A group of seniors in Portland are committed to creating social, economic and educational opportunities for their young neighbors and friends.
Senior Advocates for Generational Equity (SAGE), the brainchild of Portland attorney Ward Greene, boasts nearly 200 members, and encourages participants to adopt a specific cause, such as access to school supplies for disadvantaged youth, or mentoring relationships with students.
For Greene, SAGE provides the opportunity to fulfill deferred hopes of world-changing action. “When we were young we wanted to make the world a better place, but we’ve consumed too much and frankly we’ve had too short a view,” he told KATU news.
Retired Portland teacher John Daggett expressed similar views. “This is a very important organization to catalyze the dreams and wishes of older adults for the next generations,” he stated.
SAGE regularly hosts guest speakers who emphasize the value of connections between youth and seniors. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff attracted a crowd of 700 people to SAGE’s venue. On September 12th, the group will host TV personality Van Jones at Portland State University’s Viking Pavilion.
In SAGE, Greene has found a new life purpose. “I sometimes say we’re trying to give forward and . . . it’s given my life a whole new meaning,” he explained. “The future needs all the advocates it can get.”
Retired teacher and former Army serviceman Ken Walker has a passion for helping fellow veterans in need. The Portland native spends his time serving homeless servicemen and women who require transportation to the doctor’s office or grocery store.
Bob Reese is one of many veterans who have gratefully received Walker’s help. “Give him a call, say you gotta do this or that, and he’ll come with his car, take you where you gotta go, do what you gotta do,” Reese told KATU news.
Reese lost access to permanent housing last year, but anticipates moving into a private apartment in June. Walker wants to ensure that veterans like Reese make the transition back to permanent housing successfully.
“To me, this is vets helping vets and keeping vets in housing,” Walker explained. “You know, formerly homeless vets but now they’re in housing, and I want to keep them there.”
To help needy veterans ease the burden of food insecurity, Walker also runs a food pantry and household items distribution center at his church. “A lot of guys when they become homeless they lose everything,” Walker said. “They’re starting from scratch.”
Walker provides more than material goods to the destitute, however. For many veterans, he also offers friendship, empathy, and a listening ear. “We hang out and get a burger and we talk,” said veteran Scott Ramsden. “He’s the only person I can talk to about my problems, that I know he’s listening and really cares. He’s my best friend.”
Walker encourages the public to recognize both the vulnerability and dignity of homeless individuals. “If you see homeless people, treat them with respect,” he explained. “You know, look at them, talk to them, you know they are people too.”
In Walker’s experience, grateful hearts amply reward his efforts to treat the homeless with compassion.
Georgena Moran hasn’t let a crippling health condition keep her indoors. Instead, the Portland, Oregon native has continued to explore local trails and parks despite her limited mobility and is helping other individuals with disabilities to enjoy the outdoors.
In 1998, doctors diagnosed Moran with multiple sclerosis. By 2002, the disease had confined her to a wheelchair. As a lifelong outdoor enthusiast, Moran wanted to continue connecting with nature but struggled to find wheelchair-accessible trails in her area.
“There was a lack of information online as well as in books,” Moran told KATU news. While many resources provided beautiful pictures of trails, they lacked specific information about trail surfaces, she explained. So, Moran created her own database, Access Trails, to inform fellow hikers in the Portland area about trail conditions and ease of use for individuals with disabilities.
“These trails vary from ones where you can reach the water to other ones that are like a picnic area,” Moran said. She particularly enjoys trails with natural surfaces: “I prefer to go out there and feel like I’m part of a natural environment.”
Moran is equally at home in the woods and on the water. Before her diagnosis, she loved boating—so with the help of friends, she designed two motorized vessels which accommodate her disability. “You figure out a way and technology helps along the way,” Moran explained. “You learn different ways to be able to make your dreams come true.”
Thanks to Moran’s efforts, other wheelchair users can make their outdoor dreams come true, too.
Ester Choo is a physician at Oregon Health and Science University who has previously taken Twitter by storm over her experiences in the emergency room.
But this May, she started a new initiative, just in time for Mother’s Day, that encouraged patients, doctors, and all who have experienced the power of medicine to share their life-giving stories on Twitter with the hashtag #ShareAStoryInOneTweet.
Choo’s original tweet, in 154 characters, described a patient who had been clinically dead for twenty minutes before being revived by Choo and her staff. She stated he still called her every year on the anniversary of saving his life, and it is now the ten-year anniversary.
Esther Choo’s #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
Hundreds responded to her challenge with incredible stories that would make any reader laugh, weep, and smile at their heartwarming experiences. The stories included the heavy impact of death on patients and doctors, miracles, dedication and perseverance, and hope for all.
Tweet in response to Esther Choo
See The Oregonian’s article for more responses to Choo’s Twitter Challenge.
Comparatively few teenagers have the vision to establish a nonprofit organization. Few others have the logistical know-how to coordinate a public event with local businesses and news media.
But 16-year-old Malcolm Asher and 14-year-old Irie Page, both of Portland, Oregon, are not average teenagers. Last Sunday, the pair received national honors in Washington, D.C., for exceptional service to their communities. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, established by Prudential Financial and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), judged Malcolm and Irie to be Oregon’s most committed high school and middle school volunteers.
The teens enjoyed a dinner reception at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and accepted $1,000 awards from Olympic medalist Lindsey Vonn, who commended them for their service.
Both young adults earned their accolades for demonstrating “leadership and determination well beyond their years,” according to John Strangfeld, CEO of Prudential Financial. “[It’s] a privilege to celebrate their service,” he said.
Malcolm, a junior at Cleveland High School, established a not-for-profit foundation which helps hospitalized children all over the world create and share artwork with their peers. Malcolm volunteered at a children’s hospital in Portland and witnessed how drawing and painting helped young patients overcome the anxiety associated with a hospital stay. “I could plainly see what a lift this provided to kids who were feeling anxious and scared,” he told KATU news.
This experience motivated Malcolm to found ArtPass, which distributes art kits to hospitalized youth. The organization operates in 11 countries worldwide and encourages young people in developing nations to seek medical care, rather than delay treatment due to anxiety about a hospital stay.
Meanwhile, Irie hosted a nationally recognized author and educator at a free public event designed to inform teens about safe dating practices. Irie raised funds for the author’s speaking fee by establishing a GoFundMe account and securing sponsorships from local businesses. Portland State University provided a recital hall for the event, and local news media publicized the occasion.
As a result of Irie’s efforts, about 500 teens and their parents came to the program, prompting the author to waive his speaking fee. Irie subsequently offered the funds to local organizations which strive to eliminate sexual violence.
In summing up the awards ceremony at the Smithsonian, NASSP president Daniel P. Kelley told attendees that teens like Malcolm and Irie show that “one student really can make a difference. We are honored to shine a spotlight on the compassion, drive, and ingenuity of each of these young volunteers.”
More information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, along with a list of honorees for 2018, can be found at http://spirit.prudential.com and www.nassp.org/spirit.