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.
Martha Han always wanted to be an artist. She studied applied arts in college, but then she got married, had three children, and worked as a special education teacher in Portland elementary schools. When she retired in 2006, she finally had the time to pursue her passion. She enrolled in a watercolor class at East Portland Community Center and started painting.
For about a year, Martha watched people funnel in and out of the Meals on Wheels People Cherry Blossom Center, also located at the community center. “I decided to investigate,” she said.
A Korean War refugee, Martha knew what it was like to subsist on canned food and dried milk powder. When she learned about Meals on Wheels People, Martha wanted to get involved. She started volunteering in 2008.
“She has assisted with anything and everything needed for congregate dining,” wrote Cherry Blossom Program Manager Allie Harder in her nomination for Martha. “She’d help in the kitchen with things like preparing salads and lunch items, washing dishes, and mopping floors. These days, Martha is a dedicated meal packer. She does a fantastic job making sure all the meals are organized perfectly for the next day. Plus, she helps us get the dining room all ready to go for congregate lunch service. We love Martha’s positive attitude, attention to detail, and that no job is below her.”
Martha’s attention to detail can be seen in her paintings of flowers and landscapes, too. Every December, she has a solo art show at East Portland Community Center where she showcases her paintings. She donates the proceeds from any sales to support the center’s youth programs.
Martha’s artistic pursuits go beyond the easel. In 2010, she started performing with Oregon Korean Performing Arts, a 20-person ensemble that brings the culture and traditions of Korea to the main stage. “For my exercise, I really didn’t want to go and use the machines,” Martha said. “It seems so boring. I felt like I was too old to start dancing, but the Korean dance team is not hip-hop. The dancing is slow. It takes patience.” After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the dancers and musicians returned to the stage at the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts in October 2022.
Martha shares her Korean traditions with Meals on Wheels People, too. During the Lunar New Year celebrations at the Cherry Blossom Center, Martha dances and plays the drum in the traditional style of drumming called Nanta.
“One of my favorite things about volunteering is meeting the people I work with,” Martha said. “The Cherry Blossom Center is really such a diverse space, chock-full of different cuisines, languages, and cultures all being shared under one roof. You meet people from all walks of life. At the end of the day, I feel so good. I’m not only being helpful, but I’ve also made a lot of friends — a lot of people who I would not have otherwise met. That’s why I love the community at Meals on Wheels People: Everyone opens their hearts and recognizes each other’s humanity.”
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.