Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: August 2017 Edition

Aug 30, 2017

For this month's volunteer spotlight, we are turning to another volunteer who has multiple roles at Central City Concern. While Michael initially got started with Central City Concern as a volunteer at the Old Town Recovery Center Living Room program, much like last month’s spotlighted volunteer, his interest in the behind the scenes work for nonprofit organizations led to him expanding his role to include a variety of work in the Public Affairs department. Both roles are well-served by Michael’s ample ability to be an open ear to others. Hayden Buell, who supervises Michael at the Living Room, summed it up, saying, “Michael stands out as a volunteer in his ability to listen to our members and get to know them and their stories in a way that really honors their individuality. He’ll just sit down and give them space to share themselves.”

Michael was so generous in turn as to share himself with us for this month’s spotlight!

• • •

Peter: What is your name and volunteer position?

Michael: My name is Michael Thomas Taylor, and I volunteer with CCC in two places. I’ve been at the Old Town Recovery Center Living Room since February and I’ve been helping in the Public Affairs department as well. I actually came in to talk to Susan [CCC’s Marketing and Communications Director] just because I wanted to do an informational interview, as I’m interested in moving into nonprofit work. Then Matt [CCC’s Grants Manager] said, “Hey, if you’re looking for an opportunity to help out and get some experience, you can help me with grants.” I’ve written a lot of grants as a professor, so that seemed like something that made sense. Then Susan had some projects, doing interviews with CCC clients, and blog posts.

P: So, you got most of your grant writing experience from your time as a professor?

M: Yeah, that’s one of the things you do as a professor – research, and if you want to do research you have to pay for it, and if you want to pay for it you have to write grants.

P: How did you get in to that line of work?

M: Short answer? I ran away to Europe. I grew up in the States, but I wanted to see more of the world pretty quickly. I spent a year abroad in Hungary as a foreign exchange student in high school. I wanted to stay connected with that, so in college, I started out as a music major and ended up as a German major, which worked because it got me back to Europe. I spent a year in Austria and a year and a half Germany, and then one thing led to another and I ended up doing a PhD in German. [A PhD in German] is an in-depth study of language and literature, but for me it also became a study of cultural history. A lot of my published research is in queer history or the history of sexuality, with a focus on Germany, and I branched out to do some work in curating exhibitions and communicating queer history to the public. That gave me some pretty awesome experiences and a fairly international background. I had some post-docs in Germany, and I was in France for a summer. Then my first job was in Canada, so I’ve kind of lived in lots of different places.

“Recovery can’t happen if you’re alone, that’s the first step is getting help. That’s why the connection is so crucial.”

P: What was that job in Canada?

M: I was an assistant professor of German. I was there for five years before I came to Reed College. We loved Canada – and even took Canadian citizenship! – but frankly it was too cold. I kind of thought [Reed] would be the next step in my career, but things have turned out differently and I’ve decided to make a career change.

P: And I guess part of that change and interest in nonprofit work is your time here! What initially drew you to CCC?

M: Being in recovery myself, but I also knew lots of people who’d been helped through CCC programs. I feel really strongly about the mission, and I have friends who work at CCC. [One of those friends and I] were actually snowshoeing on Mt. Hood, and we were just talking about this career change and what goals do I have. I mentioned I was interested in learning more about social service work. He was just like, “If you want to get a sense of what that might look like, you could come volunteer in the Living Room!” We had talked about what that space looks like and the community model they have there. What I love about the Living Room is that it’s not necessarily about clinical services. It’s really about a safe space, it’s about a community in which everybody is a member and everybody participates.

P: So there’s no barriers in between people there.

M: Yeah, the hierarchy is flattened out and everyone participates equally. A lot of the spiritual tools I’ve learned from being a Radical Faerie, about holding space and community, are happening at the Living Room and I just thought that was something I would love to be a part of.

P: Any experiences that have stuck out?

M: Well, getting to know some of the people. Everybody has their own story, and some people are more open about that or not. You need to build trust and sometimes you just need to be there and be present for people, so they see that you’re there, and you’re safe, and you’re interested in them and their success.

Sometimes we color, we just sit down and color and you just kind of talk with people and see what’s going on in their lives. There’s mental illness in my family and I don’t think my family had the tools that it needed to deal with that. You know, pills were often the solution, and that doesn’t always work without some sort of community support and skills model.

It was super powerful for me to come in to a room and see people, some of whom have very severe mental illness, just have a place to be to be understood, to be accepted, to be safe, to fit in, to connect in their own particular way. That has been really powerful and meaningful. It just puts a human face to people that we all live with. We all live in the same space together. That’s important, just to recognize that.

Every morning we sit down for an hour and do a group. There’s an icebreaking question like, “What would you do if you had a million dollars?” Or sometimes something more intense, like, “What does recovery mean for you?” Everyone gets to speak, we have a stuffed bunny we pass around to indicate it’s your turn to speak. It’s often a lot of practice in holding community norms and values, letting other people speak, not interrupting, balancing “I have a lot to say” against “everybody needs to speak.” So slowing things down, and just learning how, practicing, being a community together.

“I guess it’s a recovery cliché, but the stories are so different, and they are all the same. To really recognize that sameness as a source of strength and community, I think is really powerful.”

P: With the client stories that you have been writing, have there been any stand out moments from the interviews?

M: You know, I am just consistently amazed at the resilience of people. That’s really powerful. I guess it’s a recovery cliché, but the stories are so different, and they are all the same. To really recognize that sameness as a source of strength and community, I think, is really powerful.

P: Being able to identify with others or see models for success?

M: And normalizing the struggles that people have gone though. So much about mental illness and addiction is about isolation, and I think breaking that sense of isolation is crucial to recovery.

P: Big or small, I think we’ve all felt that sense of relief when someone says, “No, I feel the same way, I’ve been through the same thing.”

M: I think recovery needs that. Recovery can’t happen if you’re alone; that’s why the first step is getting help. That’s why the connection is so crucial.

P: So, what keeps you volunteering at CCC?

M: I feel deeply committed to the work CCC is doing, and I’m getting some great experience. And I love the people. It’s just fun to be here and I’m genuinely excited about the work I am doing.

P: What would you say to someone who is on the fence about volunteering?

M: Try it out! What do you have to lose?

• • •

If you are interested in learning more about volunteer positions in at Central City Concern’s health and recovery, housing, or employment programs, contact Peter Russell, CCC’s Volunteer Manager, at peter.russell@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: July 2017 Edition

Jul 28, 2017

For our latest monthly volunteer spotlight, we’re delighted to feature Jack Ramsey, who volunteers in not just one, but two, roles with Central City Concern! Read our Volunteer Manager’s interview with Jack to find out how his past professional career informs one of his volunteer roles, as well as how his second role has shaped and enriched his life today.

• • •

Peter: What is your name and volunteer position?

Jack: Jack Ramsey and I have two roles. I volunteer over at the Old Town Recovery Center Living Room and my job there is to just kind of generally help out, to chat with clients, and become part of that operation. That includes anything from washing dishes to making sandwiches. Mostly what I do is talk with folks and I’ve been doing it about nine months now I think. I feel like I’ve made friends there. If there’s a week that I can’t be there because I’m out of town, I miss them. I’ve really learned a lot from those guys. About myself, about the kinds of people that you see on the streets. People that are homeless and suffering from mental illness, addiction, they’re kind of superheroes to me, because they’re able to deal with those issues and really improve their lives.

The other is that I’m a member of the Marketing Advisory Council and what I bring to the party there is 40 years of work doing advertising and marketing.

P: I wonder if you could talk about that a little bit.

J: Well, I got in to marketing because I could write. I worked for a couple of computer companies down in California, ended being an ad manager for one of them, and then I was recruited in 1976 by a small advertising agency in Silicon Valley that just happened to have as its main client a young company by the name of Intel. That was sort of my big break. During that time, a guy named Steve Jobs walked in. He had liked the Intel work we were doing and talked my boss in to helping him. About six month later we had developed all that original Apple brand and I had written the first ad for Apple.

P: What was that first ad, do you remember?

J: I just remember that it wasn’t very good. We didn’t know what a home computer was! I asked my boss, “What are they doing?” He said, “Well, it’s a home computer.” So I said, “What’s that?” and he said, “That’s what we have to figure out!”

Steve brought in a bunch of things, like a naked circuit board and a TV monitor, and he said he was going to change the world, and we were going to help him. We had to figure out what Apple would look like and what the voice should be.

When Intel moved a big part of its operations to Oregon in 1978, I moved here to open an office for my agency. My plan was to come up for a year or two and have an adventure and here I am almost 40 years later.

I almost completely retired about 3 years ago and my wife and I bought an RV and hit the road for a year. I learned for the first time in my life to live day to day and take what comes. I actually did do a couple branding projects from the road, but it was fun. I love being in the game. If I crave anything in my life, it’s solving problems.

P: Do you find that some of the skills you built in your career come in to your work at the Living Room?

J: In a lot of ways, it’s sort of the [photo] negative image of my career. I’m not selling anything, there’s no agenda with it, and I get to purely engage on a human level, with all these amazing people that are fighting the worst things you can imagine. I just get to go hang out with amazing people.

The way I ended up at the Living Room was, as I was retiring and I actually had more time to do what I wanted instead of what other people wanted me to do, I kind of wrestled with it for a while. Should I go back to school or volunteer? I couldn’t find volunteer opportunities that were meaningful to me. I met a guy one day and he says, you should get in touch with CCC. I applied on the website and I wrote a note that said that I’m happy to do anything.

I remember 30 years ago driving down Everett street and there was a guy staggering across the road and I said to my friend, “Do you ever just feel guilty, that there but for the grace of God go I?” So the opportunity to work in the living room with all these folks really appealed to me. It’s been an amazing experience and continues to be. And I’m not giving it up.

P: Any stand out experiences during your time here?

J: Yeah, there was one guy at the living room, and we would get in to these heavy philosophical conversations about human nature and science and philosophy. This is a guy who lived for ten years on a front porch. He is really a brilliant man.

P: That’s not something that we all get to do, is see the depth of people who are experiencing homelessness.

J: And what quality people they are and thoughtful and intelligent and self-aware. Even if they are in recovery from addiction or dealing with a mental illness, they’re learning how to be productive, functional people. It’s heartwarming for me to see someone’s eyes light up when they see me, because they know that I’m happy to see them too. Or when someone comes over and asks me to come talk to them. I actually feel like I’m making a difference in these people’s lives.

I’ve lead an exciting life and I’ve gotten to experience all kinds of successes and failures, but in a lot of ways, this is the most rewarding thing I’ve done. This has gone from “Oh gee, what am I going to do in my spare time?” to really one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

P: Not everyone is able to make that kind of transition.

J: I know, I feel honored that I am allowed to do this.

P: Helps keeps the skills sharp too! We haven’t talked about the Marketing Advisory Council too much, but you had said that you crave problem solving, do you get your fill of that with the MAC?

J: Well, I just came from a MAC meeting! The best thing about it is that I don’t have to do the work, but the worst thing about it is that I don’t get to do the work

At the last MAC meeting we discussed these new ads for CCC, and that we need to makes sure these ads engage people on an emotional level. This isn’t just about telling people what CCC does, it’s about making people care.

P: If you could sum it up, what keeps you coming back to volunteer?

J: The people. They’re just wonderful. The clients are wonderful people that impress me, that touch my heart, that amaze me. The people that work here and the other volunteers are here for all the right reasons. We’re here to help people. It’s a much more rewarding mission than trying to make money or make somebody a star. It’s honest.

P: What would want someone to know who is on the fence about volunteering at CCC?

J: Take the plunge! The water is great. You’ll never know yourself as well as you will when you’re doing this, when you’re working completely selflessly.

• • •

If you are interested in learning more about volunteer positions in at Central City Concern’s health and recovery, housing, or employment programs, contact Peter Russell, CCC’s Volunteer Manager, at peter.russell@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: June 2017 Edition

Jun 30, 2017

For June’s monthly volunteer spotlight, we sat down to talk with Malinda Moore, whose energy and zeal for service have already made her a big part of the team at the Old Town Clinic. Read on to hear about how she got involved with CCC and what keeps her coming back as a volunteer.

• • •

Peter: What is your name and volunteer position?

Malinda: Concierge at Old Town Clinic, or as some of the clients say, you must not have made it in to the greeters at Walmart or the Home Depot!

P: Oh no!

M: No! They say it affectionately, especially the clients that recognize that you’re there more often. They remember people.

P: You’ve been there for how long now?

M: Since around Christmas of last year.

P: I’m sure you’ve become a familiar face for folks at the clinic.

M: You hope so. Every day is different. Some days there may be someone who needs a little extra arm around the shoulder and help to stay calm. Other days there are people who just need someone to say hi, or just do something that they don’t expect, like open the door before they get a chance to push the button. I can get out there and get that door open before the patient can. It’s just fun to see the look on people’s faces when someone is nice to them because they’re next to them.

P: That’s probably not something some of our clients see too often, is someone going the extra mile for them.

M: Exactly, and they deserve it as much as anyone does. That’s one of the most fun parts about it.

P: Is there anything that is challenging about it?

M: I don’t have many challenges there. When you’re there observing, the front line people treat every one of those clients like it’s the governor or the mayor. And they remember their names! I can’t believe how many people come in every day and before they step in the door it’s like, “Hi, such and such, how are you doing?” The staff treat them and they treat each other with that same respect. And the clients treat each other with respect. They’ll take time to listen to each other and help each other out. They’re very compassionate with each other. It’s very uplifting to see these people be so compassionate and be working so hard to be doing what they need to do get better.

P: Have you had a particular moment stick out in the time that you’ve been volunteering?

M: There was one woman who came who was having a mental health crisis, and she wasn’t a client, but staff was working really hard to find how best to help her. When staff would leave, I would just sit with her and she had her head in her hands, but once I started talked to her she would put her head up and we would look at pictures of her dog, her boyfriend, and we had great conversations. It was nice to see that I didn’t have to be doing anything medical for her, just sitting there having a friend was good enough to make her feel better. Then you get to meet people that have such varied backgrounds and skills and they’re just such interesting people! There’s nothing big, but every day I come back and say to my husband, “Guess what? I had the best time talking to this person!”

P: Is that what keeps you coming back to volunteer?

M: Yes! I may go two days a week! I really look forward to it. I used to really look forward to going to work every day, so this is this same feeling, like, I get to go to work! And be with people I like to be with.

P: That’s a great feeling.

M: I’m very lucky.

P: And what is your background?

M: I was a medical speech pathologist, so I worked in inpatient, outpatient, home health, hospice, ICU. I got to do all of those. It was that kind of hospital where everybody talked to everybody. You could meet the doctor in the hallway and he’d want t know what you thought about his patient. There wasn’t this hierarchy. It was a great place to work. I get some of that same feeling from the Old Town Clinic. You just watch all these people at OTC and there’s just so much collaboration, it could be a role model for any clinic in the state. It’s not just a job there. The minute someone walks in the door someone want to help them.

P: What got you involved with CCC?

M: Oh, this is a great story! My husband, who is a retired attorney, pours wine in a winery in Albany and he got to talking to a woman at the winery, who happened to be a CCC employee and he came home that day and said, “We’re going to start donating to Central City Concern!” It was just like that. He was so impressed with what she told him. And then when we moved to Portland, I decided this is where I’d like to spend some time. So that’s where it started, the winery!

P: What do you think someone who is on the fence might want to know?

M: I think, no matter what they did, if it was something they thought they might like, they’re going to be treated really well. People are going to go out of their way to help them feel comfortable and they’re going to be appreciated. If I show up on a day I don’t normally volunteer, they’ll be like, ‘Aren’t you usually here on Wednesday?’

• • •

If you are interested in learning more about volunteer positions in at Central City Concern’s health and recovery, housing, or employment programs, contact Peter Russell, CCC’s Volunteer Manager, at peter.russell@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: New Volunteer Manager Edition!

Jun 01, 2017

For this month’s volunteer spotlight I’m going to be interviewing myself, Peter Russell, to introduce myself to you as the new Volunteer Manager for Central City Concern. I’m very excited to be working with the organization and to be able to work with all the volunteers who support what we do. I’ll be turning the spotlight back over to our volunteers later this month, but for the time being, here’s a little more about me!

• • •

What is your background working with volunteers?
I have coordinated or worked with volunteers in a variety of different roles over the last few years. Primarily, I spent the last two years working with Habitat for Humanity as the assistant manager at one of the Portland area ReStores. In this role, I was the store’s volunteer coordinator in addition to my work managing the store. I also helped train volunteers during my time as an intern with the National Eating Disorder Association and have directed some volunteer theater productions too!

What is it that you enjoy about working with volunteers?
So many things! I love the sense of community that gets built up around a volunteer workforce. There is a deep sense of caring and compassion that drives people to volunteer. I think one can see that not only in the work that is done by volunteers, but how volunteers help the people they work with to develop and grow as well. I have been able to learn so much from the people I have worked with as volunteers, as there can be such a wide diversity of skills within a group of volunteers. I also really enjoy the feeling that everyone is working together with the same goal in mind: to engage with your community and to help it change and grow in a positive way.

What are you looking forward to about working with Central City Concern’s volunteers?
I love that there are so many different ways that volunteers can be involved in the work that the organization does. Not only does this provide so many opportunities for me to learn new things (which is one of my favorite things to do), but it also means that we can engage with a large variety of future volunteers. The possibilities for growing the ways in which volunteers assist with our operations seem fairly boundless, so I am also very excited to start to dream up new ways in which we can involve people.

What do you like to do when you are not working with volunteers?
In my spare time I do some volunteering of my own, but I also am a serious dabbler in the creative arts. I bounce between writing music, short stories, films, and other things in between. I also love to be outdoors and go on hikes, so I’m very excited that the weather has finally started to turn. As a lifelong vegetarian, I also enjoy cooking (and eating). I can’t say I’m very good at it, but I enjoy it nonetheless!

• • •

If you are interested in learning more about volunteer positions in at Central City Concern’s health and recovery, housing, or employment programs, contact Peter Russell at peter.russell@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.



CCC Celebrates Addition to the Healing Through Art Collection

May 25, 2017

Laura Ross-Paul | Power of the Pacific, 1989 | Oil on canvas, 60”x72” | Donated by Laura Ross-PaulKatherine Ace | Conversation, 2007 | Oil/alkyd, paper, gold leaf and insect wings, 36”x36” | Donated by Katherine AceMike Newman | untitled (Pentecost) | Butterfly on metal with paint/acid, 15.5”x19” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia EngelmanRick Bartow | Story (12/50), 2000 | Lithograph, 17”x14” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia EngelmanBill Brewer | A Blind Knowing, 1993 | Acrylic on panel, 30”x16” | Donated by Bob Kochs & Phyllis OsborneFrank Boyden | LITH, 1993 | Etching (10/30), 18”x18” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia Engelman
Erinn Kennedy | Blue Gem, 2001 | Acrylic, 10”x10” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia EngelmanGregory Grenon | Dahlias, 1999 | Lithograph (5/75), 18”x15” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia EngelmanWhitney Nye | Riff, 2002 | Acrylic, alkyd, paper, glass on wood panel, 24”x24” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia EngelmanSusan McKinnon | Interiors #4, 1992 | Watercolor, 26”x26” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia EngelmanJules Olitski | Elegy, 2002 | Color screenprint edition 108, 34”x42” | Donated by Bennett & Sylvia EngelmanDavid Slader | Eulogy for a Pastrami Sandwich, 2014 | Oil/oil crayon on panel on canvas, 36”x48” | Donated by David Slader
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Phase 2 of the Healing Through Art Collection consists of nearly 100 pieces of original fine art. Click on a photo to begin the slideshow of select pieces.

• • •

On Friday, May 19, Central City Concern celebrated the completion of Phase 2 of the Healing Through Art Collection, which placed nearly 100 beautiful and healing artworks in CCC housing and program sites across the Portland metro area.

Since 2012, patients, staff members, and guests of CCC’s Old Town Clinic and Old Town Recovery Center, collectively known as our downtown health campus, have enjoyed our Healing Though Art Collection. By late 2015, the collection had grown to nearly 60 pieces of fine art (from 35 artists based in the Pacific Northwest), each curated, procured, and approved for its aesthetic, healing, and calming properties.

But the collection inside the health campus—the product of several years of work done by the all-volunteer Art Task Force—turned out to be just the beginning.

Because the Healing Through Art collection consistently received such enthusiastic and appreciative response from clients and staff alike, the Art Task Force was asked to continue their work in order to bring original fine art into several CCC housing communities and program sites, including Miracles Central, Madrona Studios, the Sally McCracken Building, the Estate Hotel Building, and the Puentes program. The volunteer Art Task Force spent more than a year on this addition to the Healing Through Art collection, dubbed Phase 2, carefully selecting, procuring, and placing works across the five new sites.

The May 19 celebration brought together the Art Task Force, donors to Phase 2, several artists whose works are represented in the updated collection, and representatives from several local galleries who have both donated and provided guidance for the collection. Members of the Portland Art Museum Northwest Art Council joined the event.

CCC Executive Director Ed Blackburn kicked off the evening by thanking donors, artists, and volunteers for their support while providing an overview of CCC’s care model. He also shared how the artwork hung on the walls of our clinic spaces and housing communities impact the wellbeing of the people we serve.

Art Task Force Chair Pam Baker provided the history of the collection and called out each Phase 2 donor. She also announced that work on Phase 3 of the Healing Through Art Collection would begin shortly to extend the collection into the historic Golden West Hotel building where our Imani Center program is based, as well as the two housing communities and the combined housing and clinic building that slated to be completed in 2018 as part of Central City Concern’s Housing is Health initiative.

Special guest Grace Kook-Anderson, Portland Art Museum’s Curator of Northwest Art, concluded the program by speaking about how specific pieces in the collection stood out to her. She also shared that she was thrilled that the Healing Through Art collection brought such high-quality work to the population CCC serves.

Find the full list of the pieces that comprise Phase 2 of the Healing Through Art Collection and their donors by downloading the Healing Through Art Phase 2 addendum.

The volunteer Art Task Force that worked on Phase 2 include:

  • Pam Baker
  • Alice McCartor
  • Carole Romm
  • Marcy Schwartz
  • Kathleen Stephenson-Kuhn
  • Dan Winter


A View from the Edge of the Mat

Apr 28, 2017

As you’ve seen by this week’s previous pieces, Living Yoga has truly ingrained themselves in Central City Concern programming. Luckily, it sounds like our class participants have endeared themselves to their teachers, as well.

“This was my first real experience of volunteering and I am so grateful for the opportunity that Living Yoga and CCC gave me to teach yoga to some of the most engaging and committed class participants,” shared a volunteer instructor, Diane, who teaches classes at Old Town Clinic. On several occasions, she’s shared that her “weekly yoga volunteer hour is the best hour of my whole week.”

With that warmth and positivity, and in the spirit of collaboration, volunteerism, and serving those who have so much to share, we wanted to finish our National Volunteer Week celebration with a piece from Laura Walsh. One of the very first Living Yoga volunteer instructors to give her time to Central City Concern—she started at Old Town Clinic some nine years ago!—Laura’s experience, wisdom, and beautiful writing seemed like the perfect way to conclude an amazing week.

Thank you, volunteers, for helping Central City Concern do more and do better with compassion, kindness, and an inspirational sense of service.

• • •

There’s a little story about some yogis sitting at the edge of a lake in meditation. All of a sudden, one of them jumps up and runs across the lake and comes back with a shawl, puts it on, and resumes a sitting posture. A little while later, another one of the group runs across the lake and whispers she needed to check on the soup for dinner. Well, after a bit more time goes by, a more recent member stands up and says, “Ahem… seems I forgot my mala beads.” He heads out to edge of the lake, takes a running start, and quickly becomes completely wet—splashing and struggling for footing before making his way to shore again. This scenario was repeated a couple of more times before the first yogi turns to the second and asks, “Do you suppose we might tell him where the rocks are in the lake?”

A chuckle, maybe? Some recognition of one time or another continuing to use the same unskillful ways to “reach” or gain solid ground—getting a proverbial “soaking” in the process? While there are several images or metaphors to illustrate “the way” or “path,” it essentially does come back to “the journey,” yes?

In this little vignette there is the sense that each person’s intention is to travel to the other side. The teaching rests in each person finding his or her own way. For one, it may mean paying attention to how others negotiate an obstacle and what skills are needed; another may ask questions and explore the conditions of the lake; someone might walk around while another could build a raft; one possibly could find a friend with a boat or even begin an active swimming regimen. Could a map, compass, or even a guide be of help?

The yoga of “IT” is in discovering how to honor one’s circumstances and nature with a practice to live in the “ground” of life’s circumstances—the union of all in and around “the lake.” A quote from Carl Rogers, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change,” brings us again to the image of the lake.

What I have experienced in my years sharing yoga at Old Town Clinic is that there is a readiness of participants to begin the sitting and the process of travel. There is a place for each person to symbolically look into the surface of the water for a reflection of how things are at that present time. There is a quality of movement within a contained landscape. Old Town Clinic continues to provide the opportunity for offering an environment where people are supported to engage in their proverbial lakeside experience—yoga is one of the elements that assist in safe and also challenging passage.

That there is a willingness to roll out the mat and take one’s seat is one of the most courageous and affirming acts in yoga. When we begin class, yogis are reminded of the principle, ahimsa, which translates as “non-harming.” One is reminded to offer kindness and respect and to bring a gentleness to the current state of body and mind. When we link breath awareness to movement or into stillness there is a space to notice what may be present and alive and asking for attention in that moment—to do or not do…. to sit at the edge of the “lake” or to enter into the “flow” of movement.

I am ever so grateful to be a part of this community and value the time spent with the ever-positive, present, and insightful Old Town Clinic staff ally, Moira. Over the years there have been people coming to yoga as part of a treatment program or a wellness regimen, to explore calming and regulating practices, or even for a place to rest. There has been a consistent member of our yoga collective who I offer deep gratitude for his brilliance, wisdom, discernment, and generosity of spirit. He gives expression to how yoga aligns one in well-being off the mat and into the world.

To those new to the practice, to those who are curious, and to some who find it not useful or of interest… thanks for showing up and for “getting the toes wet.” Maybe some will come back or may find interest in another discipline which offers healthful benefits… or maybe not, too. All who have come to my classes, however, have been such good sports!

For your trust and good-natured spirits to try, to modify, to be patient or curious, to stay with, to be with, and to allow for or to witness—I celebrate you. I thank you. I feel touched by the quality of intimate space created by sharing breath, time, and effort together.

So, at the edge of the lake… sharing a few lines from a noted author and activist, Wendell Berry, and then “jumping” in!

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though
you have considered all the facts.

Namaste



Detox & Yoga: An Unlikely, but Beneficial, Pair

Apr 27, 2017

Oftentimes a first step for those who are looking to make a serious change in their lives, Hooper Detoxification & Stabilization Center is, as the program’s mission states, “a place where hope is constantly reborn.” Many are surprised to hear that our medical detoxification center incorporates the practice of yoga into the program, but it has become a vital tool in helping patients finish the treatment protocol, improving their chances of better health and recovery. We sat down with Steve Mattsson, CCC’s Director of Detoxification Services, to have a National Volunteer Week chat about the unique way in which Living Yoga’s volunteer instructors have helped patients at Hooper not only find comfort but also helped Hooper improve its outcomes.

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Can you tell me the basics? What prompted Hooper to bring Living Yoga on board?
Hooper is approximately a week-long program where people are medically detoxed. The first few days they’re not feeling very well but after that they start getting up and walking around and wanting to do stuff.

We didn’t really have a lot of activities for them, especially anything at all physical, so unfortunately we occasionally lost people who left against medical advice. We explored various things that they could do that were more physical to keep them engaged and we’d heard that—I believe it was Old Town Clinic—had some experience with Living Yoga and said great things about them. So we brought them in and initially did a pilot program with just the men and when that worked out well we expanded it to both men and women.

What kind of feedback were you wanting to hear in order to decide whether you wanted to move on with the pilot project or not?
Really the bottom line was, did the APA (Against Professional Advice) rate come down? Clients saying, “Hey, I really like this. Thank you for offering it.” is really important and we want to improve their experience here. But we also had to really assess if fewer people were leaving against medical advice now than before.

Did you see objective evidence that this worked?
Yes. We added several things during the same year as ways to bring the APA rate down. Overall our APA rates are down this year, and we believe that the Living Yoga instructors have something to do with that.

From what you see, besides the fact that it is some sort of physical activity, what about yoga is beneficial to the people who are here?
Central City Concern—and Hooper especially—have had a long partnership with acupuncturists. I think we’ve been doing it for close to 40 years, acupuncture in conjunction with the detox. And both the yoga and acupuncture really come together for these patients who aren’t feeling well. They are not at peace. Their body chemistry is out of whack and they are uncomfortable. And anything that gets them to calm down, slow their roll—yoga, acupuncture—it really helps.

With western-style medicine the nurses have to get vital signs and assess withdrawal levels and it’s all done confidentially with only one or two patients at a time. With both the acupuncture and the yoga you can work on the whole group at once and help reduce those withdrawal symptoms and that stress level and anxiety.

We have 30 to 45 patients at any time who are all detoxing and by and large not feeling well; they’re cranky. We want them to stay as calm as possible. The yoga and the acupuncture really help us keep the whole floor calm.

I know that a lot of Living Yoga volunteers have gotten some sort of trauma-informed care training. Is that something you would say is applicable to Hooper?
Absolutely. As an agency, and as a program here at Hooper, we’re all moving in a much more trauma-informed direction. Partnering with agencies like Living Yoga that are familiar with trauma-informed terminology and know what our clients have been through is wonderful. It’s excellent.

Has there been anything especially beneficial to having Living Yoga here as opposed to just any kind of yoga volunteer off the street?
Living Yoga is really sympathetic with our mission. Obviously they’ve been partners with CCC for a while and they really are about calming people down, grounding them, and showing them different ways to relax. We’ve really appreciated it. And they’re all volunteers, so they have to want to be here. They feel like they are—and they are—performing a service and giving back because otherwise they wouldn’t keep on coming. That tells us that they’re getting the kind of response from our patients that makes them want to come back again.



"Let all beings everywhere be happy and free"

Apr 26, 2017

Moira Ryan, Central City Concern Old Town Clinic’s Wellness Services Coordinator, works with a number of volunteers, and she witnesses firsthand what Living Yoga volunteer instructors bring to the patients of our community health clinic. In this latest National Volunteer Week blog post, Moira reflects on the many ways our Living Yoga volunteers meet our diverse patients where they are and embody the compassion, empathy, and kindness that we see across all CCC volunteers.

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Starting any movement or exercise practice can be so intimidating, especially for folks dealing with limited mobility, social anxiety, chronic pain, body shame, or an institutionalized mind-set. Walking into a practice like yoga can be even more stressful—“I don’t know the right words, I’ve seen yogis on TV and I know I can’t do yoga the right way,” etc.

One of the many things that I love about Living Yoga (LY) instructors is their gentle encouragement. The teachers don’t single folks out or shame modifications, but instead take the temperature of the room and offer safe options for every body. Just as important, LY teachers don’t assume that people in wheelchairs can’t test themselves, and don’t fragilize folks out of trying new postures. This mix of gentleness and encouragement the volunteers practice allows our clients to feel they have permission to try as well as permission to let themselves guide their practice. Having permission to practice being yourself in this way, and in a room full of people, is so important.

After Gentle Yoga groups, people report feeling stronger, clearer, and better about themselves. Some do leave frustrated with themselves, but many come back to try again. I’ve seen one client practice twice a week for the last year move gradually out of her wheelchair and onto the mat. She uses a chair when she needs one, and more and more, she doesn’t. Two months ago, she successfully worked her body into a beautiful Downward Dog and held that pose for over a minute. She was so happy, so pleased with herself. When new people come in and talk about “not doing it right,” she often interrupts the instructor to let the new person know that that’s ok: “We do what we can. And we’re doing it. You’re doing great.”

LY teachers typically let our classes know how yoga has worked for themselves. They talk about their own anxiety, injuries, or recovery stories, and I think this transparency makes our groups feel less didactic and more individualized and exploratory. Group members often tell me how much they enjoy the different kinds of yoga practice they learn from various teachers. One brings in harmoniums and teaches us chants ("Let all beings everywhere be happy and free" is a favorite). One offers a quieter, more internal practice. One laughs a lot, and makes us work our hamstrings like crazy. One focuses more on balance and talks about aging. One always helps us with some really yummy neck stretches. All are unique models of some different ways to practice, helping clients move away from “shoulds" and toward finding their own yoga.

Aside from the physical practice, I know that offering folks a safe, routine, short practice of meditation has been hugely helpful. It can be really tough to walk into a 30-90 minute meditation group, but not so hard to try meditation for a few minutes at the end of a yoga group. People talk about feeling more open and more peaceful because of the minutes we spend in our final relaxation pose.

Gentle Yoga has been for years one of our most successful offerings. We’ve tried other movement modalities—gentle dance, walking, etc.—but none have caught on like the classes Living Yoga offers.

I really want to thank the behinds-the-scenes team for supporting the instructors and managing the schedules and coordinating with all the programs you serve. This includes Eric Reynolds, CCC's fabulous volunteer manager, who's been instrumental in connecting Living Yoga with the Wellness Program and continues to offer ongoing support. I’d also like to thank those who donate to Living Yoga on behalf of OTC clients, for helping us provide yoga to folks who can’t afford or access studio classes.



Seva: The Act of Selfless Service

Apr 25, 2017

As Central City Concern celebrates National Volunteer Week by highlighting our volunteer partnership with Living Yoga, we thought it imperative to hear from them directly. Avery Lewis, Living Yoga’s Events and Communications Manager, was gracious enough to write a guest blog post on the organization’s behalf in which she shares how trauma-informed yoga aligns with the needs of those CCC serves, how Living Yoga’s own volunteers are transformed by their service, and much more.

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In honor of volunteer week, we want to recognize the 130+ volunteers who selflessly dedicate their time and energy to teach trauma-informed yoga at our partner sites every year, including Central City Concern’s Letty Owing Center, Hooper Detox, and Old Town Clinic. At these sites alone, 24 Living Yoga volunteers have practiced yoga with more than 900 students in the past twelve months.

In yoga, some refer to this act of selfless service as seva. Seva is the Sanskrit word used to describe an action in which we selflessly give of ourselves to promote the well-being of others. Perhaps the most beautiful thing about seva is that, more often than not, the one serving and the one served both benefit. This is something Living Yoga volunteers experience time and time again when working with students at our partner sites.

Greg, who teaches weekly at Hooper Detox, says, “My experience at Hooper has helped me grow and connect not only as a yoga teacher, but also as a human. I am always impressed by the attitudes of the students and staff—I love their authenticity and gratitude. I feel invited to causally express myself in my teaching, just as I invite the students to do so through their breath and movement. I have fun when I teach yoga at Hooper, and the students appear to enjoy themselves as well. Their occasional contributions of light-hearted banter, sighs of relief, and brief anecdotes help create a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.”

Living Yoga’s partnership with Central City Concern over the past nine years has played an integral role in the healing process and resiliency of our students. By offering trauma-informed yoga classes, students learn to create positive change from the inside out. Trauma-informed yoga acknowledges that trauma can cause individuals to feel unsafe and disconnected from their bodies. Practicing trauma-informed yoga allows the individual to reconnect with their body, increase self-knowledge, and create a safe place within themselves. It’s a powerful tool for recovery and for life in general.

Through the practice of yoga, students gain valuable skills that support their ability to realize their full potential. Students find themselves using these skills outside the classroom, contributing to their own long term well-being and to the health and well-being of the communities in which they live. Jillian, a Living Yoga volunteer teacher at Letty Owings Center, reported, “Another great class! Again these women are so open and ready for yoga. We talked a little about the classes they’ve done so far—one woman said she couldn’t sleep the other night so she got out of bed and did yoga to relax! It’s like textbook Living Yoga—awesome! It is really landing with them, and it feels so great to be part of their yoga journey.” 

Yoga is such a deeply transformational practice to share with someone. It promotes self-love, self-respect, forgiveness, healing, confidence, and growth. It teaches us compassion and how to communicate with heart and intention. And it has a ripple effect! When we realize the inherent goodness inside of ourselves, we learn to act and interact from that place with others. We learn that we are more than our worst behaviors.

For the volunteer teachers at Living Yoga, it is clear that the sharing of this experience through yoga is as satisfying, if not more so, as the practice of yoga itself.



The Numbers Agree: CCC Volunteers Help Us Do More & Better!

Apr 24, 2017

At Central City Concern, we often say that our volunteers help us do more and help us do better. We crunched some numbers, and the numbers agree! Take a look at our National Volunteer Week infographic to learn more about the impact volunteers make on the CCC community.

To learn more about volunteering with Central City Concern, visit our Volunteer page.

(Download a PDF version of this infographic.)