Our House News

Dec 29, 2017
Volunteer of the Month - Suzanne and Anna

Dinner Cooks
Volunteers since 2013

What drew you to volunteer at Our House?
Anna and I knew of Our House and its mission for several years and looked forward to volunteering as we drew closer to retirement. When the opportunity was presented for us to cook, we jumped on board with excitement!

What is your favorite aspect of volunteering?
We love to prepare meals for and spend time with the residents, staff, and volunteers at Our House. We also enjoy helping with special events, such as the gala and other fundraising dinners and parties. We cherish friendships that have developed as an added benefit.

What do you do other than your volunteer gig?
Due to Suzanne’s wanderlust, we enjoy traveling, especially when we are able to exchange homes with others, both international and domestic. Anna enjoys exploring new recipes and adding new culinary skills to her repertoire. Suzanne enjoys reading, music and visual arts, and spending time in nature. They have a dog named Sophie who stole their hearts 7 years ago when they rescued her.

What is something about you that would surprise others?
Anna, who is terribly afraid of heights loves hot-air ballooning. Go figure! As a child, Suzanne wanted a dollhouse. Finally, over 50 years later, she has acquired a well-loved one from a family who was ready to pass it on. They look forward to refurnishing it as a shared retirement hobby.


Nov 03, 2017
Volunteer of the Month - Alan Koch

Therapy Dog Team
Volunteer since 1994

What drew you to Our House?
Like many people, I was drawn years ago to the work of AIDS organizations as more and more friends and acquaintances died in the rush of the epidemic in the 80’s and 90’s. Our House was an early leader in working with acute-care HIV patients and I was impressed with what I heard about the compassion and dignity they were offering along with medical care. So in 1994 I started volunteering as a cook with helpers from First Congregational Church.  We quickly grew to appreciate that each time we took a seat with the residents for dinner, we sat down with some pretty brave and inspiring people. And I wondered as I left Our House each time, “Who was serving whom”?

What’s your favorite aspect of volunteering?
After cooking for about 11 years, I took some time off before returning in a new volunteer role. During those years, my dog Maggie and I trained as a Pet Partners therapy team, so I could do a different kind of one-on-one work with residents.  Each Monday, when we visit residents, Maggie can count on getting her chest scratched and I can count on the morning’s conversation unfolding in almost any direction.  We also encourage residents to take walks in the community, and most recently started a meditation group.  Many times, through the year, Maggie and I sat with residents at the end of life. We did nothing extraordinary. Maggie curled up on the bed. I may have held a hand. Sometimes there was conversation, but often just silence. They were not easy spaces, but where we wanted to be to honor some courageous people we had known all too briefly. There is nothing we do that we do alone.  We are surrounded by staff who are consistently compassionate, joyful and smart.  We simply follow their cues and their lead. We get insights, we get direction, we get encouragement and we get thanked. Maggie and I keep coming back. It’s not for the “thank you,” but for the remarkable community Our House has created and the tiny place we have found in it.

What do you like to do besides volunteering?
I enjoy personal writing and spending time in nature, especially the Northwest and the deserts of the Southwest. Both connect with something deeper inside me.

What is something about you that would surprise others?
I grew up in a tiny farming community in Iowa, with a giant claim to being the “popcorn Capital of the World.’ So I love popcorn.


Oct 10, 2017
Dress for Success Empowerment Breakfast

Our good friends at Wells Fargo kindly hosted Our House at the Dress for Success Empowerment Breakfast earlier this month. This event draws together business, civic and social leaders to focus on the struggles women in our community face when they are unemployed, underemployed or struggling to regain employment. We truly appreciate all the incredible support Wells Fargo provides for Our House and the greater community!


Sep 27, 2017
Coalition of Oregon HIV Community Organizations

As you know, there has been a lot of uncertainty in recent months about funding for health care, particularly at the national level. Threats of budget cuts for health care and prevention programs, attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and other actions are causing worry among people living with HIV/AIDS who access these federally funded programs and services so they can stay healthy and vibrant.

We want to assure you that efforts are under way to protect existing programs and funding, and minimize the effects of these threats to health care services that protect the lives and well-being of Oregonians. To that end, we the undersigned organizations, which have a long history of collaboration, have formed the Coalition of Oregon HIV Community Organizations. The coalition meets regularly to monitor policy changes and collaborate on ways to preserve and protect access to health care and services for people in Oregon living with HIV/AIDS. We encourage you to contact any of the coalition member organizations if you have any questions.

Read more…


Sep 13, 2017
Volunteer of the Month - Robby Bricker’Voyles

Esther’s Pantry Companion
Volunteer since December 2009

What drew you to volunteer at Our House?
I was born in 1978, so AIDS has always been a part of my life. Growing up in the shadow of AIDS, it just seemed natural to me that I should help. I’ve lost an uncle, I’ve lost boyfriends, I’ve lost friends to AIDS. When I applied to volunteer at Our House, I don’t think I even knew Esther’s Pantry existed, but they asked whether I wanted to help out, and I was just blown away. I didn’t know what the clients and the volunteers would think, I didn’t know if they’d like me or if I’d fit in, but I found that I just fit in like a duck to water. What a great thing that I get to do to love on people and give food and clothing away and give them unconditional love and support! I don’t take anything from it, I just give and give and give. I get more than I give, though – I get friendships, hugs, and love, so I get way more than I give.

What is your favorite aspect of volunteering?
The clients themselves – this diverse, beautiful, complex, amazing group of individuals who I get to come in contact with on a monthly basis over the course of four Tuesdays a month. I get to see about a quarter of the people we serve. It’s them. It’s the clients themselves who are the heart and soul of the reason why I keep coming back.

What do you do other than your volunteer gig?
I have a wonderful job at the Oregon Zoo; I am a husband, a father, a stepfather, and a grandfather. Don and I have been married six years now. I’m also a proud rescue dog father – I wear many other hats than Esther’s. But Esther’s is really the cornerstone of the week for me because for a few hours, I can step out of those other roles and just focus on the clients.

What is something about you that would surprise others?
I am actually somewhat shy until you get to know me. I really actually am. But once you get to know me, you can’t shut me up!


Aug 08, 2017
Volunteer of the Month - John Lusk

Dinner Helper & Receptionist
Volunteer Since August 2002

What drew you to volunteer at Our House?
I moved to Portland in 1999 from Houston, Texas. I come from a family where we were encouraged to give back to the world – that’s part of the reason why I believe we’re alive. So in 2001, when a family member became involved at Our House, I tagged along to help out on some events and got involved that way. I started out helping with dinner in the kitchen and still help out on Thursday nights while also volunteering as a receptionist.

What is your favorite aspect of volunteering?
I’ve always felt that when you volunteer, you end up benefitting more than the time you give. There have been many times that I’ve had a bad day and by the end of a shift, all that frustration has melted away and has turned the day into a good one. It has been great getting to know the personalities of the residents more in recent years. One of the residents has taught me a great deal about dominoes and I feel confident now that I can beat most anyone in a game except, of course, him!

What is something about you that would surprise others?
I’m an amateur genealogist and have found many surprises about my family over the years. I also like to travel and I visit Texas a lot to see family. I love getting some really good barbeque and Tex-Mex while I’m there.


Jul 27, 2017
Our House to Receive GROW Grant

Thanks to thousands of online votes, Our House will be the recipient of a GROW Grant from Advantis Credit Union. This award will be used to upgrade equipment at Esther’s Pantry and enable us to make more food available to our clients. Upgrades will include new shelving, refrigerators, freezers, and more. Thank you to everyone who voted and a big thanks to Advantis! Esther’s Pantry provides supplemental food to more than 600 clients throughout the year in a stigma-free environment.


Jul 10, 2017
Volunteer of the Month - Shirley Johnson

Volunteer Since September 1996

What drew you to volunteer at Our House?
Years ago, we used to meet two gentlemen at a small restaurant on Hawthorne on Saturday mornings. One of the men had helped get Our House ready to open and had told me I should volunteer at Our House when I retired. We met a waiter there who had a partner who was HIV positive and we visited him once a week until he died. These two things made me want to volunteer at Our House where I have stayed for 21 years.

What is your favorite aspect of volunteering?
Volunteering at Our House is a huge part of my life. I’m happy to be volunteering at a place where residents are treated with dignity and respect. I enjoy visiting with residents and their families and friends. I have met many wonderful volunteers and the staff is terrific. I feel the kindness and warmth when I walk in the door.

What do you do other than your volunteer gig?
I love to read and have been in the same book group since 1999. I make cards, knit, volunteer to work on justice issues, and especially love spending time with my friends and family. I didn’t get to be a grandma until I was 69 and have fun playing with cars with my grandson!

What is something about you that would surprise others?
I grew up on a turkey ranch and was driving farm equipment when I was 12. We helped before and after school. I knew I wanted to go to college to be a teacher because I didn’t want to live on a farm! A big plus of going to college was meeting my husband Don who has put up with me for 50 years.



Wells Fargo - Circle of Life, Sustaining Sponsor Circle of Life
Sustaining Partner

The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation Quality of Life
Sustaining Partner