Thanks for stepping up
This past week, Oregon Walks hosted our first-annual volunteer appreciation party to celebrate the hundreds of hours logged by community members in 2016 who want to help protect our collective “Right to Roam.” Thanks to our dedicated staff, our gracious donors, and thoroughly committed Board Members, Oregon Walks is flourishing, and the size of the community who give their time to volunteer for our cause reflects our ongoing growth.
During the party, Inna Levin, Oregon Walks’ volunteer coordinator, shared photos of the numerous events, committees, and projects that wouldn't have been possible without the work of our dedicated volunteers. As Board President of Oregon Walks for the past three and half years, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to reflect on the wonderful energy of altruism, civic optimism and community engagement that serves as a common thread through the various strains of volunteerism that keeps our organization afloat. Few nonprofits can count on such an illustrious base of goodwilled energy from everyday folks who are eager to plug in-to a mission and make their community a better place to walk and roam.
Simply put, but pun intended, when Oregon Walks needs help, y’all step up.
- When Oregon Walks needs someone to deliver temporary bicycle parking outside of an event (a uniquely Portland problem if I’ve ever heard one), an Oregon Walks’ volunteer steps up.
- When Oregon Walks needs someone to write a letter to the state to advocate for more crosswalks, to ask the region for more safe routes to school, to ask the city for a reform automobile parking spots to support affordable housing, or to review sidewalk tree code, Oregon Walks’ volunteers step up.
- When we need a set of eyes to review our financials or tax statements, offer guidance on our communications strategy, staff a booth at Sunday Parkways, stuff envelops, launch a website to crowdsource photographs of blocked sidewalks, or simply help the me make a fool of myself by singing Walk-a-roke at an event; someone from Oregon Walks’ immense and talented volunteer pool always ends up stepping up.
A significant amount of credit for this must be given to Inna, who possesses a caliber of kindness and exuberance matched only by her exemplary organization skills. Her tenure at the organization has led to the robust growth of our volunteer engagement program, and it’s so wonderful to stop in the office and see a hub of energy of volunteers preparing for an upcoming event, assisting with data entry, or writing Valentine’s Day cards to our favorite pedestrians. The genuine compassion that Inna, Noel, and our extended Board of Directors demonstrate with their enthusiasm for our mission and generosity with their time and resources and relationships is palpable and infectious.
The depth of the Oregon Walks volunteer bench speaks to something bigger than a desire to nerd out about our alphabet soup of acronyms in the planning world or get some geeks together to gossip about sidewalk curb cuts. There’s an undeniable recognition that in 2017, we all need to be finding different ways to step up to protect the vulnerable in our community, to help steer our local government and our community towards more equitable, sustainable, prosperous, fair, and just outcomes. The right to walk in one’s own community is such an astonishingly basic human right that it is staggering we have to even fight for it. And yet! As our organization has grown, our understanding of the barriers that prevent Oregonians from walking continues to grow; our tactics subtly shift to reflect ongoing needs, and the growth of our organization reflects the expansion of tactics in our arsenal of programming, advocacy and policy initiatives that we’re using to build walkable communities for everyone.
We’re united in the fundamental belief that a city that protects, nurtures, and celebrates all pedestrians is a city that protects, nurtures and celebrates all people. And who else are cities for, but for people?
So to all of you who have chosen to step up with Oregon Walks in the past few years? From the bottom of my heart; thanks. And to all of you who have followed us from afar, *liked* a few of our tweets, or have otherwise followed us from the shadows and sidelines? We’re always looking for more folks to step up and walk with us.
- In the next three months, thanks to an exciting partnership with Metro and Portland Public Schools, Oregon Walks is conducting community walks at Title-1 schools across the district, with the intent of helping kids and families identify the literal and metaphorical hurdles that prevent families from confidently allowing their students to walk to school.
- This summer, we're thrilled to be hosting our second Oregon Walkways event in Lents, in partnership with Green Lents and the Lents Neighborhood Association. We've started drawing up the route, reaching out to vendors, thinking up fun activities to showcase the diverse community and identifying spots to activate the neighborhood.
So, come plan with us! Fill out our volunteer app here, and Inna will get back to you with details about our next meeting.
- There are so many other ways to get involved, from connecting with Portlanders by tabling at community events like Sunday Parkways, to being at the forefront of planning decisions as a member of our Plans and Projects committee, and beyond.
Come volunteer with us! Fill out our volunteer app here, and Inna will get back to you with more info asap.
I’m looking forward to a robust year ahead with all of our volunteers, old and new. Here’s to taking a walk together in 2017, or at least having a chance to sing “I Would Walk 500 Miles” with you in the months ahead.
Oregon Walks Board President