Media Room

Remarks As Prepared

Volunteers of America Annual DePreist Award for Excellence Gala
Sept. 9, 2016


Thank you, Pat, for the introduction.

Good evening and thanks to each of you for supporting the important work of Volunteers of America Oregon.

Congratulations, Gary, for receiving the DePreist Award for Excellence. Thanks for everything you’ve done to make Oregon a better place.

Volunteers of America Oregon is one of the most comprehensive social service providers in Oregon. This organization’s mission is to serve vulnerable Oregonians while tackling some of the most pressing issues in our state: homelessness, addiction treatment, caretaking for elderly and disabled adults, and support services for families in crisis.

From children to the elderly, Volunteers of America provides the supports needed so people are able to live healthy and productive lives. It mission – “Get Lives Back on Track” – is embedded into the organization’s daily work. VOA is achieving quantifiable successes across Oregon with the thousands of people it helps each year.

And while it’s undeniable the impact Volunteers of America has in Oregon, I want to personally acknowledge the determination, sacrifice, and triumph of each of the clients Volunteers of America serves. You have overcome tremendous pain, loss, and suffering. You serve as examples of grit and resilience. You are our true heroes.

One of those heroes is De’Andre Frison, who grew up in Northeast Portland with few positive role models. He got into serious trouble at an early age and was in prison by 18. While in prison, he met VOA staff from the Community Partners Reinvestment Program. De’Andre says it was the missing piece to the puzzle.

The program connected him to people who genuinely cared about him and his future. At 21, he attended weekly classes in the program, and, when he left prison, enrolled in Portland Community College’s Excellence in Trades and Apprenticeship Program. He went on to graduate as a Level 1 Carpenter, and became a father the same year.

At 25, De’Andre was hired as a mentor for the Community Partners Reinvestment Program to work with young men caught up in drugs and gangs and steer them toward education, jobs, and family. Now, at 29, he is in school to become a counselor.

De’Andre says this about his life lessons:

“Change has to come from yourself, but I always needed someone to help; someone who would care enough to commit, wouldn’t let me off the hook. Now I want to be that person. It’s long hours, 100 percent dedication to helping people and changing their lives. You can’t look at it as just a job; it’s a passion.”

De’Andre, I salute you.

It gives me goose bumps to just talk about what VOA does to help people. VOA gives people care, compassion, and a community of support. And perhaps, most significantly, it helps people achieve freedom from the demons they’ve faced.

The organization is able to impact so many people because Oregonians have contributed more than 40,000 volunteer hours and thousands of dollars. One of the many reasons I love our state is that Oregonians are doers. We come together to help one another, which in turn strengthens us all. This is the power of people, our people, working together to make Oregon a better place for all.

To Kay, the Volunteers of America staff, and all of you who make this work possible, I am grateful for your partnership as we work to move Oregon forward and make ours a home where everyone can thrive.

Thank you.