Holiday Stories

By Colleen Sinsky

Over the past few weeks I’ve been amazed by the generosity of the Portland community towards helping JOIN’s folks. On Friday, Annie marshaled most of the JOIN staff to pick up and deliver 60 holiday food boxes generously donated by Tazo tea. Staff’s cars and the JOIN fleet were filled with the big boxes and we all split off for different parts of Multnomah county to deliver all the ingredients for a holiday meal and visit people we’ve housed. I took my roommate Jillian, another Jesuit Volunteer, to help and we headed downtown. It’s easy for me to forget how much a friendly visit can mean to someone who, after having experienced the isolation of homelessness for years, is spending the holiday season mostly alone. We stayed to chat for a while with each of the folks we visited, and they each proudly showed us how they’d decorated their apartments. I was touched by how evident each person’s connection with Annie, our downtown retention worker is.


Everyone had such great things to say about their friend Annie and was excited for the future community events that she and the rest of our retention team organizes monthly. We are so lucky to have community partners like Tazo that help us help our folks on their way to self sufficiency.

Also on Friday I had the job (“job”? can this really be called work?) of taking a formerly homeless sex worker shopping for professional clothes for her first job! Through a community partnership we were able to get this woman not only her own apartment, pet cat, and soon Christmas tree, but also a full-time job that she is so excited to start. Getting to be able to play a small role in JOIN’s success stories has been the highlight of my volunteering year.