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Friday, June 29, 2012

I Heart Rogue Valley

I’ve been learning a lot lately about what it means to be a part of a community—mostly that I’ve been taking it for granted.  I tend to be a bit introverted, myself, but it’s by choice—I tend to enjoy seclusion.   If I choose to, I can make an effort to connect with people around me.  I can attend community functions.  I can choose to make eye contact with neighbors, and say a friendly “hello”.  Being more cognizant of those within our community who experience disability, I realize not everyone is secluded by choice.  For many, they don’t feel welcomed or comfortable out in the community; it may be difficult to get out due to mobility issues; they may have trouble relating to others.  Whatever the reason, not everyone feels “included” in their community.

I am very excited to be a part of a community building event taking place on July 28th in the Rogue Valley.  I Heart Rogue Valley is a faith based effort whose goal is to initiate lasting change in communities through volunteer service projects and dynamic live events.  The Heart Campaign has been around since 2008 and the transformation that takes place in a community after one of their events is something to behold.  I was fortunate to be a part of I Heart Ashland last November, where over 500 volunteers came out and served within the city of Ashland, touching lives and showing that LOVE IS ACTION!

This year, the Heart Campaign is taking over the whole Rogue Valley.  There are over 50 service projects with over 2,000 volunteer opportunities (we’re hoping to get up to 3,000 by the event date) in Ashland, Central Point, Medford, Phoenix, Prospect, Talent and White City.  While I have been deeply touched by being the recipient of volunteer service in the past—nothing compares to the feeling of serving others.  There is nothing that can make an individual feel more like an included and valued member of their community, than when they are giving of themselves to make that community better.

After last November’s Ashland event, one thing that really
stood out for me was a large number of seniors who said they wanted to serve, were excited about the event, but found nothing they felt comfortable doing, since most of the projects involved physical labor beyond their abilities.  In addition, I know a number of families in our communities with a member that experiences a disability.  Likewise, they may want to serve, they may have a desire to be a part of a great community building event like this but not be able to participate due to mobility issues, health issues, etc.  I did not want to see a community building event—especially the magnitude of this one—leave out anyone who wants to serve and find a valued place within their community.

I am so excited to announce that as part of those 50+ plus projects, there is a 100% accessible project, welcoming people of any ability to participate and make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate within our community, those without a home to call their own.  The accessible project is called “Medford – Care Package Project” and you can volunteer for it on the I Heart website:, along with any of the other projects.  

The Care Package project will involve creating brown bags filled with edible goods and other necessities, which can be handed out to homeless persons in our community.  Anyone can be involved in this project!  Families can serve together.  People struggling with feelings that they may not have much to offer—let me tell you that you DO—you can help provide food and show love to someone who has nothing.  You are a valued member of your community and you can feel like it by giving back to your community, working alongside others, being a part of something bigger than yourself.

I would encourage anyone reading this blog post, if you are going to be in the Rogue Valley on July 28th, sign up for a project.  Grab some friends and sign up together.  Take your whole family and volunteer together.  There’s a project for you, whether you’re concerned about accessibility or not—there’s a project for you and you can make a difference in your community.

After the day of service there will be a fantastic free concert and talk given by world renowned speaker, Nick Vujicic at the Lithia Motors Amphitheater in Central Point.  There’s a lot more I can say about Nick and his message, but I will save that for another post.  You can find out more about him if you just can’t wait by visiting

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