Meet a winner of the 2023 Marcus Lampros Volunteer Awards, given to eight outstanding volunteers who exemplify our values: Integrity, Respect, Inclusion, Creativity, Commitment, and Teamwork.
Dewayne Smith has lived in northeast Portland for over three decades. For many of those years, he commuted out of the neighborhood: He spent over 20 years as a teacher and student supervisor with Beaverton School District and 17 years teaching educating courses at Pacific University in Forest Grove. After he retired, he kept getting calls to speak and teach, but he wanted to do something different — and this time, in his neighborhood.
Dewayne started volunteering in the kitchen at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center located at the Multnomah County Walnut Park Complex in 2017. Since, he’s logged over 3,537 hours helping out in the kitchen.
“Dewayne is in the kitchen every day,” wrote MLK Site and Home Delivery Assistant Anasofia Wessel in her nomination for Dewayne. “He is so dedicated. He has taught me things about helping in the kitchen, helping others. He helps us bake the cookies we send out that are so loved by everyone on our routes. Without this man, our center would be a completely different place. He is kind. He is respectful. He is truly a gem.”
Cooking has always been one of Dewayne’s hobbies. Every celebration always includes a big meal, and every Monday, he hosts a family dinner. One week it’s rice bowls, another fried chicken, the next samosas. “I love finding new recipes,” Dewayne said.
Recently, MLK Program Manager David Lomax challenged Dewayne to make pizza crusts out of shredded chicken and parmesan. It was a success: “They really liked it. Everyone wanted the recipe.”
Dewayne might best be known for his homemade baked goods. “A number of clients will ask if I’ve made the cake: ‘Did you make the cake? When are you going to make the peanut butter cake again?’ It’s those little things that brighten up their day and that make a difference. They put a smile on someone’s face. It’s nice to be able to do that.”
For Dewayne, volunteering at the MLK Center gives him a connection to his community that he hasn’t had before. “I feel more connected to the community I’m living in,” he said. “It feels really good to be connected with something that’s right in the neighborhood.”
He attributed the family atmosphere at the center to the Meals on Wheels People staff, including Lomax, Wessel, Home Delivery Coordinator Tanisha Jones, and Site Coordinator Marla Bell. “Watching them and how dedicated they are to providing a positive experience for the people — it’s very rewarding to be a part of that,” Dewayne said.
We need volunteers to provide critical support to the older adults we serve. Become a part of our volunteer family and help change a life, one meal and friendly connection at a time. Visit mowp.org/volunteer.