– Dr. Margo Kozinski
During a particularly cold weather snap in November 2010, Eileen Cowen was moved to action by the plight of the homeless people she could not help but see every day in and around Vancouver. Eileen, her husband Eric, and their three small daughters, live and work near the downtown area, where the number of homeless was growing.
“I knew we couldn’t solve all the problems,” she said, “but I just thought – what can I do to help them today?”
The Blanket Brigade was born.
Eileen and a handful of others posted signs at a few downtown locations asking for clothing and blankets to be dropped off over a period of one month. She made regular pick-up circuits, then delivered the warm winter gear to local shelters, including Share.
“We also just loaded up our van and drove around looking for people living out in the cold,” Eileen remembered. “They were not hard to find, and so appreciative.”
Since then, Eileen and her brigade of helpers, including scouts and schools, have run two drives per winter. The donations have grown each time, reaching 10 van loads. The Blanket Brigade has given more than 150 blankets in the last three years directly into the hands of someone in need at that moment.
Cowen is also a college student, mother of three, environmentalist and the manager of Urban Growers Market in Vancouver’s Uptown Village. Her energy to give seems limitless. But it’s easier when the causes are close to home.
“Any person can be just one sick child away from bankruptcy and homelessness. And so many are veterans,” she added. “That hits home, as my husband and I are both veterans.”
photo by marie pham
As a teenager, Jeanne Kojis lived in Joliet, Illinois. “The town I grew up in,” she said, “was labeled ‘low income stagnant.’” It was there that she began on a path of community activism. She served on her first board of directors when she was 16, for a Chicago organization that encompassed a drug hotline and free store, and that participated in the very first Earth Day.
She moved west with her husband in 1984, and has raised three children in Vancouver. She became active in her children’s schools and attended the Portland State University Institute for Nonprofit Management program in the ‘90s.
Kojis has been the executive director of the Nonprofit Network Southwest Washington since it separated from the Divine Consign furniture store in 2008. Despite her title, Kojis takes a very behind-the-scenes approach, reflecting, “I feel like I support the people who do the tough stuff, who are on the frontlines to make change.”
NPN provides general education, training and social opportunities to leaders and staff of nonprofits in Southwest Washington. She said, “We connect nonprofits to information and resources.”
NPN also connects regular people to nonprofits in order to generate support for them and their individual causes. One way NPN does this is through the “Giving Circle,” which is a group of people each year who give $250 or more to attend a monthly series of presentations by local nonprofits. At the end of each year, the group offers grants to the nonprofits of their choice. Each member gets one vote, and the group gives out about $10,000 each year.
NPN also sponsors bus tours of various nonprofits each year. This year, there will be a tour on the theme of early childhood and one on the environment, and likely one on vulnerable youth.
Community Cares Tours
From the Nonprofit Network: Come on a compelling half-day tour to learn more about local issues, and how you might help. We will begin with a 30,000 foot perspective from a local expert, then visit three or four distinctly different programs — all addressing a critical community topic. These are not fundraising events, but tours to deepen your understanding of an issue facing our neighbors, and how community organizations are responding. The first tour in 2013 will be focused on early childhood and will feature Support for Early Learning and Families, Innovative Services NW and Educational Opportunities for Children & Families. The cost of the tour is $25 per person. Registration is limited, and dates are to be determined.
“I feel like I support the people who do the tough stuff, who are on the front lines to make change.”
– Jeanne Kojis
Nonprofit Network Southwest Washington
PeaceHealth physician makes women’s cardiovascular health a priority
photo by buck heidrick
Margo Kozinski is a doctor after your own heart – your strong, healthy heart. A cardiologist with PeaceHealth Southwest, Kozinski is champion of women’s health and works to educate the public about the causes and symptoms of heart disease in women.
Originally from Poland, Kozinski came to Chicago on a vacation when she was 18 without a word of English, and wound up attending college and medical school there. Another vacation brought her to the Vancouver-Portland area in 2006, and she began her career with Cascade Heart, which last year joined with PeaceHealth.
There is less reliable research on women’s heart health, as “historically women have been underrepresented in studies,” said Kozinski. But it has been found that women’s presentation of heart attack is typically not the classic “elephant on the chest” as men often describe, but can be a range of nonspecific symptoms such as neck and shoulder pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and a feeling of acid reflux.
“I hear in the emergency room, ‘I thought this was the worst heartburn I have ever had,’” said Kozinski.
“There’s a lot we don’t understand about women and heart disease,” she said. On a physical level, women’s arteries tend to be smaller. But there are many psychosocial factors, too. Women tend to suffer from depression more often, and tend to take care of others before they take care of themselves, often stopping an activity that has become more difficult, such as exercising, rather than getting it checked out. And when they do get checked out, women often feel their symptoms are ignored by their doctors.
The PeaceHealth Southwest Heart and Vascular Center Cardiology Center offers a patient-driven lifestyle clinic that focuses on tools to prevent and lessen heart disease, including a custom exercise program and a monthly check-in.
Kozinski lectures locally on women and heart disease, going to wellness groups at the hospital and in the community, and working with the local chapter of WomenHeart.
“I do a lot of outreach in the community and there’s always a lot of surprise in the audience,” said Kozinski. “More women die of heart attacks every year than of all the cancers together.”
PeaceHealth Southwest Heart & Vascular Center Cardiology
360-887-4694 or 360-597-3061
Vancouver couple lived frugally so they could give generously
At 98, Harris Dusenbery has been giving charitably longer than most of us have even been alive. “I’ve given all my working life,” he said, “as long as I’ve had income.” In recognition of Dusenbery’s commitment to giving consistently over his lifetime, he has been selected as a recipient of a new award from the Community Foundation of Southwest Washington.
The Lifetime of Giving Award, said Community Foundation President Richard Melching, “is intended to recognize people who have a long life history of giving back to the community. It’s a great way to recognize some people deserving of recognition who might otherwise not be known.”
Dusenbery began giving charitably largely at the inspiration of his wife, Evelyn, who died a couple of years ago. “One of my wife’s mantras,” he said, “was that we should live frugally and give generously.”
Dusenbery and his wife both attended Reed College and were married in 1940. He began working for the Social Security Administration in Portland when he got out of the Army in 1945, and they moved to Vancouver in 1951, when he opened and became District Manager of a new Vancouver office for the SSA. “We gave fairly regularly then, what we could. It wasn’t particularly generous during the years we were putting our kids through college, we didn’t have much left over. Really, our giving-as-a-large-percentage-of-our-income happened after we retired.”
On the advice of a co-worker, Dusenbery prepared well for retirement, being sure the house was paid off, the cars were relatively new and paid for, and they had no debt. He retired in 1969, and the couple found that they were able to live comfortably, travel extensively, and still give generously to causes that were important to them.
The Dusenberys gave extensively to nature-related organizations like the Columbia Land Trust, Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy, and to organizations that support women, like YWCA and Planned Parenthood. “I also started giving to the Community Chest in Portland right after I got out of the Army,” Dusenbery said, “and I have contributed to them ever since.”
One of their strong priorities was to support arts-related organizations, like the Columbia Arts Center. When that effort eventually folded, the Dusenberys transferred their fund to the Community Foundation, where they established an Arts and Learning Endowment Fund. “Later, we established a performing arts fund in Evelyn’s name,” Dusenbery said, “and I recently established a fund there for the homeless.”
Dusenbery’s ability to give generously even while living modestly is something that Melching said he finds “remarkable. He makes personal sacrifices and goes without so that he can give to others.”
“I think that’s one of the obligations of citizenship,” said Dusenbery. “To leave your community a better place than when you arrived.”
– Harris Dusenbery
Gary Bock and Jim Mains take friendly competition to a whole new level
Meeting at Downtown Vancouver’s Java House for an interview a week before Christmas, both Gary Bock and Jim Mains are on the phone. When they finally end their respective calls, the two quickly begin bickering over who should have happier holidays.
“YOU have a delightful holiday.”
…And so on…
This is the team that brought Vancouver its most successful, and possibly its first, guerrilla fundraiser-slash-online-community-spectacle in the last half of 2011. The two created “Gary Bock vs. Jim Mains” almost accidentally, when they started a friendly competition over who could get more mentions in The Daily Insider, a local e-newsletter.
The two set up a Facebook page for their battle in mid-June, and announced plans to donate $50 to the Children’s Justice Center if they reached 150 “likes” on their page by July 1.
“We met our goal within a couple of days,” says Bock, and matching donations poured in. They ended up presenting a check for $750 to the Children’s Justice Center.
“We thought it would remain jokey,” explains Mains. “But it became more real once we realized people were actually supporting our lunacy.”
Shortly after that first success, Bock and Mains began planning their next event: a charity “wrestling” match in which supporters would “bet” with donations. Bock, executive director of Vancouver Watersheds Alliance, and Mains, president of the Board of Directors for the Vancouver Farmers Market, decided to support their organizations with the “Clash in the Couve.” To do so, they “wrestled” on a sweltering summer day in sweatshirts filled with balloons, entertaining a crowd of about 100. They raised $818.
After the wrestling match, the two decided to take a break from fundraising and started “Think-Vote,” a mock political campaign designed to, well, encourage people to think and vote.
“As social media comes about as a way to communicate, connect and raise funds,” says Mains, “someone needs to experiment with it.”
“I can’t afford to experiment with my own organization,” adds Bock, “but there’s no reason we can’t have fun as ourselves!”
So what’s next for Bock vs. Mains?
“Surprises,” says Mains, noncommittally.
“We make this stuff up as we go along,” says Bock.
Well guys, as soon as you figure out what you’re doing next, it sounds like Vancouver is ready to support it.