleen fondly recounts the story of a single mother who was able to provide for her only child because of her business—which she funded through a loan from Mercy Corps Northwest and is still thriving. To Kathleen, these stories demonstrate the need that exists in our community and drives her to keep helping.