The power of place: through volunteering

by: PHOTO COURTESY OF MEL WELLS - Hongzeng LiHongzeng Li lives in the Hillsdale neighborhood with his wife, Wei Jiang. Born in China, they have been married for 25 years and have one child, Henry, a Wilson High School graduate and current Harvard University sophomore. Many of you may know Mr. Li as “Dale.”

Li’s volunteer efforts began several years ago when he joined others in a downtown Portland park handing out food to those in need. He has also helped out, along with Henry, with planting the new landscaping project along Southwest Capitol Highway in Hillsdale.

With a full-time work schedule, Li has limited time to volunteer. But in 2012 he saw local residents Josh Kadish and Mike Roach as they moved through the Hillsdale Town Center picking up trash. Li quickly joined the group and has been helping ever since.

The volunteer trash removal group is known as the “Usual Suspects” and meets the first Saturday of every month at 9 a.m. in front of Food Front Cooperative Grocery store in Hillsdale. After they sweep through the area, all gather together to enjoy coffee, tea, breakfast burritos and fresh-baked cookies provided by Food Front.

John Conlin, Food Front manager and “Usual Suspects” member, looks forward to the volunteers returning to his store after a morning of cleaning up in Hillsdale.

“We are proud to be part of this effort to improve our community’s appearance and hope it inspires others to join us,” Conlin said.

Gracious and humble when talking about his volunteer work Li said, “Compared to the others, I am just a freshman. The people in this group contribute to our community through Hillsdale Main Street, the Hillsdale Farmers Market, the Hillsdale Business and Professional Association and much more. I respect them a lot.”

This respect is mutual. Kadish said, “Dale is just one of those quiet souls who shows up, does good work and mak es our neighborhood a rich and interesting place to live.”

“I feel good when we make our community cleaner,” said Li. “Hillsdale is a great community. I feel blessed living here.”

He added, “If everyone contributes a little bit, it will make our world more wonderful. I just feel good about myself when I do even a small amount of volunteering.”

While picking up trash one Saturday morning, a woman approached Li and said, “Thank you!” These words of appreciation made him feel proud.

If you see this shy, courteous man walking through Hillsdale, please stop and thank him. He does, indeed, make Hillsdale a more interesting place to live.

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..

Contract Publishing

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine