Tuesday, December 29, 2009

End of the year

Hello to all and here's hoping everyone had a safe and happy holiday!

Well, to say that this has been an interesting year would be quite an understatement. It has been full of ups and downs, but mostly ups. We started this group in the beginning of February and it has far exceeded our wildest dreams. We were able to, with the help of many, many volunteers, lend a hand to over 100 families and individuals! That's incredible! Absolutely amazing.

We originally started this to help all of the unemployed people in Portland. To get them out of the house, away from the job search and helping those in our communities that need a hand. We envisioned being able to help 5 or 10 people out. We never imagined that we would be able to help so many.

There are a few regrets. One of the biggest regrets I (Seth) have, is not being able to help more people out because of my battle with alcoholism and depression. There have been times throughout the year that I haven't fulfilled my obligations to my neighbors because of my struggles. For that, I deeply apologize. The new year holds much more promise and I feel that my struggles are quickly fading into my past.

On to happier items! We have been able to do some real good. Make some really positive impacts on people's lives. It has been an incredible journey and well worth the effort. We have made so many new friends because of this. We have met so many wonderful and giving people over the last 10 months. Because of all of you, our faith and hope in humanity has grown exponentially! Thank you.

Our goal for the new year is not only to continue helping those that we can, but also to bring neighbors and neighborhoods closer together. We would like to start hosting neighborhood get togethers and block parties. We would like to start tool and food exchange. We want to start a knowledge exchange by having monthly classes with things like gardening, canning, and cooking as the topics. We want to do anything that brings people closer together as friends and neighbors. The more we know each other, the better off we will all be.

So, please, help us reach out to even more people this year. Volunteer in your area. Get out and help a neighbor. Organize a neighborhood potluck (it's actually pretty easy). Make a point to get out into your neighborhood and introduce yourself to some neighbors you don't know.

Let's all pledge to make a difference in at least one other person's life this year.

All the best,
Seth and Michelle

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Decorating for Christmas

Last week, Michelle and Seth went down to the Human Solutions Warming Center to help put up some Christmas decorations. It's been a hard year for a lot of folks out there and we thought that maybe even a few decorations around the center might brighten their day just a little bit.

So, we put out the call to our volunteers for decorations and food for the center and, once again, you came through for us! A big thank you to Laurie, Margena, Trevor, and Carla for their donations. Over the last month, we have been able to bring hundreds of meals to the shelter. Michelle and Seth spent a few hours down at the center putting up a small tree, window clings and hanging lights. It definitely had a more "homey" feel to it after we were done. We only hope that it brings a smile to some of those families down there.

Thanks again to everyone. You are all making our city, and world, a better place to live. And it really makes us proud to call ourselves Oregonians!

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Season of giving?

Last night, Michelle and I dropped off some food at the Human Solutions Warming Center. We called ahead of time and asked what their greatest need was, and they said microwavable food to go. Cup o soups, soup or chili in the little containers that you can just pop in the microwave. The warming centers are turning so many people away through the winter, but especially now, during this cold snap. They can use these little "meals on the go" for people staying at the warming center or for people that they turn away at the door.

This is such a hard time of year for so many people and now more than ever. There are so many new homeless people and families on the street now because of the economy. They aren't addicted to alcohol or drugs. They aren't career criminals. They are average, everyday people that have fallen on hard times. We wanted to post what we did, not as a congratulatory post, but just to show what can be accomplished with so little. We don't have much, but we have more than a lot of people out there.

Do you realize that you can buy a warm meal for someone for just .28 cents? With the change that is under your couch cushion or in your pocket, you could supply someone with a warm meal (sometimes their only meal of the day).

Michelle and I did some calculations, and for the price of one specialty coffee (which Michelle and I buy for ourselves at least once a week), you could buy 14 hot meals for people that are hungry. That hit us pretty hard when we figured the cost.

Or, if you are really felling generous, you could purchase 150 hot meals for people for around $90. 150?!?!?!? That is a lot of people that you can help and it literally might mean the difference between life and death. It's absolutely incredible what we can do when we put our heart into it.

We, as Oregonians, have thousands of of friends, family, neighbors, and strangers that are struggling just to make it though the day. Wondering where their next meal is coming from or where their children are going to sleep tonight. Wondering if they will survive this bitter cold or if they will succumb to the elements. How horrible must that be?

So, if you have the ability to help this winter, please do so. Please give whatever you can. Food, clothes, toys, holiday decorations, money, hope. Store a bag of clothes or food in your car to hand it out when you see someone in need. These are not nameless, faceless people that you see walking down the street with a shopping cart or standing on a street corner asking for help. These are our neighbors. Our friends. Our family.

Please help in any way you can and have a wonderful holiday season.

Special thanks to Our Own Two Hands for donating money to WGTTH (and making this possible) and to Margena King from King's Embroidery for donating bags and bags of sweatshirts, hats and scarves to help those in need!!

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Human Solutions

This is kind of a long post, but please take a few minutes to read through it. It is so very important.

Last night, Michelle and I dropped off bags full of gloves, scarves, and hats at the Human Solutions Warming Center in NE Portland. We have become familiar with warming centers in the area ever since last winter's Arctic blast came through in mid-December.

This year there are more homeless people than ever before, at least in our lifetime. They are scared, cold, hungry, and losing hope quickly. Entire families have been displaced because of job loss, mounting bills, and the economy in general. Just a couple of years ago, these same families had "normal" lives. They had hopes and dreams. They had aspirations and plans for the future. Now, they wonder where their next meal is coming from and where they and their children will sleep tonight. It's a truly awful and desperate situation. But, this is an area that we can make a big difference. Here's a link to the impact that Human Solutions was able to make last year.

As we were dropping the items off at the warming center last night, the coordinator for the center, Blanchette, asked if Michelle and I would like a tour. We said we would and she showed us their facility. The top floor of the center, is wall-to-wall cots. They can legally house 60 people there every night. Once the center is full, they have to turn people away at the door, sometimes giving them jackets or blankets for the cold night ahead. The people there ranged from single men and women to 4 or 5 person families, some with very young children. There is a kitchenette area with a small refrigerator, a few cupboards and a microwave. There really isn't a place (or hardware) for people to prepare meals, so there are a lot of cup-o-soups and nutrition bars.

She then led us downstairs where they have a makeshift storage area. Here is where they keep some extra clothes and food to hand out to those in need. Sometimes, in very harsh weather, they will use the basement as an overflow area. People aren't allowed to sleep downstairs (fire code), but at least they can get out of the elements for a short time.

We then spoke to her at length about what the center needs to be the most effective. Keep in mind that the age ranges from newborn to adult. Here is a list of some of the items we talked with her about:

Clothing- Especially socks and hoodies. Backpacks are another much needed item. Of course, any type of clothing will help someone. They just had a local bakery donate 200 coats of all sizes, so there are doing okay for now on jackets. Other than that, anything will help.

Food- Food that doesn't take much (or any) prep is great for them. They mentioned cup-o-soups, energy bars, fruit, etc. etc. Breakfast items that children can eat on the way to school is another big need for them. Here's a link to a wish list that they have.

Christmas decorations- This might not seem like a "need" but we think it might be more needed than a lot of things. They have no holiday decorations at all. They would like to be able to put up lights and other decorations, if for no other reason, to lift every one's spirits for a day or two.

We also spoke about how volunteers can help. Here are just a few of the ways Blanchette mentioned:

1) Someone with the time and supplies to come down to the warming center and help make some old-school Christmas decorations. Paper chains and snow flakes that the children can make and hang around the warming center.

2) Anyone willing to transport people to another shelter. When they have to turn someone away or when a family is moving to another, more long term, shelter, they would love for someone to be able to take them, instead of just giving them the address and making them find their own way there.

3) Perhaps someone could come into the center and read stories to everyone, especially the children. Or maybe just bring some general crafts for everyone to enjoy. Anything to let these people know that they have not been forgotten by society.

4) Any person, or group, willing to bring hot or prepared meals for everyone would be more appreciated than you know. They had a group from a local business office bring in an entire Thanksgiving meal for people staying at the shelter. Soups, stews, chilis or even sandwiches would be a welcomed sight at the center.

5) Something else Blanchette mentioned was perhaps getting stockings for everyone for Christmas and filling them with fruit, candy, gift cards. The families staying at the center don't have any type of storage area, so they have to take everything with them when the leave the shelter every day.

6) Just general, everyday volunteering. Their dream is for someone to show up and say "put me where you need me". Anyone with a little time is more than welcome to stop by the center to lend a hand.

These are just a few of the ways we can help out. If you are at all interested in volunteering at, or donating to the center, please call Blanchette at 503-810-1352. The hours for dropping off donated items is 7pm-10pm ever day, but I'm sure they would accommodate for your schedule.

Again, we think this is a wonderful organization and they are truly making a real impact in our community. Please try to lend a hand to them this year.

Thank you to everyone and we hope to see you all soon!

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Some little things you can try...

Hey all! We hope and wish that everyone is having a good start to the Christmas season.

I don't think that we need to remind anyone that this has been a really rough year for a lot of people. The worst year in a lot of people's lives. Many people out there don't even have the basics. Even though I have been unemployed for a year now, we are still very blessed. We have each other, our home, our animals, food, clothes, heat. We have everything we need and more.

Other's are not so fortunate. 1000's of people, in Oregon alone, have lost their jobs and homes. Many feel alone and without hope. All they want for Christmas is to feel safe and warm. To feel that there are people out there who care about them and their families. To feel a little hope. As friends, neighbors, and strangers we can, in this season of giving, tell them in no uncertain terms that YES, we do care. To remind them that we are here for them, as we hope they would be for us. Those of us with an abundance can share with those who are going without. We can remake this world as it should be.

Here are just a few things that Michelle and I are doing to try and help those in need. These suggestions go for anyone that you know or see that needs help. Perhaps a neighbor who lost their job and is struggling, or a family member who needs a little help. That homeless person that you drive by everyday on your way to work. A co-worker that you know has fallen on rough times. They all are deserving and they all could use some compassion. And, if you think that the donation might be embarrassing for the person (especially a neighbor or co-worker), leave a bag of clothes or food on their doorstep or on their desk when they are away. It's so very hard to ask for help, but it is so very appreciated when it comes. Here are a few ideas:

Cleaning out the closets. Grab any socks, hats, gloves, jackets, pants, shirts, etc. that you don't use anymore. Put them in bags in the back of your car. Anytime you see someone on the street that looks cold or wet or under dressed, pull over and offer them some clothes. We promise they will be more thankful than you can imagine.

Clean out your pantry. You know those boxes and cans of food that sit in your cupboard month after month? Pull them out and offer them to someone who needs some food. Again, this could be a friend, relative, neighbor or even a stranger. If you don't know anyone that could use the food or if you are uncomfortable handing it out, please donate your extra food to a food bank. There are tons of them in the area. Here's a link to a list of food donation places in the Portland area.

If you know of someone that is having a really rough year or someone who might spend the holiday alone, invite them to your home for Christmas. Nothing could be more about the spirit of the holidays than sharing your home with someone who doesn't have a place to go. It's a pretty cool feeling!

Maybe you just cleaned out your closets and you don't really have any "extra" food in the pantry. You can always take a few extra dollars (if you have them) and go shopping for food, clothes or toys to donate. To make your dollar really stretch, try shopping at places like the Grocery Outlet or another bargain store. Or maybe stop by a second hand store and pick up some clothes or toys to give away. For people that have nothing, even second hand is a tremendous gift.

Donate new or used dog/cat food and toys to a local pet shelter (or again, to someone you know that might be struggling). We donate a lot of doggy items and food to F.I.D.O (Friends Involved in Dog Outreach). Here's a link to their wish list this year (Click here). Or, another great program to donate to is the Feral Cat Coalition. Of course there are many other great animal shelters that could use some help.

Another great way to help people is, obviously, to volunteer your time. This time of year is a great chance for families to volunteer together. A local food bank or soup kitchen is a great reminder for people (especially children) to truly appreciate everything that they have in their lives. It really makes an impression on you when you see another human being that has absolutely nothing. And of course this year, there are more people than ever in the food bank and soup kitchen lines.

And the last suggestion is just a little one. It's something that we have done over the past few years, and it's effects are quite remarkable. Next time you are at the grocery store, pick up a box or bag of small candy canes (or full size candy canes, if you prefer). Keep them on you at all time throughout the month. Every time you are out and about (i.e. grocery or gift shopping) take a look around you and see who looks like they could use a smile. Walk over to that person, hand them a candy cane and tell them "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" or whatever you wish to say. It really is amazing how many people stop and smile. Okay, at first, they might look at you like you're a little bonkers but then they take the candy cane, smile and walk away a little happier than they were before you walked over to them. It's a blast.

There are so many ways to spread hope. Gifts and toys are wonderful, but if you can actually give someone a little hope, it's worth all the toys in Santa's sleigh.

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