Boring, Oregon. Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) celebrated its annual Oregon Fun Day event in a new way this year, with a virtual Fun Week for members of the nonprofit’s community of volunteers, clients, and employees. In past years, the event was a single, themed day of robust activities on its Boring, Oregon campus. However, because of social distancing protocols, the event was expanded into a week-long occasion in late July, occurring remotely for its puppy-raising community to enjoy. Attendees were able to virtually attend activities and events with GDB staff, bringing their dogs to the Zoom sessions, as seen above.
This year’s Oregon Fun Week theme was retro video games, resulting in creative puppy costumes. GBD’s volunteer puppy raisers were able to virtually interact and bond with the community. GDB team members created a video session titled “Canine Campus Life” to share what happens when guide dogs-in-training return to campus after living with their volunteer puppy raisers. Other activities included a “How To” video on drawing a guide dog and a healthy recipe for making treats for your dog created by GDB’s Canine Welfare Neonatal Department.
GDB’s 2020 Fun Week event theme was retro video games, complete with a Zoom background for participants to use while attending with their GDB puppy-in-training.
Another highlight of GDB’s Fun Week was the “Pack” Man Challenge. The activity gave participants the chance to venture on a scavenger hunt with their dogs to identify common obstacles a guide dog team may encounter. To conclude the week, GDB community members shared an image of themselves and their GDB guide dog, which was compiled into a mosaic art piece.
GDB puppy raiser, Cory Erickson participated in the GDB Fun Week “Pack” Man Challenge which involves an outdoor scavenger hunt for puppies-in-training to identify obstacles that a guide dog team may encounter such as traffic cones.
With Camp GDB being held virtually this year, GDB sent each camper supplies for the week, including some campfire snacks and a stuffed GDB guide dog toy.
GDB’s virtual Fun Week celebration was one of many virtual events the nonprofit held since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, GDB also hosted its annual Camp GDB virtually, which is a special summer camp for teens ages 14-17 who are blind or visually impaired. The virtual camp included an opening campfire, a meet and greet with one of GDB’s veterinarians, Zoom bingo, and a discussion on the value and logistics of having a guide dog in a high school or college setting. Each camper was also sent a special camping kit in the mail to add the virtual Camp GDB experience. GDB remains committed to providing support for its clients during COVID-19.
Over 375 photos were submitted by GDB volunteer puppy raisers and leaders during Fun Week to create a virtual mosaic of members of the GDB community.
From Guide Dogs for the Blind:
We are more than an industry-leading guide dog school; we are a passionate community serving people who are blind or low vision. All of the services for our clients are provided free of charge, including personalized training and extensive post-graduation support, plus financial assistance for veterinary care, if needed. Our work is made possible by the generous support of our donors and volunteers; we receive no government funding.
Portland, OR. Despite the challenges that have ensued in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, Compassion Connect has continued to provide resource connections and unite some churches that serve Portland neighborhoods. Thanks to the continued support of donors, the nonprofit was able to raise over $10,000 for COVID-19 relief programs this spring.
The Portland-based nonprofit (which also has chapters in Washington and Arizona) has had to put its main outreach programs on hold until further notice due to health and safety concerns as well as state mandates. These programs include free health clinics and after school groups for vulnerable youth who face a higher risk for sexual exploitation.
Setbacks, have not stopped the small staff from brainstorming ways to invest critically in the communities they serve. Communications director Anna Johnson offers some insight: “During this time of hiatus, our team hasn’t ceased tackling the challenging question of how to resume operations safely so we can continue helping churches serve their neighbors in a time when they need the support more than ever.”
At the beginning of the outbreak, the company held area-specific Zoom meetings with church leadership from eight local neighborhoods to provide a platform for prayer and collaboration on how to meet the needs of the community. According to Ana, the “meetings culminated in a webinar in late May, where we shared ways for the church to make the ‘new normal’ look more like the Kingdom of God by providing a framework and tools for churches to build relationships, work together in unity, and transform the neighborhoods.”
While working from home, staff have rallied volunteers and churches to collect care package items for youth, many of whom now find themselves immersed in unstable home environments. The kits include essential hygiene items like masks and hand sanitizer along with games, treats, and encouraging notes.
Compassion Connect Health Clinics saw patients before the pandemic (above). The nonprofit is offering a community support form for clinic guests in need of medical services while the organization’s clinics are closed.
For those who have been without healthcare or have lost job-based insurance due to layoffs, Compassion Connect hopes to resume clinic services in late August with additional safety features in place, configured by staff, volunteers, board members, and outside experts. With additional precautions, the nonprofit has also been working on gradually relaunching its after school program, as well as its Adorned In Grace bridal shops, which offer new and gently used wedding gowns, formal wear, and accessories to support its work in anti-trafficking.
The nonprofit is currently exploring completely virtual or small group options for its largest fundraising event in October, which typically sees an attendance of around 300 guests.
About Compassion Connect:
Interested in volunteering with the Compassion Connect team? The nonprofit is looking for a technology coordinator to help plan virtual events, as well as other virtual volunteers, donors, and interns to make a difference in the community during this challenging season. For more information, go to www.compassionconnect.com or Compassion PDX on Facebook or @compassionconnect on Instagram.
We believe in the volunteer leaders, in those who are yet to rise up and in the potential of any community in the world to make a difference by uniting in Jesus-like service to its most hurting members. You have the heart to make a difference. We have the tools to make it a reality.
Portland, OR. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) of Portland has successfully maintained the health of current residents while continuing to provide portable meal containers to the community safely via the front door.
The Union Gospel Mission set up a handwashing station outside its building
“We shut the inside services down and did safety protocols to keep all of the men inside COVID-free. And praise God, we haven’t had any infections inside,” reported Bill Russell, who has overseen operations of Portland’s UGM and Lifechange – an affiliated service – for over 30 years. The inside game room and evening services at the 3rd-Avenue location are typically staffed by the 30-50 men undergoing residential recovery from trauma or substance abuse.
Adapting services to meet health regulations still comes at a cost for UGM’s bottom line: connection. “It thins out what we do. Our whole philosophy of the program is to care for people in order to connect with people and coach them.” Russell explained. “It’s been harder to build trust with just the food program, to have the conversations and relational building that’s necessary to build trust…The very concept of wanting to get people to connect is really challenged when you have to maintain six feet of distance and wear a mask.”
Establishing this trust organically has always been a priority for UGM’s volunteer “Search and Rescue” team, who normally go out in the community to get to know residents at local camps like “Right 2 Dream”. A second team provides rides to medical and housing appointments the following day if they discover a need.
UGM’s Search & Rescue team distributes meals safely with social distancing
Russell noted, “A year ago we were moving one person a week out of homelessness into some kind of either program or shelter that led into housing, so there was a pretty good flow. This year, COVID has caused a real lockup on the available places to go. We’ve placed more women with kids out of camps, but single adults have been fairly stuck in place with COVID… It’s really been a game-changer.”
Russell predicts that the economic downturn will generate more need for affordable housing, adding, “We need many more allies.” Those interested can look online for volunteer opportunities or sign up to give monthly.
On June 9th, UGM reopened its thrift store for retail shopping and are accepting donations. Face coverings and social distancing are required to ensure the safety of guests and volunteers, and hand sanitizer is provided throughout the store. UGM has requested that clothing donations be sealed in plastic bags upon arrival.
From the Union Gospel Mission’s website:
FEEDING THE HUNGRY, RESTORING THE ADDICT AND LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR. SINCE 1927.
Union Gospel Mission provides more than 250,000 meals a year to the homeless and people in need. In addition to meals, the Mission provides food boxes, a day room with coffee and snacks, clothing, hygiene items, referral services and emergency cold weather shelter to the homeless.