Friday, June 27, 2008

Retention Event!!

At one point at a retention team meeting, we decided it would be a super great idea to try to organize a fishing trip as a retention activity- we all work with folks who love to fish but have no equipment, or any way to get to a lake or river.
After some negotiating with Lio and Quinn (two of our outreach workers and our resident fishermen), we scheduled the date. We had about 16 people who wanted to come, and I was super excited about it.
The morning of the trip, Quinn and I took one of our trusty vans to go pick up some folks who were unable to meet us at JOIN. We had planned to pick up 4 people, but as sometimes happens with events we plan, especially in the morning, three of them cancelled in the moments before we were to pick them up. Fortunately we were able to pick up another friend who had not made it to the bus in time to meet us at JOIN, so Quinn and I and our two friends headed back to JOIN to meet Lio and the rest.
Back at JOIN a few more people who had planned to meet us did not show up, so we invited a few folks who were at JOIN at the time, and headed west to Henry Hagg Lake with two vans and seven friends. We stopped at Fred Meyer on the way to pick up day fishing licenses and some food for a barbeque, as well as some last minute bait and other fishing supplies.
It was SUCH a beautiful day! In the seventies, sunny with no clouds in the sky, the perfect day to spend at the lake- we even had a few sunburns! Retention events are so much fun because so many of the folks we work with do not have the resources to enjoy our beautiful Pacific Northwest, and it's so amazing to get to take people out to enjoy nature- most of the folks who came with us hadn't been fishing in 20 years or longer!
Everyone seemed to have a really great time- it was so fun to see folks who had been friends on the street but hadn't seen one another in quite some time reconnect, to see friends who didn't know one another laughing, joking, and helping one another out- I am consistently awed by the sense of community we are able to create and maintain with our friends. We had a great barbeque, but the animal kingdom was not on our side- some birds opened and ate almost all our chips, and with nine poles in the water, we only caught three fish! The first one caught was the only one big enough to keep, and after Lio cleaned it we threw it straight on the grill- my friend L who caught it had a huge grin on his face as he took it around to everyone to share a taste- I didn't have any, but I hear it was delicious! Once everyone had a taste, the birds finished the fish off as well- I don't think there's any danger of the birds at Hagg Lake starving to death.
So after some fun in the sun, we packed up the vans and headed back to Portland. Lio, three friend and I were in our large, blue, 15-passenger van. Lio had a friend he was moving into an apartment in Cornelius, and we had taken some of his belongings with us, so we could drop them off at his place while we were out in that direction. After some trouble finding his place, we parked the van in the driveway, turned it off, and unloaded all his belongings. We all piled back in the van to leave, and much to our surprise, the van wouldn't start. Lio had just spent time fixing some electrical problems on this particular van last week, so we were fairly disappointed that we were unable to get it started. Immediately the three friends we had with us jumped out and huddled into a panel of expertise under the hood, trying different tricks and shouting instructions to Lio behind the wheel. We called Quinn, who by now was back in the city with the other vanload of friends, who agreed to drop our friends off at the MAX station and come back to Cornelius to get us. Finally one of our friends got a neighbor to give us a jump start, and we were on our way, calling Quinn to tell him nevermind.
Apparently that call was preemptive. We made it to just before the Zoo exit on Eastbound 26, when Lio slowed down for the rush hour traffic and the van died. In the middle lane of the highway. While moving. During rush hour. Thankfully we were on a bit of a downhill slope, and Lio was able to maneuver the van over into the right lane and coast down to the Zoo exit, where we parked in some gravel on the side of the exit just in front of the No Parking Zone (though I suspect that we weren't meant to park there either!) As Lio coasted up the exit ramp, I called Quinn back to tell him that we needed him afterall, and not a moment too soon- he was in the act of handing the van keys off to another co-worker when he answered the phone! Quinn came to get us, we loaded everything and everyone into the working van, and headed back to JOIN.
Despite our fishing and vehicular challenges, everyone had a great time. Lio and Quinn were able to get the van back to JOIN that evening, where it is currently parked awaiting either rescue or towing to an unknown future. We hope to be able to do another fishing trip with folks who were unable to make it to this one, though I'm fairly sure the blue van is not invited.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

June 9, 2008 Outreach by Jarvis Allen

I had this absurd plan that I would move in ten people (three households) yesterday. The first move, for a family of five living in outer southeast, went smoothly enough. I picked up furniture from our darling friends at the Community Warehouse and had it all unloaded at their new apartment by noon. I drove from there to move #2, for a family of four also in outer southeast. They piled into their van and followed behind me as I drove in the rusty trusty JOIN van. And here my grand plan for three moves unraveled, as their van broke down on the freeway. They were able to repair it quickly, and we continued on to the warehouse, but the breakdown was just enough to derail move #3. We loaded their furniture, amidst much good natured bickering, and drove back to their apartment. By the time we got everything unloaded and set in their apartment, it was 5:30, the warehouse was closed, I rescheduled my last move, and my day was done.

Or so I thought. I went home, ate dinner, and tried to relax, but I couldn't stop thinking about my friend Mr. S. I have been working with Mr. S for a year, and after a rocky start we have established an excellent rapport and fine working relationship. He is living in an SRO downtown, but has a section 8 voucher and has found a wonderful apartment in a very respectable building. It is a great opportunity, but there is some snafu in his application that is delaying his move, causing him quite a bit of anxiety. Anyhow, I couldn't stop thinking about him, so at 9 pm I went to his apartment to talk over the situation.

After an hour or so with Mr. S I went home, reflecting on the events of the day and my strange job. There is so much work to do, stopping work often seems arbitrary. We are never done. Even successes, like helping folks move indoors, are easily forgotten in the constant rush of new and ongoing work.