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.
Dotti Cowart’s children were grown and her many years of volunteering with their schools were coming to an end. After attending a lunch with friends where a video about LifeWorks NW was shown, she’d found her new volunteer commitment.
Dotti served from 2003-2012 on LifeWorks NW’s board of directors. She served as vice president of the board, and later took over for the president when he moved out of the area. (She was the agency’s first female board president.) After completing her terms on the board, she became a volunteer on LifeWorks NW’s Development committee. When the agency took on the Children’s Relief Nursery in St. Johns, she added the Portland’s Original Iron Chef planning committee to her volunteer efforts.
One of the first things Dotti did when she began volunteering was to visit all the LifeWorks NW sites, something she strongly urges all board members to do after COVID opens things up. Seeing how different the sites are, and the variety of client ages, needs and conditions, helped her in supporting the agency. It especially helped her understand what new programs, sites and support the agency needed.
Of the many projects Dotti worked on during her almost two decades of volunteering at LifeWorks NW, she is most proud of her work on Project Network.
“I was on the board when we took on Project Network, and I remember touring the original building over near Emanuel hospital,” says Dotti. “It was an old building and all of the walls were painted lavender. One of my fondest memories was helping to unpack and set up the apartments in the new building. I remember being there, unpacking boxes of dishes for each apartment and making P’Net look spiffy for the women and families who were moving in; that was really fun.”
She has especially enjoyed the work with the Children’s Relief Nurseries over the years.
“LifeWorks NW taking over the Children’s Relief Nursery was huge and extended the work with children,” she says. “The relief nursery had always done a full blown Iron Chef event, and we took it over and modified it.”
Of Dotti’s many efforts on LifeWorks NW’s behalf, she seems most touched by the times she’s been able to directly interact with clients.
“When I was on the board there also was a consumer member on it who had served for many years,” says Dotti. “He and I went over to the Horizon and Hazelwood adult foster care homes every year and took Christmas boxes with snacks and treats. I was in the background, because the person the residents wanted to talk to was him. To meet a board member who was managing their own mental health issues was really inspiring for them.”
“I think the most impressive change over the years has been just watching the organization grow,” she says. “LifeWorks NW has been around since 1961, and it’s always filled a need. It’s grown into such a wonderful large organization. When I started as a board member, we only had about 300 or 400 staff members; since then it’s doubled and we now have 20 some sites across the tri-counties. Just to see this growth and watch Mary’s leadership and resiliency has been a joy.
“The Something to Talk About event describes it perfectly; we’ve finally reached a point where people are willing to talk about mental health openly, and you see many celebrities now sharing their own experiences. Mental health is truly something that needs to be talked about, and now, especially after COVID, LifeWorks NW’s services are so needed in our community. I think our role will be even bigger in the future.”
Many thanks to Dotti Cowart for your many years of service to LifeWorks NW. Volunteers are at the heart of our services.