Why I Stride: Charlene Diss | Meals on Wheels People

Why I Stride: Charlene Diss

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that you cannot sincerely try to help another person without actually helping yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Charlene’s long-standing support of Meals on Wheels People was set in motion in the mid-1990s. Fast forward 25 years and Charlene is still committed to supporting her older neighbors. When she isn’t volunteering, she tackles fundraising opportunities like Stride for Seniors, which takes place on Saturday, April 16. 

Charlene learned about Meals on Wheels People shortly after beginning her career in social work. Her first job shared office space with Loaves and Fishes at the Belmont Center, which would eventually become Meals on Wheels People. With many deaf clients on her caseload, and having severe hearing loss herself, Charlene decided to take up sign language and quickly saw an opportunity to utilize her new skill to support deaf seniors at Meals on Wheels People. Charlene coordinated a space to host a group meal for deaf seniors, followed by Deaf Bingo, where she called the answers in sign language.

“That was my introduction to the Meals on Wheels People program, the clients they serve, and their deep dedication to meeting one of the many needs of seniors in our community. It really made an impact on me – I felt I was in the right place at the right time” said Charlene. “The programs have grown since then, but the work is still rooted in providing nutritious meals and meaningful connections delivered with compassion, congeniality, and respect.”

Ever since her initial engagement, Charlene has gone above and beyond to show up for her older neighbors by offering support, donating time, and rallying friends and colleagues to give back. Over the years, Charlene witnessed first-hand the damaging effects of isolation, hunger, and reduced independence, all of which have motivated her continued volunteerism. 

“Whatever the reason that people struggle to meet their own needs–lack of income or transportation, physical or mental conditions, uninvolved or lack of family, neighbors, or friends–access to Meals on Wheels People reduces their risk factor,” explained Charlene. “It is so important to me that we don’t turn our backs on our own. That’s why I volunteer with MOWP.”

Although canvassing for donations was never in her wheelhouse of experience, she decided to raise money annually for the Stride for Seniors event. She is often pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response she receives from folks she asks to donate. 

“A significant number of the people I reach out to often respond with gratitude for the opportunity to give back, and thank me for asking and raising funds and awareness,” said Charlene. “To me, it’s not the amount that someone donates, but the number of people that I reach who give.”

Inspired by Charlene’s story? There’s still time to register for Stride for Seniors! Join us on Saturday, April 16 at 9 AM at the Portland International Raceway to support your older neighbors. 

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