The power of place through volunteering

Every day, hundreds of volunteers make our community a better place to live, work and play. This column features volunteers whose energy and commitment promote a sense of community and inspire us. They found a connection; they used their gifts, abilities and hard work; and they give back to their community.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Karen McNameeKaren McNamee has lived in Hillsdale for 18 years with her husband, Jim Keyser. After a successful career in health care administration, she looked forward to retirement.

McNamee began taking art classes at the Multnomah Arts Center, which provides high-quality instruction and participation in the performing and visual arts to all interested persons in Southwest Portland. She thought it was for her quiet transition into retirement. Little did she know, however, she had been bitten by the "volunteer bug."

McNamee tells us that the Multnomah Arts Center Association (MACA) was organizing a fundraising auction and a board member asked if she would be willing to donate a week's

stay at their house in Italy.

"I eagerly agreed and, before I realized it, I was volunteering to be on the planning committee for the auction!" McNamee said. Once her talents were discovered, she received an invitation to join the volunteer MACA board of directors to support the vibrancy and health of the Multnomah Arts Center.

"I have always had a passion for the arts and was very impressed by the comprehensive programs offered at the center," McNamee said. "This was a perfect fit!"

Three years ago, she joined the board and became involved in fundraising and other board activities. Two years ago, she was elected board chairman and has worked with the other executive committee members and the executive director to develop and refine procedures, develop fundraising strategies and plan for additional program and facility improvements.

McNamee said she is thrilled to be working with such a fantastic team who shares the passion and commitment for arts education that is affordable and available to everyone.

"It is very important to me to be able to leave a legacy - to assure that MAC will be providing excellent learning opportunities in the arts well into the future!" McNamee said.

Michael Walsh, executive director of the Multnomah Arts Center, said, "McNamee is a wonderful advocate for the Multnomah Arts Center. She is a champion of our efforts to maintain high-quality arts education while increasing accessibility to it through need-based scholarships and increased outreach efforts. She has helped lead this all-volunteer board to a new level of commitment."

McNamee has participated in and organized a number of community service projects through her work before she retired, expecting her team to set annual community service

goals and allowing flexible work schedules so that they could volunteer.

"I wanted to convey to my staff that personal success also included giving back to the community," she said.

McNamee continues to take art classes, although she believes that her best "art work" is achieved as a volunteer and board member for MACA.

"Vibrant communities don't just happen by themselves," McNamee said. "It takes many individuals willing to ‘give back' and make a difference through volunteer efforts.

"It is very satisfying to donate time, talent and financial support to a cause and see direct results in community programs we all enjoy."

Do you know a volunteer who deserves some recognition? Send the name and contact information for the volunteer with details about his or her work to Linda Doyle at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

All volunteers must provide permission for their story to appear in the paper. The deadline for submission is the fifth of every month.

NONPROFIT PARTNERS: Need volunteers? Let us know.

CORPORATE PARTNERS: Let us know if your employees are looking for ways to make a difference in our community.

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