Because I was nurtured in the era of the 60’s Civil Rights Movement, I developed a strong sense of social justice and equality for all peoples regardless of race, gender, or socio-economic circumstances. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1974 from the State University of New York (SUNY) Center at Binghamton, I went on to receive a Master of Arts in History of the Middle East and related Islamic Studies from SUNY Center at Binghamton in 1979. In order to fulfill my self-appointed purpose, I continued studying and received my Master of Science in Counselor Education from SUNY Oneonta in 1992.
What motivates me to serve? Simply, it was part of the ethics that I was taught growing up as a child. I find it rewarding to help others especially women and children in poverty. Even though we didn’t have much materially growing up, we were exposed to the wealth of library books, museums, free concerts, and school opportunities for low-income families in New York. However, my mother taught us that we should not just take, but that we should find a way to give back.
When her health would permit it, Mom would also volunteer at the local elementary school as a reading and writing tutor. Her father, my grandfather Edward, spoke fluent Spanish and would tutor his Hispanic friends in English and also would assist them in “ridding themselves of their accents” when speaking English. In those days immigrants were all about being upwardly mobile, and so was my family.
I was born in Harlem, New York City. My mother, Doris, had three sets of twins, and my maternal grandmother Louise lived with us. The summer before I started first grade, the family moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the area now known as SOHO, or south of Houston Street. When I lived there, it was a working class and poor neighborhood.
There was a mélange of Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Jewish, Italians, Irish and African Americans, and a few Native Americans in the area. I grew up learning those cultures and celebrating their different holidays in school. My stepfather left the family when I was in second grade and my mother and grandmother raised us from then on out. My mother never remarried. Both she and my grandmother suffered from chronic illnesses, but they worked hard to keeps us going. My mother, an expert seamstress, remodeled second-hand clothing for us and made slip covers and other household soft furnishings for the neighbors. My grandmother was a former elementary school teacher and would supplement our formal education with additional lessons in public speaking, etiquette, writing, and needlework. My mother taught us art, sewing, and the love of learning and reading books.
What I observed about my mother, although I didn't note it at the time, was that she was an expert at networking. She found creative ways to provide Christmas gifts and new shoes for church and summer camp. One of the ways she did this was by volunteering at the local community center. These centers were originally started as ways to integrate Jewish immigrants and Hispanic immigrants into the “American Culture.” I credit my mother for the networking skills I have today.
Family, learning, and helping others along with a strong faith in God are the foundation for my ethics and who I am today and why serving is so important to me. I was exposed to the local WFWP group through the Portland State project that they were supporting, the Schools of Africa, and the Ambassadors for Peace. All of these projects were a good fit for what I was already doing in the community through my own affiliate, the International Sufi School for Peace and Service.
In addition, the focus of WFWP was on projects that promote women and girls who were experiencing poverty and challenges to education. The focus on women and girls and world peace was what hooked me into WFWP. Most of my work with the International Sufi School was on the international level. I wanted to do more on a local level as well. WFWP provided the inter-faith platform as well which I very much believed needed to happen in order to assist the growth of world peace.
Our WFWP Cascade chapter entered a phase in which it was starting to go dormant. The then WFWP chairwomen left the area suddenly. We thought she would return; however she didn’t. At the same time she was reluctant to formally resign her position or let us know that she would not be returning. Months were going by, Father Moon had ascended, and no one was stepping up to continue the work. I just didn’t want to see our chapter fold, so I asked everyone who had been active to come to a meeting to discuss continuance.
Everyone at the meeting agreed they wanted the chapter to continue, but no one wanted to be the chairwoman. So, by default, it fell to me to step up and take the position. In truth I had already decided that if no one wanted the position, I would take it, if appropriate. The Cascade Chapter of the Women’s Federation for World Peace recently recognized my efforts with a place on the Portland State University Walk of Heroines and they recognized me as an Ambassador for Peace.
On the family side of things, I am looking forward to retirement next year 2018 so that I can devote more time to my volunteering activities. I have three grandchildren, 2 boys ages 14 and 16; and a girl age 16. They are all three competitive in sports and academics and keep me running to various events.
Some of the partners I have worked with over the last 20 years are: Oregon Department of Corrections WICS Lifeskills Program, Sabin CDC, Vancouver Washington Housing Authority, Metropolitan Community Service, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), Multnomah County Community Justice, Portland Metro Churches, Home Instruction Program for Pre-School Youngsters (HIPPY) VISTA volunteers, Red Lodge Native American Re-entry Initiative, Portland Community College Skills Center; and other social service agencies. I was also a successful grant writer for the WICS Lifeskills program, Sabin CDC, and for Vancouver Housing Authority HUD grants for low-income youth and seniors.