All posts by Sock Robot

Suzanne Washington

Name: Suzanne Washington
Age: 62
Location: Portland, Oregon
Occupation: Nonprofit management for Meals on Wheels People – Portland

 

Suzanne Washington is a CEO with an innovative mind and an enormous heart. This leader of Meals on Wheels People has helped to feed countless senior citizens and to provide services that are food for the soul.

MOWP’s goal is to keep seniors, and other nutritionally at-risk groups, fed with wholesome food and connected with social support. This non-profit was created in 1969 by three women who rose to the challenge of meeting the needs of the elderly in their neighborhood. In February of 1970, they gathered in the basement of the Lincoln Street Methodist Church and served hot lunches to a dozen older people. Once that meal service was complete, they set out to deliver 14 more meals to other hungry senior citizens.

Today this organization makes and delivers 8,000 meals, five days a week, all from Multnomah Village. Volunteers make the proverbial and literal wheels of the group go, and frail and homebound elderly people are provided with much needed nutrition and connection. Anyone over the age of 60 is able to request a meal and donate what they can towards the cost. Weekend and Holiday meals are also provided to those who have no other source of food or assistance.

Growing up in California, Suzanne started out serving food in a different capacity.

“My first job was working for Jolly’s Beef Burgers. They had 25 cent days and people could order all the burgers and fries they wanted for that price. People would order 25 hamburgers. Those days were crazy and fun!” she recalls.

Photography by Portland Oregon Photographer Craig MItchelldyer
www.craigmitchelldyer.com
503.513.0550

Although she’s no longer dishing out burgers, Suzanne is contributing to nourishing a much larger community now, and it was a path that came naturally.

“I was the deputy director at a different organization, and we partnered with Meals on Wheels People for many years. When the former executive director was retiring, a recruiter reached out to me and I jumped at the chance to interview. I got the job and I love it. That was just over six years ago, and it is still a pleasure and an honor to work here,” she says.

“The organization gives me a chance to make a difference for older adults each and every day. It also allows for creativity. We can try new things to enhance services to seniors, and make sure they have what they need to make their own choice about living independently or not,” she adds.

Her ingenuity can be seen on full display in the Diner Vancouver initiative that she spearheaded last year. Instead of simply delivering meals, this enterprise seeks to provide a family-type environment for older people to eat, and to have a variety of choices when it comes to what to eat, when to eat, and who to eat with.

“At the diner seniors get catered to in a warm and welcoming place that is intergenerational in nature, has great food, and is supported by the community. It’s a bit like that old show Cheers. Everyone knows their names,” Suzanne explains.

These strange days, it’s even more important for seniors to feel connected. Many are homebound, and even more isolated than they were prior to the pandemic. MOWP has started virtual book groups, volunteer phone calls to offer a friendly chat, and they have made thousands more wellness check calls. They are doing everything in their power to make sure that their participants are nurtured, nourished, and tended to; their organization’s selflessness knows no bounds.

“We had a volunteer who was over 100 years old delivering to people 20 years younger than she was,” she says. “I find inspiration from the work of our staff and volunteers and the amazing generosity of our donors. Their care and compassion is inspiring.”

The current situation has also forced many people into a place of food insecurity, and the demand for nutritious meals has risen during the pandemic. Roughly 3,000 more meals per week are being delivered to families through MOWP’s Meals 4 Kids program, along with the 10,000 more meals each week that are being delivered to the elderly.

Along with these challenges, Suzanne is striving to come up with ways to broaden the access to technology, so that participants feel less alone.

“I’d also like to start a program to help care for seniors’ pets, expand our earned income opportunities and, hopefully, open a second diner!” she adds.

We at Sock It To Me saw an incredible opportunity to do our part as well. We launched our line of masks in July 2020, and we donate one mask to the Meals On Wheels People volunteers when one mask is purchased in our webstore. We have also donated additional masks to reach 10,000 donated in total in order to help their tireless volunteers navigate Covid restrictions and regulations while meeting the rising enrollments in MOWP’s meals and services.

We are honored to work with Suzanne and MOWP, and we encourage everyone out there to read more about their organization and get involved if you can. May it be to volunteer your time, donate a mask through our webstore, or simply to make a phone call to an older person in your life, your effort is contributing to a greater good.

“Find an older person to visit and share time with,” Suzanne suggests. “You’ll never be disappointed.”

For her work with Meals on Wheels People, we at Sock It To Me want you to know that Suzanne Washington is a very Cool Girl!

Kartier Devaux

Name: Ms. Kartier Jazzelle Devaux
Age: 33
Location: Northeast Portland, Oregon
Occupation: Luck Lion Process Manager

Writer, activist, artist, and Texas native Kartier Devaux has blazed a trail for herself in her new hometown of Portland, Oregon. As a drag performer and an outspoken advocate for issues she holds dear, Kartier has drawn attention, flare, and compassion to everything from the need to tackle systemic racism to self-love. Now working as the process manager for luxury cannabis dispensary Lucky Lion, Kartier is making sure to elevate the spirits and attention of all those she comes in contact with. That’s not to say that it has been easy, as her arrival in Portland coincided with the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Suddenly, I was thirty-three years old, jobless, terrified, and living on the mercy of care packages from my angelic mother and best friends,” she says.

Luckily for Kartier, one of her friends was working for Lucky Lion, and she was able to get a job as a ‘Budtender’ in spite of her lack of cannabis experience at the time. It wasn’t long until Kartier fell in love with the company, and she worked her way up to Process Manager. Her knack for business and her work ethic made this progression unsurprising.

“As a teenager, my first job was selling cell phones in our storefront next to my Dad’s barbershop. Business is in my blood,” she explains.

And working for a company like Lucky Lion allows Kartier to not only be her authentic self, but to provide people with an experience that they may not have expected from a dispensary.

“You can tell simply by walking into any one of our impeccably decorated locations, and reviewing our golden menus, that Lucky Lion is all about providing our guests with a luxury cannabis experience that meets their needs regardless of their budget. I personally love this company, because we are serious about respect for all people and diversity at every level of the cannabis industry.”

When she isn’t helping Lucky Lion operate, Kartier is creating and energizing her community beyond her job, as it’s critical for her to use her life experience to benefit others.

“As a big, tall, Texan, Black Trans Woman, I know exactly what it means to drive to the grocery store on the other side of town because less people gawk at you there than at the one by your home,” she explains. “I have been that homeless Black Queer young adult trapped in a small-minded town with nowhere to turn. I have felt the sting of being denied a job application at a pizza joint after an illustrious career in Finance simply because I showed up in a sensible heel and Black skin. The challenges that I and people like me face completely inform what it is that I would like to do for the rest of my life.”

For Kartier, this would ideally include building a form of cost-free temporary housing outside of the city, where at-risk Queer young people from across the country could live while receiving job training, rehab and therapy. It would offer career placement, housing assistance, and Kartier’s legendary homemade jambalaya.

“In short, I want to be a mother to the motherless,” she says.

Beyond her compassionate mission, Kartier also hopes to resurrect her drag career and host gigs around Portland, “once Miss Corona gets her ugly mug off my stage.” In the meantime, she’s doing some modeling, writing her powerhouse poetry and essays and keeping her Facebook following up to date with social justice issues and commentary on everyday life.

So what advice does this Sativa Diva and macrocosmic mama have for young people growing up today?

“Do the things that scare you, as the character you build from those experiences will be what shapes and defines you. Learn to love yourself so fiercely, in the face of those that hate your very existence, that just your presence at the table frees those around you to do the same. Then, when you reach the point where no one can diminish the light that only you were born to shine, reach back and show someone else the way. THAT is the blueprint of life well lived.”

For her light and veracity, we think Kartier Devaux is one very, very Cool Girl!

Follow along with Kartier at one of the links below!

Instagram:
@marshmelanin

Facebook:
Kartier Devaux

Deb Poppe

Name: Deborah Poppe
Age: 52
Location: Bethpage, NY
Occupation: Teacher

Deb Poppe is a lifelong teacher and hippie who has translated her free spirit into an adaptability that has served her well during these chaotic times. Growing up on Long Island, Deb knew she wanted to be a teacher since she was a small child, even going so far as to work with kids as a babysitter once she was old enough. After 26 years as an elementary school teacher, this mother of four knows how to prepare minds for a future filled with possibilities.

“My first class was filled with the funniest of characters. I still see them in town, but now they are adults, it’s weird,” she smiles. “I taught 3rd grade for fifteen years, 2nd grade for seven years, and I’ve taught 1st grade for four years.”

Working with children this year has been an adaptation to say the least, requiring the possibility of remote learning as well as protecting children from the possibility of illness while also nurturing their minds.

“Keeping my family and my students as healthy as I can with all that’s going on is definitely my biggest challenge,” Deb says.

Deb and her husband adopted their four children, and they all have different schedules. “My husband and I are their Uber. They work, do sports, take art classes, and of course, hang out with their friends. My second full-time job is as a mother,” she jokes.

Her natural knack for comforting and motivating young people was rooted in a deep maternal instinct, but the path to motherhood wasn’t the easiest for her.

“I had five pregnancies that didn’t work,” Deb explains. “I basically picked up the People magazine, which had a piece that featured NJ Heart Adoption that had foster care adoption stories in it. I looked at  my husband and said, “ Why don’t we look into adoption?”’

Now the parent of two teenage girls and two younger boys, it’s possible that the most relaxing part of her day is at school with “six interesting hours with twenty 6 year olds.”

“My day starts with six interesting hours with twenty 6 year olds,” she says.

Deb’s passions beyond her children and students include her pugs, passionate protesting, pottery, and the annual and famous Coney Island Mermaid Parade.

“When the girls were little, we were at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island with the girls and the parade was going on. My heart skipped a beat when I saw it, I’d never seen it before! I’ve gone every year since.”

Not only has Deb attended the parade as a spectator, she has dressed up as Ursula from the Little Mermaid and joined in.

With retirement a few years away, Deb describes herself as a part-time hippie with full-time hippie dreams.

What advice does this bohemian-minded and resilient mama have for young girls growing up in these curious times?

“You are enough all by yourself, you don’t need a significant other to show your worth!”

For her dedication to younger generations and for being a badass mother who always finds a way to adjust to what life throws at her, we think Deborah Poppe is a very Cool Girl!

Tasha Marie Gillum

Name: Tasha Marie Gillum
Age: 39
Location: Lynchburg, Va
Occupation: Bonner Leader Program Coordinator

Tasha Marie Gillum grew up being active and enjoying the terrain of Northern Virginia, but it took trying on – and selling – some different shoes to get her to the career in community enrichment and experiential education that she enjoys today.

After graduating from Sweet Briar College, Tasha had six months before she had to start paying back her student loans.

“I hiked the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia and then returned to my mother’s house and sold shoes at a large outdoor retailer for a few months,” she recalls.

After years of being involved with outdoor education at her alma-mater, and having had life-altering experiences in nature as a result, Tasha knew that selling shoes wasn’t where she wanted to wind up.

“Being stuck indoors all day talking about getting outside was not beneficial to my soul,” she says. “I knew I wanted to run a college outdoor program and provide transformative experiences for other women, just as I had experienced.”

She went to work for outdoor schools in Central Virginia and Colorado before she went for her graduate degree in experiential education. She ran outdoor programs at University of Las Vegas, worked as faculty at the Teton Science Schools in Wyoming, and finally returned to Lynchburg.

“It was almost a decade after I graduated that I returned to give back to the program that meant so much to me as a young woman,” Tasha says.

As a Bonner Leader Coordinator, Tasha works within the University of Lynchburg to recruit, train, supervise and assist Bonner Leaders within the curriculum and the community.

“The Bonner Foundation’s motto is “Access to Education, Opportunity to Serve,”’ Tasha explains. “The Bonner Leader Program at the University of Lynchburg provides an “opportunity to serve” by leveraging work-study funding to enable students to earn money for college through their community work with local non-profits.”

Nearly 65 colleges and universities across the country are a part of the Bonner Program, which serves to provide financial access to college while simultaneously forwarding civic engagement.

Schools with Bonner Leaders are required to have a minimum of 75% of the participating students qualifying for Federal Work Study. These schools have the option to award students with “College Work-Study” or some other private source for the student stipends.

These leaders dedicate their undergraduate careers to making an impact through service, may it be as a part of social justice community projects, local nonprofits, or other affiliated agencies. Over their four years of education, they become engaged in community service that dovetails with their academic and co-curricular learning. They do this throughout the academic and social rigamarole of the college experience, all while helping to meet the needs of the greater Lynchburg community. Their experiences culminate in a capstone project that they create with and for the community partner they have worked with throughout their education. Tasha works with these students helping them along the way as a mentor and supervisor.

“I enjoy watching a student lean into the opportunity to identify who they are, who they want to be, and what impact they want to create with their lives,” she says. “Bonners are enthusiastic about learning and leading meaningful community work, they’re open to having conversations and becoming agents of change.”

In the current COVID world, Tasha is connecting the new class of Bonner Leaders to the Lynchburg community through virtual community engagement experiences while maintaining the requisite social distancing.

“It’s wonky as all get out!” Tasha admits. “Our community vibe is not lost, but we’re finding creative ways to cultivate and sustain it in a different way this semester.”

What message does this mountain biking, trail running, student mentoring leader coordinator have for young women growing up in this disconnected and reconnected world?

Creating practices to listen to ourselves is the best direction we can receive. We are connected and intuitive beings. When you know, love and trust yourself, you’ve got all the answers you need to find direction.”

For her community engagement and connection to the Lynchburg Bonner Leader program, we think Tasha Marie Gillum is a very Cool Girl!

Learn more about the Bonner program at the links below!

Bonner Foundation

University of Lynchburg Bonner Program

Erica Wiley

Name: Erica Wiley
Age: 39
Location: San Jose, CA
Occupation: Prevention Education & Community Engagement Coordinator at YWCA Silicon Valley, Mother, Survivor

Erica Wiley is a survivor who uses her previous hardships to prevent harm to others. This mother and San Jose native works to educate young people about what healthy boundaries in relationships look like. Sometimes it’s as simple as letting them know that what they see in the movies isn’t real life.

“When I was a little girl I dreamt of being a famous dancer. Growing up in the 80’s I watched movies like Dirty Dancing, Grease, and anything with Molly Ringwald,” Erica remembers. “I also dreamt of the day I would be swept off my feet by “prince charming,” I thought at a young age that my end goal was to be married and have children, that by the age of 25 I should be happily married, living out the ‘American Dream.’”

Erica found her desire for a partner was deeply influenced by what she saw on TV. She yearned for a perfect partner while, in reality, like many other young people, she didn’t know what a healthy relationship actually looked like.

In 2017, Erica was 36 and a single mother of two. She had just extracted herself from a 4 year relationship that was plagued by abuse. She was hoping to heal and move on.

“The relationship was toxic from almost the very beginning, but I was so in love with the idea of being in love that I missed the warning signs,” she explains.

After leaving him, she discovered that the most dangerous part of leaving an abusive relationship sometimes occurs after the breakup. Things for Erica suddenly got worse.

“It began with non-stop harassing phone calls, texts, and emails. This went on for months, with no response from me in hopes the harassment would stop.”

But ignoring the onslaught only seemed to further inflame him. After distributing private photos and videos of Erica on social media, local law enforcement got involved. Her ex violated the restraining order within three days and he was arrested. After countless scheduled and rescheduled court appearances, Erica finally was able to get justice. A year and a half after his arrest date, her ex was found guilty.

“I tell my story because it was the most difficult time in my life, having to advocate for myself, feeling like there was a barrier around almost every corner. It’s not easy for a survivor of domestic violence to get the help or support they need. I had to advocate for myself every step of the way, with little to no help from the justice system,” she remembers.

With the support of her friends and family, she was able to get her life back. But she was dogged by the knowledge that there were other survivors out there who didn’t know where to turn. It was then that she began to volunteer at the YWCA Silicon Valley.

“YWCA is a nonprofit organization that supports survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking,” Erica explains. “My first experience with YWCA was volunteering at their 2017 Inspired Luncheon. Listening to the stories of other survivors of gender-based violence was truly inspiring. I registered for YWCA’s 65-hour sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking counselor training in spring 2018.”

From there, Erica’s activism took off. She was introduced to the Education and Outreach Team and began to teach young people about consent, healthy boundaries, body ownership, and how to safely intervene in harmful situations. By 2018 Erica had been hired as a Prevention Specialist in school-based programming for that same YWCA. She now oversees the domestic violence and sexual assault prevention for grades K-12 throughout Santa Clara County.

Today, Erica helps to support and empower survivors of gender-based violence, while also educating young people to stop violence before it starts.

“Though this job can be hard sometimes, if I can help one person not become a victim of gender-based violence, then I feel I’m doing something right,” she says.

And what advice does Erica have to young girls who are struggling to find their place in this world?

“You are important, you are worth it, and you are special. The secret to happiness is self-love, once you truly love yourself the possibilities are endless and happiness will find you.”

For her courage, strength, and compassion in action, we think Erica Wiley is a very Cool Girl!

Check out YWCA of Silicon Valley at https://ywca-sv.org/