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Volunteer to Help Guide AARP Advocacy, Outreach Efforts in Oregon

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Elaine Friesen-Strang noticed shortcomings in her father’s neighborhood when she began caring for him at his Portland home. The area didn’t have sidewalks, which prevented him from going for walks to get exercise and made it impossible to get around when using a wheelchair.

Friesen-Strang, 66, of Portland, also noted that there weren’t many options for people who didn’t have a car or feel comfortable using the city’s public transportation. She drove her father around but wondered how other people managed without help.

“After he died,” said Friesen-Strang, who lost her father in 2013, “I thought about how I wanted to get involved. I wanted to do something where I could make a difference, and I knew that was AARP.”

She started volunteering with AARP Oregon less than a year after her father’s death and hasn’t looked back.

She has served as its public face since being named volunteer state president in 2016 and has worked with the organization and other groups across the state to build healthy communities for people of all ages.

AARP Oregon is seeking more dedicated volunteers like Friesen-Strang to serve on its Executive Council and Diversity Advisory Committee, which help guide advocacy, outreach and service efforts around the state.

The diversity committee gives a voice and place for every Oregonian to get involved with AARP, regardless of age, gender identity, race, region, religion or sexuality.

Friesen-Strang is also looking for people to serve on Community Action teams that help plan and implement AARP events and initiatives in their local areas.

She’s focused on building these teams in the I-5 corridor—Eugene-Springfield, Medford, Portland and Salem—but would like to expand to other parts of the state.

Other programs, such as Driver Safety, Fraud Watch and Tax-Aide, are also always looking for more volunteers in every corner of Oregon.

“You can choose how much you want to be involved, and you can choose an issue or an activity that is important to you,” Friesen-Strang said.

Reaching more communities

As a member of the AARP Oregon Executive Council, Edward Brewington, 76, focuses on helping people save for retirement.

During the 2014-15 legislative session, he testified before lawmakers about the need for a state-facilitated retirement savings option. Since its 2017 launch, the OregonSaves program has helped more than 65,000 people save nearly $46 million toward retirement.

“If we have the means and the opportunity to help others, then we should do so,” said Brewington, a member of the Oregon Retirement Savings Board, which designed and supervises OregonSaves.

Friesen-Strang, Brewington and other Executive Council members use their leadership experience and connections to make sure OregonSaves and initiatives such as AARP’s Livable Communities program get the attention that they deserve.

Friesen-Strang said AARP Oregon is especially interested in volunteers who reflect the diversity of the state, from communities of color to gender and even geographically.

To learn about more AARP Oregon volunteer opportunities, go to bit.ly/engageoregon2020 or call 866-554-5360.

Mac McLean is a writer living in Bend, Oregon.

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