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Real Answers™
Copyright: ©2008 Rusty Wright
600 words


By: Rusty Wright

Leadership can be lonely.  When you’re the mayor, people who talk to you very often want something from you. 

That’s why Portland, Oregon, Mayor Tom Potter was so surprised when one citizen – a prominent international figure – asked what he and his network of local leaders and activists could do for the mayor and the city.

“In all my years of public service,” says Potter, “I rarely have people ask what they can do for me – and for our city. My answer, of course, was immediate – please help us solve the problem of homelessness.”

The outcome two years later has been substantial.  Over 25,000 volunteers have mobilized to tackle not only the area’s homelessness but also medical needs, hunger, poverty, school cleanup and more.  Their “Season of Service” includes a dizzying array of projects to connect needy people with those who can help.

Luis Palau, the international Christian speaker who approached Potter, and his team have helped organize local churches to volunteer for the public good.  Partnering with government and business leaders, the church coalition is producing impressive results.   

At Portland CityFest, a festival in downtown Waterfront Park, the homeless could connect with critical services.  Portland’s “Home Again Mentoring Program” links homeless individuals and families with church support.  Church members and others aim to mentor the formerly homeless to help them keep their housing and assimilate into the community.

Lacking medical insurance?  Church volunteers at “Compassion Connection” clinics offer food plus medical, dental, and chiropractic care.  Guest Marsha Barton indicated the clinic’s benefit for her: “I got to see a physician, which is great because I was really worried about a knee problem that I have. I also got to see a chiropractor who worked on some of the problems that I have from walking with a cane.”

Need your public school cleaned up?  Nearly a thousand volunteers descended on Roosevelt High to give the historic school a facelift.  In one day, the project saved the school district an estimated $200,000.  Principal Deborah Peterson wept.  “When good people of goodwill come together and honor one another and believe in hope, miracles happen,” she explained. “That’s what’s happening today.”

Got a hungry kid who needs lunch?  Too many students aren’t sure if they’ll get lunch once school’s out for the summer.  At over 400 sites throughout Oregon, children ages one through eighteen can find free summer meals and fun.  Season of Service recruits volunteers for this federally-funded program.

With a combined two-day attendance of 185,000, Palau’s CityFest was a catalyst in making Season of Service happen.  The August event featured free concerts, action sports demonstrations, a Family Fun Zone, and Palau explaining how faith in God could make a difference in people’s lives.

“Jesus said ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,’” notes Palau.  “Our mission is to share the Good News of God’s love, and acts of service open so many hearts to hear that message of hope.”

Corporate partners like Nike, Intel, the Portland Trailblazers, and Wells Fargo Bank participated to help Potter, Palau, the city, and the volunteers.

CityFest Director Chris McFarland explained his aim:  “The church is saying to the community that we want to care for you outside the walls of our building. We love you, we care for you, and we want to serve you."

Not a bad model for other cities to emulate.  Season of Service 2009 is in the works.

Volunteer Michele Kelso concluded, “Everybody’s needs get met because everybody gives a little bit.”

Want to surprise your mayor?  Offer to serve.

Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents.  He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.

"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;

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