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Senior Advocates for Generational Equity needs your talent and expertise



by: PHOTO: MERRY MACKINNON - Attorney and SAGE Founder Ward Greene and SAGE Executive Director Steve Higgs seek to improve life for future generations by engaging the volunteer efforts of older adults.

A managing partner at Portland commercial law firm Greene & Markley P.C., bankruptcy attorney Ward Greene is not a typical social or environmental activist. But his concern about what kind of world the older generation is passing on to the next has steered him in that direction.

Though Greene’s own wealth shields him from the hardships that lower income individuals often face, in his law practice and pro bono work he has seen how difficult life can be for some.

“Like a pebble in my boot, it has weighed on my subconscious for a long time,” Greene said.

He cites a case he litigated and lost in which he tried to get a 52-year-old man’s $20,000 student loan debt discharged. “He had had drug problems and a criminal history, but he was struggling to get back and be a constructive citizen,” Greene said. “And he was hanging on by his fingernails.”

In his free time, Greene, 67, promotes Senior Advocates for Generational Equity, or SAGE, a nonprofit group he co-founded with a mission to make the world a better place for youth through the efforts of volunteers age 50 and older.

“Speaking for myself, I feel very strongly we need to recognize the rights of younger and future generations,” Greene said.

Through social gatherings organized in living rooms and elsewhere, such as retirement communities such as Willamette View, Greene makes his case that if “you believe strongly that not enough resources are devoted toward younger generations, then you should be a part of SAGE, or, with SAGE’s help, maybe found one of your own grassroots organizations.”

Now, with a board of directors and having hired an executive director, SAGE is moving ahead. Besides recruiting seniors to volunteer at local nonprofit groups listed on its website, www.wearesage.org, SAGE also offers Legacy Fellowships for individuals to innovate and create their own public benefit projects of grassroots efforts that could focus on the environment, education or economic security.

“We looked at what has changed from one generation to the next and came up with those three categories of issues to address,” said SAGE Executive Director Steve Higgs.

“We want to engage people to think more deeply about the trajectory of the country,” Higgs added, listing troubling trends, including the nation’s high childhood poverty rate, the barriers for young people to save for retirement and their drop in net wealth compared to cohorts 30 years ago, the burdens of student loan debt, and the accelerating rate of environmental degradation.

Higgs acknowledged that thousands of organizations already work to create a better world. But SAGE’s role is to inspire older adults to be the core group that improves the quality of life for the next generation.

SAGE has not taken any formal position on issues yet. To do so would require the approval of the board of directors. But what keeps Greene up at night is clear: “I believe that the scientific evidence for global warming is convincing,” he said. “And that the wealth and income gap in this country is not sustainable.”

SAGE to host Nicholas Kristof

Senior Advocates for Generational Equity will host Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and New York Times columnist, on Sunday, Oct. 5, at 4 p.m. in downtown Portland (venue to be announced). Kristof, who grew up in Yamhill County, will share personal stories and experiences reporting from six continents. He will also discuss his new book, “A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity,” co-authored with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn.

For more information, visit the SAGE website, www.wearesage.org.

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