As part of LifeWorks NW’s 60th Anniversary Celebration, we are highlighting just a few of the many valued leaders who have shaped our organization and our community.
LaNae Bowles joined LifeWorks NW in December 2001 as an office manager, and stayed for 10 years.
“LifeWorks is part of my family,”says LaNae. “Twenty years prior to when I was employed there, my husband used to work there with Ken Ihli.”
It was her first experience as a supervisor, and according to LaNae it shaped her career. She is currently a principle executive manager for DHS, and during the pandemic has been part of the COVID Response & Recovery effort as an operations policy analyst. She’s worked with DHS’s Self-Sufficiency and Child Welfare departments.
“Before coming to LifeWorks NW, I was at Magellan and scheduled all the mental health intakes for metro Portland. That’s how I met Katy and Joe Hromco.
“Magellan’s was going to close, so all the community partners they worked with would come and see us at lunch time and recruit us. So we had a choice of where we wanted to be. I ended up going to OHSU and stayed 6 months.”
LaNae shared that her job at Magellan had offer a lot of freedom, and her new position at the hospital was more restricted.
“It drove me crazy,” says LaNae. “Then Joe Hromco came in for a meeting and I saw him in the lunch room. I told him I wanted a job [at LifeWorks NW]. He said, ‘we have an office manager position, I’m going to tell Katy to call you.’ Sure enough Katy called me, and that’s how I got the job.”
During her many years at LifeWorks NW (called Tualatin Valley Centers when she first joined) LaNae was the office manager for a number of sites, including Tigard, Rockwood, Cedar Mill and others–eventually managing all the sites in Multnomah for reception and support staff.
“Katy Beveridge was my manager at the time,” says LaNae. “Just the empowerment I got from her has shaped me to be the manager I am today. Now that I manage other people, I use a lot of the things I learned from her. So that has really helped me in my career. I have hired so many people in my time at LifeWorks; a lot of people I’m still close to today. It’s not what I started out to do, but people looked to me to be a leader so I really honed in on my leadership skills while being at LifeWorks, and it’s carried me this far.”
She helped open the Milwaukie and then Gresham sites. “I opened the Gresham site when it was the old building out on 7th Avenue,” LaNae says. “That was about the time we went electronic with medical records and we also introduced a pharmacy. That building was always funny because nobody wanted to go to the basement.”
According to LaNae, the building had been an old hospital and the basement had previously been a morgue. “They thought it might be haunted.”
Another building she mentioned from our past was the former Rockwood site. “It had been two offices knocked together—one side Child & Family and one side Mental Health,” says LaNae. “That’s LifeWorks [NW]; super resourceful, always configuring space.”
Asked what the biggest change in her time at LifeWorks NW was LaNae said there were many.
“Creating electronic health records was a beast, having to organize and pull people together to make it happen on Saturdays and Sundays. We used to hire our kids if they were 16 or older, and we would have them come and do the filing or scanning to create the electronic records. That was a huge project. We also had archives in the warehouse in Hillsboro.”
According to LaNae, preparing the archives was a big job, but also at all the branches also had to pull their own files and deal with them in their down time.
“I also remember when it was Tualatin Valley Centers, and going through the name change,” says LaNae. “Yikes. The naming convention was just grueling, going through it for months and months about what it was going to be called and coming up with the logo. Even naming support staff; trying to give them a name that was respectful. We were including different parties in the conversation; you know sometimes when you do that everyone has different ideas and [it’s hard] just being able to come up with a consensus about what that was going to be.”
Talking to LaNae is a step into our past, and a very happy one.
“We had some crazy times at LifeWorks,” she says. “LifeWorks will be forever be ingrained in my brain. I was in my 30s, but at the same time I was embarking on a real career. There were good times, there were bad times. We cried, we laughed, we made long-term friendships, I could go on forever; it was just great.”
And LaNae says you never really leave LifeWorks NW behind.
“I used to work on projects [for LifeWorks NW] even after I left there and went to state service,” she says. “It’s just part of my life, it’s a part of my family, it’s an extension of me. I guess once a LifeWorker always a LifeWorker.”