We are fortunate to have extremely generous donors and volunteers who give their time, energy, support and resources to Catholic Charities. As part of our donor and volunteer appreciation campaign, we are recognizing individuals and organizations who share God’s love and spread Christ’s light by partnering with Catholic Charities. Because of our donors and volunteers, we are able to bring vital, lifesaving services to our neighbors in greatest need. Here’s Sharon Johnson’s story:
Sharon says both she and her husband, Howard, have always had a “service gene.” Helping others is important to them and is in their backgrounds – both come from a background in public health administration, education, and non-profit management. Now they are both actively retired and just recently moved to Portland in July 2020.
When they moved to Portland, Sharon says the homelessness problem “just hit us.” “It’s the problem that you don’t have to walk or drive anywhere to see,” she continued. “We had seen it previously in our lives, but it wasn’t so impactful.” The longer Sharon and Howard lived in Portland, the more they looked for a way to give back that dealt with homelessness. Helping those experiencing homelessness “is good for the city and community…it’s people centered, and we should be able to solve this problem,” she says.
One day Howard came across the Kenton Women’s Village website page and it immediately attracted both Sharon and Howard. Howard was raised Catholic, so the idea that Kenton Women’s Village was under the umbrella of Catholic Charities resonated with him. The idea of fully accessible, tiny homes had been of interest to Sharon and Howard for a while – they have friends who are tiny home builders in southern Oregon – so it felt like a good match. “Tiny homes, people experiencing homelessness, and helping people move out” made Kenton Women’s Village an ideal opportunity for Sharon and Howard to begin donating to.
They looked at the Kenton Women’s Village Amazon Wish List and saw Chromebooks listed. “Chromebooks looked like the clearest thing that would life women up, out, and on,” Sharon says so her and Howard ordered a few to give to the villagers. Sharon then called the Catholic Charities team at Kenton Women’s Village and it was during those conversations that Sharon learned about the move-in basket idea and she got to work putting her first one together.
It was a rectangular, wicker basket and it contained a colorful set of flannel sheets (twin size) and a color-coordinated throw; a bath towel, hand towel and washcloth; toothpaste and toothbrush, a package of face masks and two kinds of hand sanitizer; two bars of soap; wipes; hand/body cream. And a box of KIND bars. Sharon says, “it’s the kind of thing that would help you get started if you were moving into a dorm room or first home.”
After doing her first move-in basket, Sharon took the idea to her neighbors in her Waterside Condo complex on Hayden Island and the “Nine women of Waterside” was born. Now Sharon, plus eight of her neighbors (making up the Nine women of Waterside), all contribute to these move-in baskets. “The women of Waterside like to give the move-in baskets their own touch,” says Sharon and every day the women will bring different items to Sharon’s condo door that can be put in the baskets. Sharon calls this their “creative generosity.”
Sharon says that donating to Kenton Women’s Village is “a nice combination of doing something…spending your resources and giving to someone else who will benefit greatly and can launch into the next steps of moving in and moving on.” She drops off one to two of these move-in baskets to Kenton Women’s Village every week and says that herself, Howard, and the nine women of Waterside will continue to be regular donors.
Sharon says, “we acknowledge that there are good and caring devoted people at Catholic Charities that are doing a lot of different kinds of work and we salute them. Onward.”
Thank you, Sharon. At Catholic Charities of Oregon we wouldn’t be able to deliver lifesaving services to those in greatest need without people like you. You #Inspire Us.