Our House News


 
 
May 09, 2017
Volunteer of the Month - Bucky Craft & Rita

Therapy Dog Team & Special Events Helper
Volunteers Since March 2015

What drew you to volunteer at Our House?
Before I ever moved to Portland, I heard about Our House from two very good friends, Sally and Denny Bixby. Sally used to be the Development Director a while ago. Then, when I moved here, I met a volunteer, Jo Hamilton, in a dog park, and I was talking about my therapy dogs, and she said, “They’d be great to come to Our House” and that’s actually how I ended up coming here. I’ve been a therapy dog volunteer for 16 years, and of all the places I’ve gone, our House of Portland had been my favorite. And quite honestly, it’s the staff – they just have so much fun. I have some special friends downstairs, too.

What is your favorite aspect of volunteering?
I think my favorite thing is watching people smile. In some cases, to have anyone come in is a big day for that person, but particularly when you have a dog, it just melts the toughest heart most of the time. It’s just nice to watch them smile and talk to the dogs and talk to me. Plus, the residents are great. I have more fun at Our House, really. Just watching people relax and melt down and pet a dog.

What do you do other than your volunteer gig?
I volunteer at two other places doing the same thing. I go to a place over in Southwest for developmentally-disabled adults and then I go to an assisted living home just up the street from Our House. Other than that, I babysit one of my grandkids. I like to read and I like to walk and I like to eat. That’s about it!

What is something about you that would surprise others?
I grew up riding horses and I’ve had a horse up until last month. I’ve always had a horse. He was 30 when he passed, which is at least 10 years older than most horses live. I grew up riding and showing horses and raising and training dogs. I’ve had dogs that I’ve shown in dog shows. Rita, my current therapy dog, is a retired show dog.

 

 
Apr 14, 2017
Welcome Mary Rita Hurley as New Executive Director

Our House Executive Director Announcement

Our House is very pleased to announce that Mary Rita Hurley will be the new Our House Executive Director. Mary Rita is widely respected throughout the region as a dedicated professional committed to improving healthcare results for those who need it most. Through her work as a clinical nurse, Executive Director, university faculty, healthcare advocate, and nationally recognized speaker, Mary Rita will provide the leadership, vision, and innovation needed to continue the Our House legacy.

“All of us are excited to have Mary Rita join Our House. With more than thirty years of experience in the healthcare industry, she has a compelling personal and professional background that will allow her to succeed at Our House,” said Bob Speltz, board chair.

As HIV treatment and care continues to evolve, Mary Rita’s breadth of knowledge and experience enable her to bring a new perspective to our work. As a nurse she has worked with chronic illnesses including HIV, served on a regional AIDS Task Force, and was Chapter President of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care. She also recently served as the Executive Director of the Oregon Center for Nursing.

“I am thrilled to be back in Portland and working with the amazing staff and dedicated Board at Our House,” notes Mary Rita, “Now more than ever, our community needs the integrated health and housing services Our House provides so we can continue to inspire people with HIV to live well.”

Mary Rita will begin as Executive Director on Tuesday, April 25th. We hope you will join the Our House Board and staff in welcoming Mary Rita to our organization, and we hope you will have the opportunity to meet her at one of our upcoming events!

 

 
Apr 12, 2017
Volunteer of the Month - George Allan

Dinner Cook
Volunteer Since January 2009

What drew you to volunteer at Our House?
Bob Cramer drew me to volunteer at Our House. At that time, I was a hospice volunteer at Providence Hospice East, and I thought Our House would be interested in me because of that experience and because I had a background in mental health. Nathan took me all around and said, “We’re looking for a cook for breakfast. Do you know your way around a kitchen?” It was just so out of the blue that I didn’t have time to compute it. I thought that they might want me for some semi-clinical reason, for more of the mental health side of things, but it was for being a cook, so I signed up for that, and I was the Monday morning breakfast cook for 6 or 7 years. And I loved it! I’ve since moved to cooking dinner twice a month on Sundays.

What is your favorite aspect of volunteering?
I like to get to know the clients. Getting to know those less fortunate and who struggle with the disease is deep with meaning. AIDS never aimed at anyone, just fired and shot who was there. The whole place was kind of addicting to me in the beginning. I’d never been around a place like Our House and haven’t been around a place like it since. It has some kind of magic to it. I feel good about what I do here.

What do you do other than your volunteer gig?
I’m a hospice volunteer at Providence East Portland. I do respite care – I go and take care of the patient while the patient’s caregiver leaves for four hours. I have the patient for that amount of time and we just do what the patient wants to do.

What is something about you that would surprise others?
I’m a native Oregonian farm boy. I lived on a working farm from age 3 to college graduation. We always had a couple head of cattle, my sister’s horse, many chickens, a one acre root garden, a fruit orchard, and a filbert orchard. The food was preserved in the fall and used all year. 

 

 
Mar 06, 2017
Volunteer of the Month - Chris Shauinger

Dinner Helper
Volunteer Since Feb. 2011

What drew you to volunteer at Our House?
I had spent years in the restaurant business and the last of those years overworked and removed from the world. I love people and wanted to return to loving them, so I left my career and decided to go back to school to become a mental health counselor. A partner of a good friend was volunteering at the time and brought me in. Of course, I fell in love with the people. At Our House, I reconnect with my community in so many ways. It also gives me an opportunity to work in the field that I love.

What is your favorite aspect of volunteering?
I walk in to Our House singing! What a pleasure and a privilege it is to volunteer here. I feel no expectations, no pressure. I let the busy world wait at the door and let myself be me and share those moments with beautiful people who have experienced real life. How truly blessed we are!

What do you do other than your volunteer gig?
I’m a full time student completing my Alcohol & Drug Counseling certification (CADC) and am doing my practicum at the DePaul Treatment Center downtown 15 hours a week. I am also a writing tutor for the Women’s Resource Center at Portland Community College. Aside from that, I love to read, go on long walks in Portland, and I’ve just started sprouting seeds for my fabulous garden!

What is something about you that would surprise others?
My shoe size is 8 1/2 but my heart size is actually 16 ¾! And I’m not all brain, haha! I used to dress display windows for Nordstrom. I love restoration work; from old houses to classic European vehicles.

 

 
Feb 16, 2017
Volunteer of the Month - Emily Ford

Dinner Cook and Dinner Series Committee Member
Volunteer since March 2015

What drew you to volunteer at Our House?
Another volunteer, Ruth Aquino, is my ice skating coach, and she had been cooking here for 10 years. When we met, she learned that I had cooked for big groups and suggested I get involved. I’d worked in a retreat center cooking for 20-40 people and when I saw the Our House kitchen I was really impressed. So many commercial kitchens seem like dungeons and the Our House kitchen is so nice and big. And I just live a couple blocks away, so it’s easy to get here.

What is your favorite aspect of volunteering?
My favorite aspect is that I just really enjoy cooking for other people. I’m good at it and there’s not much pressure – you know, it’s a relaxed environment. For me, because I’ve cooked so many times, I’ve become familiar with the residents, so it really feels like a community here.

What do you do other than your volunteer gig?
I have a small business making custom handbags and bike bags for women. And I spend a lot of time ice skating. I’ve always been an athlete – I was in dance for many years and I started ice skating in San Francisco. I got a coach when I moved up here.

What is something about you that would surprise others?
Probably that I lived on an organic farm in rural California for 20 years. We had no power or water. My husband’s still there – it’s like modern-day homesteading. We grew walnuts and wine grapes, both of which we sold.

 

 
Jan 12, 2017
Volunteer of the Month - Hon Walker

Dinner Helper
Volunteer since April 2005

What drew you to volunteer at Our House?
A friend of mine was an Our House volunteer and recommended the organization to me during a season when I was searching for spiritually meaningful purpose. She connected me to Kathryn and things clicked immediately. Shortly afterward, I was part of the Tuesday dinner team. That was 12 years ago!

What is your favorite aspect of volunteering?
Being part of the dinner experience with a great team is really special. It’s not just about the preparation of food; when time and space permit, I love being able to join residents and staff at the table, where there usually are laughs and conversation to be had. Sharing a meal is a timeless and meaningful ritual, and getting to know the residents in that context makes my volunteer time particularly rewarding.

What do you do other than your volunteer gig?
Beyond the Our House kitchen, I stay immersed in the world of food. Every year for more than a decade, a Seattle friend and I collaborate to execute an ambitious dinner for a large group. We highlight a different regional cuisine each time. I’m also a photographer, mainly of landscapes, waterfalls, and architecture but also cute cats and tacky signs. For my livelihood, I’m self-employed as a content editor and copywriter. I’ve worked for a number of large organizations as well as some great websites and magazines.

What is something about you that would surprise others?
I am a roller coaster fanatic. I’ve sought out dozens of coasters around the US and in other countries, riding everything from the biggest, sleekest steel monstrosities to the old-school wooden classics. The gold standard is the Cyclone in Brooklyn, New York. It’s a historic landmark listed on the National Register. Ironically, I don’t like heights and actually fear being on a Ferris wheel

 

 
Dec 13, 2016
Volunteer of the Month - Jacob Johnson

Dinner Cook & Helper
Volunteer Since April 2015

What drew you to volunteer at Our House?
So many things drew me to Our House! I came here during a period when I was making a major career change and was trying to find my footing in the world of medicine. Volunteering at Our House was about being in an affirmative, community-based healthcare environment and learning about the work I hope to do one day. It was about the opportunity to form longitudinal relationships with residents, which I think is where real healing happens. And I loved the idea of being in the kitchen, because cooking is such a basic and powerful way of showing that you care and are invested in someone’s well-being. Ultimately, volunteering at Our House has gone above and beyond my career plans and has become one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.

What is your favorite aspect of volunteering?
That’s a hard one. I would have to say my favorite part of volunteering is feeling at home at Our House—in other words, all the tangible and intangible aspects of Our House that make residents, staff, and volunteers feel like valued members of a family. There’s something so satisfying about working together with people who all bring different qualities to their work but fundamentally share the same values when it comes to collaborating and helping others. Also, I realize I kind of said this already, but cooking and serving food to people is a really special job—there is an intimacy involved in that sharing that I think is vitally important for everyone.

What do you do other than your volunteer gig?
Well, I love cooking, especially food with Turkish and Mediterranean flavors. I like foreign languages, literature, movies, and travelling, although I haven’t had the opportunity to do much of the latter these days. But I am hoping to go to Senegal this spring to visit a friend. I grew up going to the Oregon coast a lot, and I still make my way down there pretty often. I love swimming for exercise, and although I swim in a swimming pool these days, I swam a few times in the San Francisco Bay, which was VERY cold. For the last two years, I’ve been taking science classes at PSU in preparation for medical school, I worked for a while in an ER, and I’m just getting involved in a mental health research project that I’m excited about.

What is something about you that would surprise others?
At one point, I was getting a PhD in German literature, have lived off and on in Berlin, and also worked as a German-English translator. And I played the piccolo in middle school band.

 

 
Nov 09, 2016
Volunteer of the Month - Ruth Aquino-Adam

Dinner Cook
Volunteer Since September 2006

What drew you to volunteer at Our House?
I watched the old Our House building get torn down and rebuilt from my vantage point in the neighborhood. I never really knew what happened in that old building. After the new building was completed, it was opened to the public for touring. I was curious so I went for the tour. I was surprised to learn that there was such a great need of volunteers to help Our House operate. I met Innie Marshall, the Kitchen Manager at that time, and liked her immediately. I learned what Our House was about, learned the layout of the kitchen, and signed on for duty right then and there during the tour. I lived in the neighborhood, on the same block for 15 years before I knew what happened in that building on the corner of 28th street. How could that have been possible?

What is your favorite aspect of volunteering?
In general, I like to continually prove to myself that combined efforts from many people can effect great happenings. But specifically here at Our House there are many kind and colorful characters to work with. It is always nice to surround oneself with such people. I haven’t yet decided which I like more: the act of feeding people or the activity of cooking and trying new recipes. At my home I cook for a small family. Sometimes I cook more than they can or want to eat. I don’t like to waste food, so I have to restrain myself. And my efforts are not always appreciated! At Our House it is nice to be able to share something that I enjoy doing and to feel appreciated for it. It makes my evening when the residents thank me for the meal and tell me they enjoyed it. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ go along way—I’m old school like that. And so far I haven’t had a mutiny in the dining room, so I’ll keep cooking until they make me walk the plank!

What do you do other than your volunteer gig?
Usually I teach figure skating at the Lloyd Center ice arena. However, this past year I have been on a mini sabbatical, of sorts. I have been driving up the freeway to Vancouver to teach two mornings during the week. Much to my chagrin, the ice arena at Lloyd Center has been torn out, updated and rebuilt much smaller than before. I teach children and adults for recreation, skills tests, and competitive endeavors. I teach basic and advanced group and private lessons. I have a lot of fun teaching a performing theatre group and co-producing our annual Holiday Show. I am known to be very analytical and enjoy imparting the details of skating technique. The Lloyd arena will be reopening soon and I will be back to a fuller schedule. When I am not in the kitchen at Our House I will be bundled up and blissfully gliding the new ice surface at Lloyd Center. Come and see me there!

What is something about you that would surprise others?
One thing that I really like to do and have done now for many years is to go to the forest and forage for edible mushrooms. My husband and I are now very good at knowing chanterelles, hedgehogs, chicken of the wood, lobster mushrooms, and morels. We specialize in chanterelle mushrooms during the fall season. When the chanterelle season is really abundant we share with friends and dry what we can’t eat fresh. With the dried chanterelles, I create a dried mushroom risotto gift package and we give that as our holiday gift. It is a really fun activity that both my husband and I like to do. We forage together and we both make the gift packs together. In the past few years we have started taking curious friends with us on our foraging outings. Thankfully, on those days nobody comes home with an empty basket. Steve and I have had a few seasons when we came home with empty baskets. That’s not so much fun!

 

 

 
 
 

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