Blogs: Community Services

"Something just clicked."

by Sarah Binns

From her youth in Minnesota, Kathy Parkin distinctly remembers the stories that molded her as a lifelong reader: “My favorite childhood books were Beverly Cleary's. Even now I can see myself in the elementary school library, picking up her books. They sparked my love of reading.” Kathy couldn't know that several decades later she'd start post-retirement life in the same city that Oregon-born Cleary once called home: our beloved Portland.

In 2011, after 30 years as a lab technician in Minnesota, Kathy decided she wanted a change. That's when she saw an AARP magazine article describing Portland, Oregon, as a perfect place to retire. “Something just clicked,” she said, when she read about the city. “The very first thing I did when I moved here was get a library card—even before I got a driver's license!” In May 2012, Kathy began her Multnomah County Library volunteer work helping with weeding, traveling to different neighborhood libraries to ferret out damaged, dilapidated and outdated books. “I got around and saw more of Portland,” she explains. “And I love Portland.”

Kathy harnessed this love of Portland to write the short story “Summer of Love,” which is featured in the 2013 book Our Portland Story Volume 2, a compilation of stories about the city. Kathy has also explored calligraphy and collage and has worked in many other volunteer positions, with Store to Door, a grocery shopping service for seniors and people with disabilities, and Friendly House, where Kathy worked with older adults.

In addition to her love of Portland, Kathy is one of those MCL volunteers who has always loved libraries. Between working and raising a family she volunteered for libraries in her native Minnesota. “At one point I worked at one library system and volunteered at another. That's right,” she adds, “I worked in a library and they paid me!” Let the record show that Kathy has lived the dream of many an MCL volunteer, including this one. This doesn't mean she'll stop volunteering for MCL, though: “I'll keep on until I can't,” she says with a smile.


A Few Facts About Kathy

Home library: Central Library for the books but she volunteers at the Northwest Library. “I really like working at the smaller libraries.”

Currently reading: “I like chick lit and I just finished Walking Back to Happiness by Lucy Dillon.” Also reading The Way of the Woods, by Linda Underhill. 

Most influential book: Jane Eyre. “I like books with strong female characters. I always come back to Jane Eyre.”

A book that made you laugh or cry: Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland made me both laugh and cry; a good book about how life is just that so often, sometimes a comedy and sometimes a tragedy.”

Favorite book from childhood: Beverly Cleary's books. “It's also nice to know she has an Oregon connection.” (Cleary's birthday is April 12th and is celebrated by publisher Harper Collins as Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) Day.)

E-reader or paper? Paper

Favorite place to read: "In my recliner."

 

You face a lot of challenges when you are transitioning back into the community. The library can help you find resources to help you deal with those challenges and get back on your feet. Londer Learning Center teacher shares a poster; link to Londer Learning Center.

You are not alone.

MercyCorps Northwest’s Reentry Transition Center provides a variety of services, including helping with immediate needs like clothing, meals, and access to phones and Internet. The center also helps ex-offenders work towards long term goals of education, employment and driver’s license reinstatement.

Londer Learning Center is the only adult education program in Oregon working exclusively with adults in transition from jail, prison and treatment programs. They offer GED classes, job search assistance, and apprenticeship preparation for construction trades and connections to apprentice training programs like Constructing Hope. SE Works also has several programs for community members leaving jail or prison who are looking to re-enter the workforce or improve their job skills.

Pathfinders of Oregon program Parenting Inside Out has been specifically designed to provide support for parents who are on parole and probation.

For other social services, contact 211info.org by dialing 211 or texting your zip code to 898211 to start a live conversation.

Your library card gives you access to so much.

Take advantage of free computer classes, assistance for job seekers, personal finance information, and resources for parents, not to mention books, ebooks, movies, and audio on any subject you can imagine. And you can always contact a helpful librarian with any question -- even if you don't have a library card, we're glad to help you!
 

WOWVolunteer Maureen Flynn

by Donna Childs

Most people have heard of Meals on Wheels, for whom volunteers deliver food to people who are homebound, but few know that Multnomah County Library has a program called Words on Wheels, through which volunteers deliver books, food for the mind and soul. One of those volunteers is Maureen Flynn, who brings library materials to two women who can’t get to a library.

Her “fantastic” women live in the same assisted living facility, but have different needs and ways of choosing books. One of them talks with Maureen about the kinds of books she likes—and those she does not—but seldom requests specific titles. Knowing her tastes, Maureen reads reviews and scans library shelves for titles she might like. The other woman does her own research and often gives Maureen lists of specific books she wants to read.  In both cases, Maureen talks with the women about the books and about their own interests and histories, and picks up and returns books to the Hollywood library for them.

Maureen goes to the assisted living facility almost weekly to be sure each woman has a good supply of books. She enjoys getting to know these women and has learned a lot from them.  In return, she is able to enhance their library experience, to pass on what she has learned about using the library.  

In addition to Words on Wheels, Maureen also volunteers at the Hollywood Library. She began four years ago, as an expired holds clerk, pulling and processing books people had requested, but did not ever pick up. She found it a great way to learn about good books and laughed that her pants pockets were usually full of scraps of paper with book titles. Now, she pulls holds on Mondays before the library opens, finding books, CDs and DVDs that patrons have requested. That way, she can search shelves without intruding on other patrons’ browsing.

An inveterate helper, Maureen also volunteers at her church, preferring behind the scenes tasks, such as sacristy and altar guild work.  Her helping has paid off in other ways: a former volunteer job at Providence Medical Center led her to a position there until she retired and began volunteering with the library.


A Few Facts About Maureen

Home library: Hollywood

Currently reading: Maya Lin’s "Boundaries"

Most influential book: Lately, it is "Mycelium Running" by Paul Stamets.

A book that made you laugh or cry: All the PG Wodehouse books

Favorite reading guilty pleasure: Murder mysteries

E-reader or paper? Paper, because it is tactile - it’s a life-long preference.

Favorite place to read: In summer, outside and in winter, indoors by a window

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

support groupsAs some smart person once observed, looking for work is work, darn hard work.  And the pay stinks.  It's a process full of frustration and disappointment, which makes keeping the focus and motivation necessary for a good outcome difficult.  But you don't have to go it alone.  The Portland/Multnomah County area is full of people in the same boat as you, willing and able to offer their comradery, support and advice to help you through these trying times.  I recently sat in on one such group, the Job Finders Support Group, which meets at the Capitol Hill branch, noon to 3pm every Friday.  I was greeted warmly by a bunch of very together people who were happy to share their experiences with job applications, networking events, social media, the latest job search-related apps, company research, interview strategies - in short, they were on top of all different aspects of the job search game and very encouraging and supportive of each other.  It is facilitated by local author Cleon Cox and he lists many other local support groups and other job seeking resources on his website.  Another source of support in the east county area is the Job Seekers Support Group which meets at Gresham Library at 1:30pm on Tuesdays. Finally, an option in your job search arsonal is the job fair, where employers vie for the attention of prospective employees like you - the State of Oregon website lists job fairs and events in the area

Need help finding more job resources? Let us help!

 tips

The Oregon Department of Justice Financial Fraud/Consumer Protection Section offers these  top ten consumer tips to protect yourself and your family:

1. Become educated. Informed consumers are smart consumers. Visit oregonconsumer.gov to learn more about consumer protection in general, and visit onguardonline.gov to learn how to be safe, secure and responsible online.

2. Join the Scam Alert Network. Sign up online at oregonconsumer.gov to be notified of new scams, fraud and other consumer threats.

3. Reduce junk mail. Call 1-888- 567-8688 or register online at optoutprescreen.com to reduce offers of credit and insurance. You can also opt out of receiving unsolicited mail from many other companies by registering with the Mail Preference Service online at dmachoice.org and paying $1.

4. Check out the business before you buy. Call the Oregon Department of Justice at 1-877-877-9392 or search Be InfORmed, an online database at oregonconsumer.gov, to research complaints and resolutions. You should also confirm the business’s physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems.

5. Reduce telemarketing calls. The National Do Not Call Registry allows you to block most telemarketers, who should not call your number once it has been on the registry for 31 days. If they do, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Register online at donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222 from the number you want to register.

6. Understand that wiring money is like sending cash. Con artists often insist that people wire money, especially overseas, because it’s nearly impossible to reverse the transaction or trace the money. Do not wire money to:

• Someone who claims he or she wants to hire you.

• Sellers who insist on wire transfers for payment.

• Someone who claims to be a relative or friend in trouble and wants to keep it a secret from the family.

7. Order your free annual credit report. Visit annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 to order a free credit report and review it for errors.

8. Read the fine print. Read contracts in full and make sure you understand the terms before you sign. Be suspicious of promises made by salespersons that differ from the written terms and make sure you get a copy of the signed contract for your files.

9. Sleep on it. Sales pitches that offer discounts if you “sign now” are often scams. Legitimate businesses will usually give you the same deal later.

10. Report fraud. If you think you have been a victim of fraud, call the Oregon Department of Justice at 1-877-877-9392 and request a complaint form be mailed to you or visit tinyurl.com/ORcomplaintform to file a complaint online.

Stay informed and stay safe--and share these tips with family, neighbors, and friends across the state to help them become smarter consumers as well.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Contributed by Jenny W. with the help of the Oregon Department of Justice.

Click here for "Don't be a victim--prevent financial fraud! (Part 1)

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum says, “Every year, thieves and con artists cheat thousands of Oregonians out of their hard-earned money and valuable personal information. I need your help to stop the fraud before it starts and alert others so they can avoid becoming victims.”

Fortunately, the Oregon Department of Justice can help us become savvy consumers. Check the website at www.oregonconsumer.gov, or call the Consumer Hotline 1-877-9392, or e-mail help@oregonconsumer.gov.

You can:

  • Learn how to protect yourself from scams and fraud.

  • Request written materials be mailed to you.

  • Ask a question about a business or learn how to file a complaint against one.

  • Sign up for the Scam Alert Network

  • Search BeInfORmed, a database of consumer complaints.

  • Ask questions about:

    • automobile sales

    • credit/debt

    • home repair

    • retail sales

    • services

    • internet sales

    • fraud

    • real estate

    • telemarketing

    • home solicitations

Stay informed and stay safe--and share these tips with family, neighbors, and friends across the state to help them become smarter consumers as well.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Contributed by Jenny W. with the help of the Oregon Department of Justice.

Click here for "Don't be a victim--prevent financial fraud! (Part 2)

Often we need to contact government officials or agencies but knowing where to start can be daunting. Here is a quick list of useful contact numbers and websites to help you reach who you need in government:

Portland, Oregon City Hall with the Portland Building in the backgroundLocal Government

Mutnomah County is, of course, more than just Portland. The following cities in the county have websites and general information phone numbers where you can connect to agencies and officials specific to those communities:

 The League of Women Voters of Portland provides a handy pamphlet of local and state elected officials, including local school districts.

 

State Government

There is no general information line for the state of Oregon. You can visit each agency’s website for their individual contact information or you can look in the state agency directory.

Looking for more information about Oregon government?  Try the Oregon Blue Book.   

 

President Obama addressing a joint session of Congress, 2009Federal Government

USA.gov is the place to start online when looking for any information related to the federal government. Among other things, it includes links to find services, agencies and a telephone and email directory.

 In print you can take a look at the Federal staff directory for an extensive list of who’s who in the Federal government.

What about states other than Oregon? Caroll’s Publishing Company prints an excellent set of contact information guides for the Federal government as well as nationwide CountyMunicipal, and State governments. 

As always, Multnomah County Library staff is happy to help you find the information you’re looking for.  If you have any questions about this topic or anything else please let us know!

Congo Refugee Finds Refuge in North Portland Library

by Donna Childs

First, a bit of background, from Medical Teams International:Picture of Volunteer Elise Ekombele

Congo’s long-standing conflict has been called the world’s deadliest dispute since World War II. Aid organizations estimate that nearly 5.4 million people have died in this decade-long conflict, nearly half of them children. An additional one million people have been displaced by the ongoing violence in the Congo.

One of those displaced by these brutal wars is North Portland Library volunteer Elise Ekombele. Born and raised in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Elise was forced to flee from her home to a Senegalese refugee camp with her son. Through a US refugee resettlement program, they were sent far away to Portland, Oregon, speaking no English and knowing nothing about American culture. Despite the difficulty of learning another language and culture, Elise likes it here because it is so much safer and more peaceful.

As she has learned English, Elise has had several jobs in Portland. A French speaker (the official language of Congo), she first worked at the Portland French School. She has also held positions at various organizations that assist immigrants, such as IRCO and Catholic Charities, and is currently looking for work. Although Elise has made much progress learning English and adapting to her new life in America, she says it is her son who “has become a real American.” He graduated from the University of Montana where he was an accomplished athlete scouted by the NFL.

Elise has been volunteering at North Portland every Thursday for the past year. According to staff, she is very conscientious about her volunteer duties as a Branch Assistant. She also volunteers with her church, helping to distribute food boxes to those in need.

To improve her English, Elise participates weekly in two different language programs at North Portland. The Talk Time program provides an opportunity for non-native speakers from around the world to practice English in an informal, conversational environment. She also participates in l’Echange, a French-English language exchange program for native English speakers who want to practice French and native French speakers who want to practice English. Elise has found a perfect balance of helping the library and benefiting from library services and programs.


A Few Facts About Elise

Home library: North Portland Library

Most influential book: A biography of Angela Davis (title unknown)

Favorite book from childhood: A novel written by a French woman about Chinese women (title unknown)

Favorite section of the library: Biographies and self improvement books, new ideas! 

E-reader or paper? Paper

Favorite place to read: In a chair in the bedroom

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

1040 tax formMultnomah County Library is here to help with tax season. All library locations can access state and federal tax forms and instruction booklets online as they become available. Library staff members are happy to help print what you need. Printing costs 10 cents per page; two-sided printing is available.

Thanks to the AARP, the library will offer filing assistance programs at the Midland, Gresham, Woodstock, and North Portland locations. We can also help refer you to tax professionals.

Federal Hard Copy Forms

Due to federal budget cuts this year, libraries will not be receiving any instruction booklets and only the 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ forms.  We can't promise when they will be available, or that we won’t run out, but we can always download and print out most federal tax forms and instruction booklets that are available on the IRS Forms & Publications page. There is also a contact page for the local IRS offices serving Portland and Gresham for further questions. Of special note, neither the 1099 and 1096 forms nor any of the W series (W-2, W-4, etc.) are available for download. Many office supply stores have the 1099 forms or you can contact the IRS directly to have those mailed to you.

State Hard Copy Forms

Public libraries are no longer a distribution center for state tax forms and booklets. If you need Oregon forms or booklets, you can come into the library to print them or do it yourself from the Oregon Department of Revenue page. They have a separate page for personal income tax forms & instructions. If you want forms mailed to you, then you can contact the Oregon Department of Revenue via:

Other States

You can stop by the library for assistance printing out tax forms for other states, or you can go to the Federation of Tax Administrators Links to State Tax Forms & Filing Options, which provides links to tax forms for each state.

Online Filing

Once the tax season officially opens, both the IRS and Oregon Department of Revenue will have listings for online filing services. Remember, state and federal taxes are due by April 15th.

hands filing out tax form

Tax Help/Filing Assistance

Volunteers with AARP will be offering preparation assistance through Tax Help at four different Multnomah County Library locations beginning in February. Keep your eye on the events listed to the right of the library's Taxes page or search the Events page for "taxes." Requirements to get tax help vary by location:

  • Midland: Fridays and Saturdays; No further appointments are available at this time. 
  • Gresham: Wednesdays; No further appointments are available at this time
  • Woodstock: Saturdays; same day registration
  • North Portland: Thursdays; first come, first served

If you can't make it to the library for tax help, see AARP's Tax-Aide Locator for more free tax preparer locations.

Finally, be sure to check out the post from guest blogger Janet Hawkins, of Multnomah County's Department of County Human Services, on ways to save big money with free tax filing services.

 

 

 

Lim Ding WenPresident Obama recently called the Internet “one of the greatest gifts our economy — and our society — has ever known.” The Internet allows us to explore and learn, to communicate with our loved ones and collaborate over great distances and to share our thoughts and ideas with an audience wider than has ever been possible before.

Internet access has become increasingly important for finding jobs, for completing schoolwork and for performing many day to day tasks, and phone service also remains vital.

And yet, Internet access and phone service does not fit into everyone’s budget.

Comcast’s Internet Essentials program  provides Internet service for $9.95 a month (plus tax), as well as a computer for $149.99 (plus tax) and free training. You may be eligible if your family qualifies for the National School Lunch program. You might qualify for Comcast Internet Essentials even if you have past debt with that company.

CenturyLink’s Internet Basics program provides Internet service for $9.95 a month (plus tax and fees), as well as a netbook for $150 (plus tax) and free training. The fee for this service increases to $14.95 after 12 months.

Telephone service is also vital for keeping us in touch with the world. Many phone companies and wireless companies will reduce your monthly phone bill, if you qualify. You can see a list of those companies, and the amount by which they will reduce your bill here. Find more information and apply online or print a paper application here. Information and applications are also available in Spanish, Russian and Vietnamese.   

A great place to compare phone and Internet plans and rates is at Cub Connects, a website created by the Citizen's Utility Board of Oregon. In addition to the search and compare feature, Cub Connects provides a list of resources that may be helpful as you look for low cost phone and Internet plans and a page that links to help for understanding different plans

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