The power of place: through volunteering

Donna Benjamin has lived in the Hayhurst neighborhood for 38 years. Married for 45 years, she has three sons, ages 42, 39 and 35, who attended Hayhurst Elementary School, Robert Gray Middle School and Wilson and Benson high schools.

After working for 23 years in medical billing for Cascade Physicians, Benjamin retired in 2009. At that point she started volunteering at the SW Community Health Center in Multnomah Village. The safety net clinic provides basic, quality health services to low-income residents in Southwest Portland and surrounding areas. They work to make sure that members of our community who are without the resources to access necessary health services have a place to receive health care.

Benjamin volunteers at the intake desk for evening clinics. Her duties include checking patients, answering telephones, making reminder calls for future appointments and much more. She loves working at the clinic. She believes that it keeps her skills active and is a wonderful way to meet new people. The doctors who volunteer are caring and the medical students are all friendly and terrific to work with at the clinic. She finds the patients grateful for her help. “An evening doesn’t pass without a patient thanking me for volunteering,” said Benjamin.

When her children were in preschool, Benjamin volunteered in the classroom and as an officer in the co-op. She was also a room mom at Hayhurst school years ago and helped in the office when she was needed, and remembers running dittos on the mimeograph machine.

Benjamin has helped with the food bank through her church, the Vermont Hills United Methodist Church in Hayhurst, and has worked on different church committees through the years.

Chaperoning on field trips for her granddaughter’s class in the Battleground School District is also important to her. She just loves to hear all the kids’ laughter on the bus and enjoys being in on all the fun they have on the field trips.

Volunteering fulfills Benjamin as a person.

“It just makes me feel good inside,” she said. “When you volunteer, you give back to the community that has been good to you.”

Benjamin is proud to have taught her sons the value of volunteering and can see the joy in their eyes when they, in turn, volunteer to help others. She knows that when she makes a difference in someone’s life, they make an even bigger difference in hers.

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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