The Power of Place: through volunteering

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Michele and Stephen Charlton.Michele and Stephen Charlton have been married for 23 years and live in Brookford, a quiet subdivision of the Bridlemile neighborhood.

The Charltons have been active volunteers with the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market since it opened in 2002 and help set up the information booth, tables and chairs at the market every Sunday. Michele is also a former board president and member of the market.

Market Manager Eamon Molloy said the Charltons have been invaluable volunteers, “helping to reorganize the market truck, hosting at volunteer events and setting up the market each morning. They’ve done it all.”

The couple also volunteer with Neighborhood House, helping every year at the Leadership Circle Dinner to honor top supporters.

“We pour the wine,” Michele Charlton said, “which makes everyone happy.”

Stephen Charlton was a volunteer with the Lunch Buddy mentoring program through Neighborhood House until the program ended two years ago. He had the same boy from first through fifth grade. He said he enjoyed seeing his charge grow and mature. Stephen Charlton was also involved in mentoring with the Sun School after-school program through Neighborhood House.

Michele Charlton has volunteered in the past at the Neighborhood House food bank, the Portland Performing Arts Center gift shop and with the SMART (Start Making a Reader Today) program. Today, she volunteers with Hillsdale Main Street on the annual Hillsdale Paella Dinner.

Michele and Stephen Charlton get their commitment to volunteering from their mothers. As longtime volunteers, both of their mothers have been great role models for their children. Stephen Charlton’s mother, Janet, was a volunteer for Albertina Kerr and Michele Charlton’s mother, Mary Jo Walker, volunteered for the American Cancer Society.

“Volunteering makes me feel complete,” Michele Charlton said. “I am fortunate to have the life that I have, and because of that, I feel a need to give back to our community. I have met so many wonderful people and have made such good friends.”

Her husband agreed. “I feel a responsibility to support my community, but in the end find volunteering to be more fun than work,” he said.

They both believe that you get back what you give when you volunteer.

“Volunteering provides a strong sense of place and well-being,” Stephen Charlton said.

“Helping others strengthens a community and your soul,” said his wife. “You will meet many wonderful like-minded people.”

Southwest Portland is indeed fortunate that Michele and Stephen Charlton find the time to put in countless hours to make the community a better place to live. The next time you are at the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market or see them at a Hillsdale Main Street or Neighborhood House event, tip your hat to them and say, “Thank you."

Every day, hundreds of volunteers make our community a better place to live. This column features volunteers whose energy and commitment promote a sense of community and inspire us.

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..

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