A Journey Home

Paul’s journey is not unique among our members – isolated from friends and family, he struggled to care for himself and didn't believe he fit in anywhere. After connecting with our volunteers and our support services staff, he now has a new home at our Macdonald Residence.

Born in Haleyville, Alabama, Paul was raised by his uncle and half-brother in the Bay Area and Southern California. He completed 11th grade but didn't go any further, deciding to try different jobs, finally settling on commercial truck driving.

For 15 years, Paul was a commercial truck driver, driving around the country with a traveling carnival. At the end of one carnival season, Paul ended up in Portland during the winter, and moved into a place in Clackamas County with his then-girlfriend and her daughter. Due to his past criminal history, he was not allowed to stay long at his new home, and was forced back onto the road.

With only a car to his name, Paul drove into Old Town, and took residence at a local shelter for men. He said that during this time, he would sleep in the shelter and then drive around all day until he had to go back to the shelter to sleep. When Paul learned that he would get the opportunity to live in an SRO (Single Room Occupancy), he thought he would finally have a place to call home.

Paul's Re-do Photo.jpg

Unfortunately, it turned out that the SRO was not the paradise he thought it would be. Paul was confronted with a small room and had little to no interaction with the outside world. Isolated from friends and family, he lost his sobriety after many years of staying clean.

It was during this dark time that Paul decided to attend a birthday party hosted by the Macdonald Center in the lobby of his SRO. He didn't stay long at the party, but he got a comforting feeling from talking with the volunteers from our Center. They encouraged Paul to sign-up for our visitation program, which he did, and he began to see volunteers regularly.

From the weekly visits with Paul, our staff learned that he was in need of additional help as his health was deteriorating and soon would require around-the-clock care. Paul came to visit our Support Services Navigator, Maegann Simpson, and they began to investigate some options.

Luckily, an opening in our assisted living building, Macdonald Residence, was available. When Maegann asked if he wanted to live at the Residence, Paul thought, “You've gotta be kidding me,” thinking he didn't belong there or wouldn't fit in. When he toured the Residence he was impressed that it was practically brand new. After applying and being accepted, Maegann gave Paul the great news that he could move and he was in shock! It took Paul a couple days for the news to sink in and for him to realize that he was going to move out of the SRO.

Now, Paul smiles as he sits in the sunshine. He feels like things are finally starting to get better and that he is starting to fit in. When asked if he would still visit our Community Room, his response was “Of course, but I don’t want to wear out my welcome.” When we explained that he could never wear out his welcome and that he would always be welcomed in the Community Room, he began to tear up.  “Feeling welcome is a new experience for me.”

 It is the flexibility and commitment of our staff that has led to Paul finding a place that he can call home. As our members are faced with a variety of challenges, from self-care to housing needs, our staff is able to meet them where they are, and help them achieve attainable and tangible goals for themselves. Our model is based on the relationship we build with each member, not certain expectations, allowing us the flexibility to address a wide variety of concerns for each person we work with. For some, it is as simple as wanting a weekly visitor, for Paul it was a new home. So, on behalf of our staff and wonderful volunteers, welcome home, Paul!

Allan, We’re Proud of You!

Macdonald Center isn't one big story.  We’re made up of hundreds of smaller stories, many of them like this wonderful encounter from yesterday.

I was on my way to a meeting and stopped in the community room to visit with some of our members.  Allan, who is a relatively new member, looked up from his cup of coffee and said to me, “Hey Jon, guess what?  I graduated today.”  I asked him from what.  And he proudly said “I finished my GED—it took me three months but I did it—cap and gown, the whole nine yards!”  I congratulated him and commented that he must be proud of himself.  “It feels great,” he said “I do feel really proud of myself.”

Allan’s story is like so many of our other members.  A tough life punctuated by bad decisions, bad breaks and hard times. 

But today at 52, almost 35 years after he would have graduated, Allan has a GED and plans for the future.  His goals are to get a job and an apartment.  In the long term, he’d like to go to college to become a Certified Nursing Assistant.

And Allan’s advice to others? “Just go for it, it’s never too late to better yourself.  And hopefully it’s on to bigger and better things now!”

Congratulations Allan, we agree!

Pat Janik to Retire, Board Names Jon Ulsh as New Executive Director of Macdonald Center!

Pat Janik, Macdonald Center’s Executive Director, has announced her plans to retire at the end of 2014.  Pat, Macdonald Center’s second Executive Director, has served since 2007.  “The board is deeply grateful to Pat for her extraordinary leadership of Macdonald Center over the past seven years.  It would be difficult to overstate the many contributions she has made to the Center during her tenure as Executive Director,” expressed Susan Moscato, Board President.

Among her many accomplishments was the successful $12.5 million campaign to build our affordable housing apartment building.  Pat also developed strong partnerships with other community partners serving the poor, developed our professional staff and management team, stabilized the Center finances, and helped to build a robust, engaged Board of Directors.

The board of directors is pleased to announce that it has selected Jon Ulsh, the Center’s Director of Development and Marketing as Pat’s successor beginning in January 2015.

An experienced and respected nonprofit leader, Jon has quickly become established as a member of the Macdonald Center community where he has already demonstrated his commitment to the people we serve and the work we do.

“We’re pleased to welcome Jon as our next Executive Director.  His professional experience, passion for the work, along with the full support of the board and staff, make him the ideal person to become the Center’s next leader,” added Moscato.

The Power of a Voice

For many people, their voice is how they express themselves to the world.  

It's a way to say, I exist and I am worthy!  

But what happens when people loose their voice?  When their circumstances are so burdensome and their daily lives are so difficult, that their voice is lost.  How can they find their voice again?

That's where Write Around Portland comes into play.  By working with low-income and under-served populations, Write Around Portland offers 8-10 free writing workshops to people all around Portland, to help them find their voice again. 

Check out this video to see the story of Susan, a member of Macdonald Center who worked with Write Around Portland.  


Be an Elf for our 2014 Giving Tree!

Want to bring some cheer to our members? 

Each year, Macdonald Center provides a gift to each of our members and we need your help!  Be a solo elf, or gather a group of friends, coworkers or family members! 

You can help by purchasing individual gifts, valued at $25 or less.  Past Presents have included: twin sheets sets, cooking supplies, funny movies, warm socks and hats.

 If you are interested, contact our Outreach Coordinator, Sarah at sk@macdcenter.org

Sarah will send you the gift requests for each member (which has the size request too!)

Return the purchased gifts, wrapped, to Macdonald Center by Friday December 12th. 

Happy Holidays!!

"For it is in giving, that we receive"   St. Francis of Assisi