Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A walk through JOIN at the Holidays

JOIN is nothing if not bustling at this time of year. Walk in the door and you'll find a crowd of folks--old friends and new--checking their mail, getting a pair of socks, waiting for a shower, browsing job openings on the computer, or just enjoying a cup of coffee and a conversation while their canine companion sleeps under a table.

Round the corner and you'll see that one of JOIN's partner offices has been appropriated for donations--piles 6 feet high of blankets and sleeping bags in all shapes and sizes for the outreach team to take to folks outside. Just as one pile starts to dwindle, another generous community member walks through the door with a few bags she has collected from her neighbors. And the piles are high again.

Continue down the stairs and you'll find yourself in a forest of artificial Christmas trees, donated by Target to bring a little holiday cheer to JOIN households. In every nook and cranny of our offices you'll find piles of donated sweaters and socks, presents wrapped and ready to be delivered to newly housed families, and Christmas music coming from a Pandora station in what we lovingly refer to as "the admin core."

JOIN staff members' job descriptions are flexible and ever-changing at this time of year. Everyone pitches in and works longer hours to pick up donations, deliver food boxes, provide blankets at night when the temperatures drop--all while continuing to do the real work of JOIN: getting people into permanent, stable housing and helping them stay there.

For those of us in the fundraising office, this time of year helps us feel more connected to our donors and our volunteers--they rally to organize item drives, put together move-in boxes, host house parties, and make generous financial contributions to help us continue to do our work. The generosity is overwhelming and impressive, and we can't say thank you enough.

None of us on the staff make it through the month of December without feeling a little more exhausted, and a little more rejuvenated, than we did before. Thank you for sharing this crazy, chaotic, and beautiful time of year with us!

-the JOIN Development Office

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holiday Stories

By Colleen Sinsky

Over the past few weeks I’ve been amazed by the generosity of the Portland community towards helping JOIN’s folks.
On Friday, Annie marshaled most of the JOIN staff to pick up and deliver 60 holiday food boxes generously donated by Tazo tea.
Staff’s cars and the JOIN fleet were filled with the big boxes and we all split off for
different parts of Multnomah county to deliver all the ingredients for a holiday meal and visit people we’ve housed. I took my roommate Jillian, another Jesuit Volunteer, to help and we headed downtown. It’s easy for me to forget how much a friendly visit can mean to someone who, after having experienced the isolation of homelessness for years, is spending the holiday season mostly alone. We stayed to chat for a while with each of the folks we visited, and they each proudly showed us how they’d decorated their apartments. I was touched by how evident each person’s connection with Annie, our downtown retention worker is.
Everyone had such great things to say about their friend Annie and was excited for the future community events that she and the rest of our retention team organizes monthly. We are so lucky to have community partners like Tazo that help us help our folks on their way to self sufficiency.

Also on Friday I had the job (“job”? can this really be called work?) of taking a formerly homeless sex worker shopping for professional clothes for her first job! Through a community partnership we were able to get this woman not only her own apartment, pet cat, and soon Christmas tree, but also a full-time job that she is so excited to start. Getting to be able to play a small role in JOIN’s success stories has been the highlight of my volunteering year.