A Volunteer Who Has Found Her NichePicture of volunteer Allissa Purkapile

by Donna Childs

It was a genuine pleasure to see Allissa Purkapile in the setting of her St. Johns library, a place she describes as “friendly and comfortable.” She is clearly comfortable with the library staff, and they seem to care as much about her as she does them. Several stopped to say hello to her as we spoke.

Allissa began volunteering with the St. Johns Summer Reading program following 6th grade. Initially, she worked one two-hour shift a week. Fast forward five years: Allissa is not only an indispensable Summer Reading volunteer, who helps coordinate the schedule, but also a dedicated helper with the storytime program and a reliable member of the library’s Teen Council.  

She is the go-to Summer Reading volunteer, the one to call at the last minute if another volunteer doesn’t show up. Last summer she devoted more than sixty hours to Summer Reading. Since storytime often takes place when she is in school, her contributions to that program are more behind the scenes, but no less significant. She spends five hours most Saturdays cutting, folding, and gluing to create crafts for the youth librarian to use.

Since her freshman year, Allissa has also been a member of the St. Johns Teen Council, a group of young people who meet monthly to help make the library more teen-friendly. The group, which ranges in size from two to twenty teens, helps come up with program ideas, chooses books to display in the young adult (YA) section, and has even been instrumental in moving the YA from the back to the front of the library.

When asked what she likes best about volunteering at the St. Johns Library, Allissa said “everything, especially being able to answer questions and help people.” A true library aficionado, Allissa may apply for SummerWorksa summer youth employment program that includes internships with Multnomah County. She also volunteers at her high school library two or three days a week and plays clarinet in her school band. Outside of school, she helps distribute food for a program called Harvest Share.

 


A Few Facts About Allissa

Home librarySt. Johns Library
 
Currently reading: The Three Musketeers
 
Books that made you laugh or cry: The Fault in Our Stars

Most influential book: Harry Potter

Guilty pleasure: Classic novels (Little Women, Moby Dick)
 
Favorite book from childhood: Rainbow Fish
 
Favorite section of the library: Every inch of it
 
E-reader or paper books: Paper book
 
Favorite place to read: At the library or in a small corner

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The Library is Like Falling Into HeavenVolunteer Carla Lang

by Sarah Binns

Carla Lang is one of those people with whom you can start talking about books and look up from your conversation to find two hours have passed without your knowledge. The phrase “voracious reader” can be overused, but in Carla's case it is true. It’s a lifelong trait: “When I was growing up my dream was to be locked away in the library. As long as there was a store nearby,” she adds, pragmatically.

Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, Carla later drove her VW bus all the way to Alaska - and stayed for forty years. When she and her husband moved to Nome in the early '70s, the local library association was little more than a women's social club. “Over a period of a few years we transformed into a working association with an eye toward a true lending library that was funded by the city,” she explains. Through their efforts, library funding was eventually secured, and Nome's Kegoayah Kozga Public Library continues to this day.

Shortly after Carla and her husband moved from Nome to an apartment above the Sellwood Library in 2006, she noticed a sign soliciting volunteers. She started as a paging list volunteer in 2007, pulling items that patrons have put on hold. On her inaugural day, Carla was dismayed to locate only a few of the books on the 100-book list. “It turns out it was the previous day's list!” she laughs. She says the paging list is “the ultimate Easter egg hunt” and intends to go on doing this task.

Carla also volunteers with Words on Wheels, a Library Outreach Services program which delivers books to those unable to go to the library. She's been with some of her patrons for two years now and still enjoys bringing them book suggestions. When it comes to the library and reading, Carla says, “It's like falling into heaven. I never mind waiting in lines because I always have a book with me. As long as I have a book, I'm fine.”


A Few Facts About Carla

Home library: Sellwood Library

Currently reading: The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson

Books that made you laugh or cry: Dave Barry's books make her laugh; “I try to avoid books that make me cry,” she says, "but The Art of Racing in the Rain was one that did."

Most influential book: Probably Lord of the Rings; “I always go back to it, I've read it at least 14 times.”

Guilty pleasure: “All books are guilty pleasures! But probably my science fiction.”

Favorite book from childhood: Little Women, Uncle Tom's Cabin, “and a story about a young girl in the Revolutionary War that I can't remember the title of!”

Favorite section to browse: New books, graphic novels, and staff picks

E-reader or paper books: Paper, though e-books are a nice option when on the go.

Favorite place to read: In bed in the morning with a cup of coffee or a chair in her apartment loft with good light.

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More Than 1000 HoursVolunteer Shirley Bernstein

by Donna Childs

“Volunteer!” That’s Shirley Bernstein’s message for everyone who is able and interested. She believes that volunteering is good for older people because it gives them a way to get out, to interact with others, and to feel useful. For young people, it can be a way to test out a potential career.  

Shirley practices what she preaches: she has accrued more than 1000 hours at the Hillsdale Library. Twice a week, she sorts and alphabetizes children’s picture books and checks in holds for Hillsdale patrons. She sorts the picture books because that’s what needs doing, but she prefers the holds, because she finds out about new books this way.  

Shirley enjoys the freedom of volunteering: she can come in a little earlier or stay a little later, or even come in an extra day if there is a lot to do. But most of all, she likes being appreciated. When asked to name the best part of volunteering at Hillsdale, she replied, “They say ‘thank you’.”

Shirley has three sisters living in the Portland area, one of whom was a director at Store to Door,  a non-profit organization which delivers groceries for those who can’t shop for themselves. They take orders over the phone and deliver groceries, prescription medications, and household items to seniors and people with disabilities, filling more than 7000 orders annually, delivered by volunteers, one of whom is Shirley. She works there on Mondays and at Hillsdale on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She participates in activities at the Multnomah Arts Center on other days.

Shirley came to Portland in 2004 from Philadelphia. She worked at a hospital there for over 40 years in the mailroom and making deliveries to nurses’ stations. But after two of her sisters relocated to Portland for a job, Shirley decided to move here too. Now three of them are here, with another in Seattle, and a brother in Florida.  Shirley is happy with her useful and family-centered life in Portland.


A Few Facts About Shirley

 
Home library: Hillsdale Library
 
Currently reading: Take Six Girls: the Lives of the Mitford Sisters  by Laura Thompson
 
Favorite section to browse: Biographies
 
E-reader or paper books: Paper books
 
Favorite place to read: Living room sofa
 
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An Adventure Every WeekVolunteer Patrick Caplis

by Sarah Binns

Even after four years of Saturdays at the Kenton Library, Patrick Caplis doesn't know what awaits him in the library's classroom, when he comes to facilitate that week's Intercambio. Intercambio, which means “exchange” in Spanish, is a language exchange and experience class that brings together a diverse group to practice Spanish and English. Their dedicated leader, Patrick, has helped them create a community within the Kenton library. Says Lanel, one of the Kenton library staff, “He runs the show!”

While Kenton's Intercambio has been going on for some time, the sessions really took off when Patrick took the helm four years ago. His role is to “include people and give everyone a chance to participate,” he says. “There's an element of stupidity and humility” when stumbling through language learning, he adds, “so it's my job to be supportive of that.” Intercambio emphasizes language exchange, with 45 minutes devoted to Spanish and 45 minutes devoted to English. While the structure may be set, content is not: participants have wide-ranging conversations on topics pertinent to their lives. For example, one man brought in some paintings he liked and discussed them in Spanish. Another person prepared for his American citizenship test by reviewing civics in English with his classmates.

Patrick says he encourages the class to bring their interests to the table to vary the discussion, but he also enjoys an occasional game of Scrabble or Bananagrams, all in the name of learning, of course! “The classes are full of serendipity,” he says. “And it's a wonderful, interesting group of people who come from all over the English and Latin world.”  

Though he grew up in Detroit, Patrick moved to Portland in 1979 to attend the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM). A naturopathic doctor for years, he no longer practices but now teaches piano. He says he still enjoys facilitating Intercambio sessions, even after all this time. “We have a very simpático or warm-hearted group,” he says. “It's an adventure every week.”


 

A Few Facts About Patrick

 
Home library: Kenton Library
 
Currently reading: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
 
Favorite Spanish book: Cajas de Carton (Cardboard Boxes) by Francisco Jiménez, a series of semi-autobiographical stories about growing up as a migrant worker in California
 
Favorite book from childhood: Beautiful Joe by Marshall Saunders
 
A book that made you laugh or cry: Right now, Invisible Man, and since music is another passion, the opera La Bohème fits this category.
 
Favorite section to browse: Children's books
 
E-reader or paper books: Paper
 
Favorite place to read: In a rocking chair
 
Favorite opera: Elektra by Richard Strauss
 
Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

 

Young Bilingual VolunteerVolunteer Mia Strickler

by Donna Childs

Mia’s parents adopted her from China and made sure she learned about the culture and language of her birth country. She has visited China, and she went to schools with Chinese Immersion programs. At Woodstock Library, Mia helps Amber Houston, the Chinese bilingual staff member who does storytimes, with behind-the-scenes work, such as props, arts and crafts, and keeps track of participants. She also leads the craft activities. Woodstock was the first library in Multnomah County to offer a Chinese-English storytime. Amber reads stories in Chinese, and then retells them in English. Participants include English speakers who want to learn Chinese and Chinese speakers learning English.

Now a senior at Cleveland High School, Mia is considering pursuing a career in medicine. She attended a medical camp at OHSU to explore career possibilities in the medical field. According to her, despite her love for Woodstock Library, she reads science blogs more than she does books.

Her volunteer involvement extends far beyond the walls of the library. She has volunteered at her church, for the Heifer Project, served meals at a food kitchen and at her church, and created and sold ornaments and cards made from her original photos to earn money for the Oregon Food Bank. She is active in her school’s National Honor Society. All this, and she is only 17!


A Few Facts About Mia

Home library: Woodstock Library
 
Currently reading: A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
 
Favorite book from childhood: The Harry Potter novels
 
Favorite section of the library: The DVD section
 
E-reader or paper books: Paper
 
Favorite place to read: In my room, on my bed

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

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