At age 28, I received a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. This event launched my career for the care and treatment of troubled children and their families throughout the Pacific Northwest. Work related activities that occurred during my forty-plus years continuously filter through my mind. The image of the celebration of the merger of the three oldest children’s non-profit residential treatment centers in Oregon and forming Trillium Family Services in 1998 is ever present. I remember my responsibilities as Trillium’s Chief Executive Officer, until my retirement at age sixty-nine, with a sense of accomplishment.
My life purpose as a professional social worker with daily duties and responsibilities was clearly defined. After I retired in 2007, I was surprised by the impact of the feelings I had, related to a loss of purpose. The challenge of how to reinvent myself with a renewed sense of purpose became a predominant concern.
In 2008, I formed a Health and Human Services consulting business, which resulted in consulting opportunities with nonprofits throughout Oregon and Washington. In 2011, I started taking a Creative Writing Class, which resulted in writing a monthly fiction/ nonfiction life stories column titled, “Lighten Up” for the Vancouver Washington Messenger newspaper. Also, in November 2011 I wrote a Life Report story, which was published in the New York Times in the David Brooks column.
From 2011 through 2014, I provided support and consultation with Derenda Schubert PhD, CEO of Bridge Meadows, Portland, OR. Bridge Meadows is a non-profit that is an intergenerational living community made up of adoptive foster families, children in the process of being adopted and “elders” who live together and provide support and guidance to the families and the adoptive children. I served on the Board from 2012 through 2014, and continue as a member of the Program committee.
During this time, I became aware of the Encore Movement and the Encore Fellowship program. I along with several other like-minded individuals attempted to start a couple non-profits with the goal of creating opportunities for aging, experienced individuals to contribute and work in non-profits. After a period of time we decided that supporting the Encore Fellowship movement would be a better investment rather than to continue on our own.
I applied to become an Encore Fellow through Social Venture Partners in 2015, which resulted in a Fellowship with the host organization, Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in Hillsboro, Oregon. Virginia Garcia has been an Encore Host Fellowship organization since 2012 providing a total of seventeen Fellowship placements. The Fellowships have proven to be valuable resources for responding to daily and ongoing organizational program needs.
At the time, I was the only Fellow at VG that had a non-profit career work background. VG’s non-profit mission culture that dictated day-to- day work goals and objectives was familiar and an easy adjustment for me. That was not true for many of the other Fellows, mostly from for- profit businesses with a different mindset. We had many discussions about the differences in organizational culture and how to adjust accordingly.
My Fellowship responsibilities were to describe and provide recommendations for management and oversight of Virginia Garcia’s Behavioral Mental Health Services Program. I wrote a description of the current VG Behavioral Mental Health Program along with suggested future goals and objectives, which resulted in creating the position of Behavioral Mental Health Manager to provide development and oversight of VG’s BMH program. My Fellowship ended in at the end of April 2016 and I was employed as a consultant to offer support and mentoring for the BMHM.
On July 1, 2017, I assumed responsibility as Virginia Garcia’s part time Encore Fellowship Coordinator to provide day-to-day planning, mentoring and support for Fellows during their Fellowship placements.
Overall, my Fellowship reinforced my support for the Encore movement; it provided me with a renewed sense of purpose. With wonderment and anticipation about what’s next, my Encore Journey continues on! At age 79 I look forward to the future!