Sunday, July 15, 2018

Q & A with Amy Varga, Oregon Non-Profit Consultant Extraordinaire

I met Amy Varga a few years ago when I was enrolled in the second cohort of the Willamette Valley Development Officer's fundraising cohort. Always cool, calm and collected, I felt it worthy to share a brief question & answer series so we can all learn a little more about her, her business, and her love of the non-profit sector.

Why did you start your consulting business?

I started my consulting practice for a number of reasons. In 2008 while I was working full time, I created a set of community workshops and classes in fundraising and board development at Portland Community College. Through teaching, I discovered the mission I cared most about was building the capacity of leaders, boards and organizations versus advancing the mission of one particular organization.  In addition to that, on a personal level, I saw starting my own business as a way to craft a career that I had control over, that allowed me to be creative, and provided me the sort of flexibility I wanted.

When did you start your consulting business?

I incorporated in 2015 but I’ve been consulting, training and coaching leaders and boards since 2008.  First, I took on side projects while I was working full-time. I took the leap into full self employment in 2013 and in 2015 finally got my ducks in a row to make it official with the state.

My business is actually in the middle of a re-branding and growth stage right now.  Varga Consulting is becoming The Varga Group to better reflect the fact that the business is more than just me.  I have a small and mighty team of associates and contractors who work on different client projects as needed. The new branding and website (with loads of new content and free resources) will be launching in August.

How did you feel starting a new business while also teaching in the 2nd W.V.D.O. fundraising cohort?

I’ve actually been involved from the ground floor of creating the W.V.D.O. certificate program. Portland State University hired me to work with W.V.D.O. to create the learning objectives, curriculum outline, marketing strategy, and instructor oversight on their behalf -- in addition to developing and teaching my own sections. 

I (was) involved before the first cohort launched, doing these elements and have taught in it from the very beginning.

The first certificate program launched in September 2013, seven weeks after I had my second child. It was a truly wild and exhausting experience putting the final touches on the program, having a day job, getting ready to teach my classes and having a newborn and a 2-year-old. 

I can still vividly remember day 1 of the very first certificate program: I left my tiny 7-week-old newborn baby and 2-year-old with my husband, pumped so I could be gone for a few hours without breastfeeding, somehow squeezed into my professional clothes and taught this new class for the very first time. It was surreal and looking back, I don’t know how I pulled it off but I’m glad I did.

 Are you still or have you been an instructor each year for the fundraising cohort?

I do still teach a few class sessions in the W.V.D.O. certificate program each year, but I have stopped the rest of the teaching I [was] doing. I had been teaching in the Portland Community College program as well as teaching master's-level graduate classes in Portland State’s Master's of Public Administration program and [the] University of Portland’s M.B.A. program in addition to teaching in the W.V.D.O. certificate program. 

As much as I truly love teaching, I’ve had to make hard choices and trade-offs about how I spend my time in order to manage a busy client load, a growing business and a busy home life.

What are the most promising or profound changes you’ve witnessed in your clients after helping them with fundraising support?

I love seeing board members really connect with why they care about the mission, learn how to share that passion with others, and become energized and engaged ambassadors.  I love helping board members and staff think about fundraising differently -- helping them see it as connecting and listening to donors and not “pitching.” I also love being involved with capital campaigns -- there’s nothing like supporting an organization in bringing their vision to life. 

On your website, on the “Resources strategy services page” you list your services. Do you have one service you love to teach clients about more than any other? Or do you enjoy providing all services equally?

Every project and client is different, and I enjoy all of them in different ways. What I love most is getting to know and support the amazing staff and board members that make our communities stronger.  

You're Oregon-based, but do you have any plans to expand your services outside of the Portland region?

While most of my clients are in the Portland metro area, I have had (and currently have) clients throughout the state as well as in Washington, California, and Colorado.  We are available to support organizations and coach leaders nationwide.

How do you balance family life with running a business?

It’s hard! I’m part of dual-working-parent household and both my husband and I work in demanding and rewarding jobs. I’m a big believer in what Sheryl Sandberg said once that “the most important career decision is who you marry.”  I’m able to balance it all because my husband is a full partner in parenting and in tending to our household needs.  He’s made sacrifices at work to forego advancement opportunities so that he can be available to be a fully engaged parent and partner. I also have my parents nearby and their help is also a big game changer.

I’ve also gotten extremely ruthless about how I spend my time, and have had to learn how to say “no” to many, many things I’d love to do but just can’t right now. That’s been a hard lesson that I have to re-learn all the time.

On a very practical level, I get up at 5 [a.m.] and work in the quiet, uber productive early mornings until 6:45 a.m. when I turn into Mom and get my kids ready for their day.  Putting in that dedicated early morning time has been my productivity hack. [This has allowed me] to be able to go to the gym after I get my kids to school a few days a week and stop working in the afternoons to drive them to their after school activities and still fit it all in.

If you have any advice for non-profit employees who sometimes feel burned out (they love the mission, but are understaffed, for example), what would you tell them?

The foundation of being able to make a difference in the world is to first take care of yourself.  Just like they say on airplanes, you have to put your oxygen mask on first.  You’re of no use to anyone if you burn out and are perpetually exhausted.  I want people to stay in this work for the long haul and that requires a marathon pace, not a sprint pace.

Creating and committing to reflective practices is so central to doing this well -- whether that is regularly engaging in meditation or prayer, journaling, taking walks, reading, creating art, or [finding] other ways to connect with yourself and make space to take a broader perspective.

The work we do in nonprofits isn’t just about changing other people’s lives, it’s also an invitation for us to grow and change ourselves. The challenges we face each day are invitations for us to grow our resilience, our patience, and our capacity for reflection. Through the daily challenges, we have so many opportunities to practice how we want to show up and decide what kind of person we want to be. 

Why do you do what you do? 

What I most want more of in the world is more empathy. I believe empathy is the heart of fundraising. Learning how to be a great fundraiser and leader means learning to be more empathetic. I hope that the work I do, and how I do it, inspires those I work with to deepen their empathy for themselves and others.  

Friday, June 29, 2018

Capital Gazette journalists Gunned Down in Maryland - sharing CNN article

My heart goes out to the journalists who were horrifically gunned down at the Capital Gazette yesterday in Maryland.

And for once President Trump said something right when briefly offering condolences.

"Journalists should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job."


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Alameda County Non-Profit Drivers for Survivors to hold Annual Gala on Saturday, April 7 2018

-By Emily Anderson

FREMONT, CALIF.  - Drivers for Survivors, a 501 c (3) non-profit located in Fremont, Calif., is holding its Fourth Annual Black and White Ball next month on Saturday, April 7th at Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, Calif. Like a toddler graduating from its first infant steps into childhood, Drivers for Survivors has pleasantly and professionally grown into a wonderful five-year-old non-profit which provides much needed support to cancer patients who need rides to their medical appointments who may not otherwise have a ride.

The phrase volunteer companionship is often used on the Drivers for Survivors website and in its communications with donors and the community. What Executive Director Sherry Higgs dubs as “volunteer companionship” is very important to the mission. Volunteers who drive cancer patients to their medical appointments do indeed offer social companionship.

If you’re philanthropic minded, you can drive yourself to the Castlewood CountryClub in Pleasanton, Calif. It’s about 14 miles away from the Drivers for Survivors office. The gala will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. and any one is invited to attend. Tickets are available for purchase at this link: Tickets are $100 per person or $800 per table.

According to the Drivers for Survivors press release:

“Newark Saxophone Quartet will provide the evening’s cocktail hour music, and performance from      Julie Bannerton will mark the evening of our 5-year service milestone. Drivers For Survivors will be honoring Toni E. Fogarty, Ph.D., MPH as a major contributor towards the organization’s success.

Come join us for a festive evening of cocktails, dinner, and dancing. Your presence and support will send a powerful message towards our mission. Sponsors: Premier Nissan and Premier Subaru of Fremont, Renshaw Foundation, Davita, Inc., Kaiser Permanente, Whole Foods Market, The Bernardin Family McDonald’s of Fremont, Dale Hardware, Dutra Enterprises, Fremont Elks Lodge #2121, Mean Well USA, Inc., Republic Services, S5 Advisory, Sisters of the Holy Family, and Horizon Financial Associates.”

Ms. Toni Fogarty is a professor and works at Calif. State University, East Bay in the department of affairs and public administration. She is the graduate coordinator for the Master of Science Health Care Administration program offered at C.S.U. East Bay. Intrigued why she will be the honoree of the evening on April 7, she gives some insight:

"I've been working with Sherry and Drivers for Survivors from almost the start (of its founding) when a MS-HCA alumnus introduced me to Sherry. Sherry and I have worked closely since then to provide MS-HCA students with internship opportunities at D.F.S, which has been a 'win' / 'win' situation for D.F.S., the MS-HCA program and the community.

"Having competent interns greatly contributed to Driver's For Survivor's Growth and its ability to better serve the community. The students placed at D.F.S. had substantial learning opportunities in a variety of different operational areas and all of them reported that the experience at DFS was beneficial to their professional development. Of course, the overwhelming majority of Drivers for Survivors' success can be attributed directly to Sherry's work and the work of the volunteer drivers. 

"The M.S.-H.CA. (program staff, students and I) are just glad that we could contribute to a part of that success. DFS is a valuable community resource, and I hope that we can continue our internship partnership.”

For those of you living in the Alameda County area, get ready. Mark your calendars. And drive out to dine in at the Castlewood Country Club while supporting a great cause.

Monday, February 19, 2018

"Alianza de Campesinas" Board Member Monica Ramirez Talks Golden Globes, Farm Worker Women's Rights and Time's Up Movement

-By Emily Anderson

In a time in our country when people of all races, ethnicities and genders are finally getting some equality recognition in the United States (with gay marriage being legalized and women speaking out against sexual harassment), there are still a lot of issues that aren’t quite right. Often, society chooses to single people out who aren’t straight, white, or male.

The Time’s Up movement – a recent movement created by Hollywood women – is gaining a foothold across the country as it empowers other women across all organizations, industries and social class to take a stand and help trump sexual attackers and harassers in the work place.

Monica Ramirez was one of the guests who attended the Golden Globes award ceremony in Hollywood with actress Laura Dern in January. Intrigued by who this woman is, I wondered why she attended and how she is a part of the Time’s Up movement.

Photo courtesy of Monica's LinkedIn
Ramirez is involved in a bunch of political causes, and she is the deputy director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (L.C.L.A.A.) and a board president of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Calif. Founded in 2011, this non-profit consists of membership-based organizations across the United States which collectively help farm worker women and women from farm worker families gain access to resources to help fight against sexual harassment and unequal pay.

According to its website, Alianza de Campesinas is committed to securing social, environmental, and economic justice; violence prevention; equality, and healthier work places, homes and communities for farm worker women and their families. Alianza de Campesinas members are particularly concerned with ending work place exploitation against farm worker women and all farm workers, including sexual harassment."

The Alianza de Campesinas had a letter published in Time Magazine on Nov. 10, 2017 about its opinions on the Time’s Up movement. Click here to read it (

A profound paragraph states: “We do not work under bright stage lights or on the big screen. We work in the shadows of society in isolated fields and packinghouses that are out of sight and out of mind for most people in this country. Your job feeds souls, fills hearts and spreads joy. Our job nourishes the nation with the fruits, vegetables and other crops that we plant, pick and pack.”

The juxtaposition of prominent Hollywood women who started Time’s UP, working alongside equally important, less financially well-to-do women, is powerful. It goes to show that inappropriate men can act as such and can especially curb poorer women to speak the truth to protect themselves physically, financially and emotionally from future abuse.
"These are issues that have always existed, but in some ways seem to have been exacerbated both because the gaps between men and women are so large, but also because women are not willing to wait any longer for these issues to be resolved. We are taking matters into our own hands, for ourselves, for our families, our country and our world."

It’s no wonder that the Hollywood women who started Time’s UP are connecting with other organizations which also have a no-holds-barred approach to giving themselves a voice. According to a recent Time article in January about Time’s UP, “Time’s Up formed a legal defense fund that currently totals $13 million in donations to help women from across the world of work to report sexual harassment or assault. The group encourages anyone to donate to the legal defense fund…”

As of today, the fund totals more than $21 million. If you'd like to donate, please click here:

One of the ways Alianza de Campesinas helps farm worker women is to direct them to legal help. According to their website, legal examples are:
  • As victim advocates in civil and criminal investigations and proceedings
  • Advocacy with local, state and federal agencies on behalf of farm worker survivors of  violence to improve the level of care and responsiveness to farm worker victims and survivors' unique needs
  • Providing information and testimony to government agencies and other groups to improve laws and systems that serve farm workers
  • Educate and inform social service organizations, legal organizations, crisis centers and coalitions about special considerations for serving the farm worker population, among others
After women connect with Alianza de Campesina, what happens?

"Since Alianza is a national membership organization, we determine where the individual is located and we connect them with our member organizations for help," Ramirez said. "If there is no member organization in the area where the individual lives, we could provide the individual with information and resources (from) other organizations that can provide assistance for a range of care and assistance, depending on their needs.

"We also share general educational information with the individual to help orient her ... and what to expect when or if they decide to contact an agency. This is because some people may not know what to expect and (by) helping provide some basic information to (her), the individual feels more comfortable."

Ramirez understood from a young age that women weren't always treated well. She says as a child she knew some women who survived domestic violence. As she grew up, she realized that the same opportunities were not always equal for men and women.

She feels that there are many women's rights issues.

"At the heart of it, we must address all forms of gender equity for the benefit and best interests of our world. Women must hold equal power in politics, must be paid the same and offered the same opportunities at work and at school, and to live free of violence at work, at home and in our communities. 

"These are issues that have always existed, but in some ways seem to have been exacerbated both because the gaps between men and women are so large, but also because women are not willing to wait any longer for these issues to be resolved. We are taking matters into our own hands, for ourselves, for our families, our country and our world."

Ramirez took matters further when she attended the Golden Globes with actress Laura Dern as she was literally part of the movement. She and Dern bonded well and it was exciting for her to be with other Hollywood women are working toward ending violence against women.

"It was a really special time, which was made even better by the warm reception that we received by the other actors, individuals in the entertainment industry and the media who were there that night."

Other than being in the spotlight with Laura Dern, Ramirez has worked hard on several projects during her career. One example is when she co-authored Injustice on Our Plates when working at the Southern Poverty Law Center (located in Montgomery, Ala.), a report published in 2010 based on 150 interviews with immigrant women from Mexico and other Latin American countries. 

Most of the statistics on the Alianza de Campesinas website come mostly from the U.S. Department of Labor, and although Ramirez appreciates that the Department of Labor is one of the few agencies that conducts national studies on farm workers, she notes that the data isn't entirely broken down by gender statistics.

Ramirez' cofounder of Alianza de Campesinas is Mily Trevino-Sauceda. Ms. Trevino-Sauceda assisted with one of the first surveys in the 1980s about sexual harassment against farm worker women in California. So while most of the data is from the Department of Labor, much of its other statistics comes from her and Ms. Trevino-Sauceda's extensive knowledge they've gained over the years conducting other research on immigrant farm working women.

And while she wasn't able to attend the women's march on January 20th, she was busy attending to other equal important meetings. Other Alianza member organizations did attend marches all throughout the U.S. that day.

As for one last food for thought?

Ramirez wants to make sure that people understand that although she works to advocate for farm worker women, she knows that women across the board regardless of their background, are all connected.

"In order to end workplace sexual violence, we must also address other types of inequities that are symptoms and contributors to this problem."

Saturday, February 10, 2018

It's All About That Bass - Maryn Boess - Grant Writing Trainer Extraordinaire - That Is!

--By Emily Anderson

Just as Meghan Trainor sings that it's all about that bass, it's all about a certain Ms. Maryn Boess who is all about grant proposal training. 

Maryn Boess (pronounced base) is a grant writing guru who loves all things grants-related. She's a long-time grant writing professional who has written grants as well as reviewed grant proposals others have submitted. Her familiarity with both sides of the grant-seeking and grant-reviewing world has helped to shape her current business format - she provides wonderful grants-training courses online. She's based in the Pacific Northwest but enjoys teaching people all over the world.

Here's a close-up Q&A with Maryn Boess.

Photo courtesy of the GrantsMagic Facebook page
How long have you been in business with Grants Magic U? 

I’ve been a grant professional since I wrote my first grant proposal in 1984 … yikes! Pre-Internet, pre-computer … In 1989 I broke off and started working on my own as an independent grant project planner and consultant. Over time I noticed that I was having a different level of success than many of my peers and colleagues, especially with federal funding. I put together a simple little 2-hour workshop for the local United Way called “Are You Afraid of Federal Funding?” – it was beyond standing room only. 

At some point I realized that I had an ability to synthesize complex information and make it accessible. After a [clash] with one of my biggest clients, I decided to stop the grant writing and go full time on developing and delivering grants trainings. I don’t exactly remember what year that was … maybe 2003? That business grew and grew and grew and I was traveling all over the country giving live workshops. GrantsMagic U was born in April 2015 when I realized that though I loved developing and delivering the training, I did not so much love all the traveling and I could really reach more people if I could transfer the portfolio of courses to an online, virtual platform. The path forward was pretty rocky but we opened our first signature course in October of 2015 with three nonprofit associations as partners – a big win! 

What do you enjoy most about teaching grant proposal writing?

I have always lived for the “aha!” moment – that moment when I can see a new concept drop in and someone suddenly “gets” something in a really big way – (something) that transforms them, transforms their belief system, and transforms the way they relate to themselves and their reality. I’ve taught in other, non-professional arenas and I’m always going for that big “aha!” (moment). Even (with) making a video all by myself in my office I have no trouble tapping into that energy and excitement and passion in myself and I am 100 percent committed to making sure that it comes through, full on, in everything I share. 

So I love two things about this work. First, I LOVE it when someone shares with me their excitement at having gotten a grant thanks to the tools they’ve learned with me. Even more, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it when I get an e-mail from someone expressing gratitude for my passion and my energy and encouragement: “You give me great confidence that I can do this” or “I’m so inspired and excited” are two of my very favorite phrases.

What brought you to the Pacific Northwest from Arizona?

Sometimes life decides it’s time to shake things up. That was me, in 2010. After living most of my life and raising my family in Phoenix, the earth kind of shook under my feet and all the things that had kept me feeling pretty much obligated to stay in Arizona all fell away, in powerfully positive ways. (Example: A large part of my business was specifically tied to providing grant-maker information services specific to Arizona nonprofits. Out of the blue, I was given the opportunity to transfer that service over into the care and keeping of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, which still views the Arizona Guide to Grants Online as a key element of their member service portfolio.) 

I’d first visited Portland as a board member of the Grant Professionals Association, in 2009, and knew (even though it was November) that I’d move there in an instant if I could. Green things! Water! Hurray! So when life set me free, so to speak, I made the move in early 2011. What made it easier was my daughter and her family (including my grandson) also moved with me. Within the next few years my second daughter and one of my two sons have also moved here.

What do you want people who are seeking a career in grant writing to know? Is it a hard career to get into? Do people with certain skill sets have a better chance of being a grant writer than people who don't possess certain skills?

In the grant writing world, it’s hard to balance optimism and realism. It’s tough! And there are so many misunderstandings and misconceptions about the landscape, the ecosystem, and “how it all works.” If there’s anything at all I would want everyone in the grant writing world to know, it would be to have a better understanding of the world of the grant maker. It’s a world I’ve come to know and inhabit myself. I was very much an insider in the grant making community in Phoenix, and in 2006 I became a program officer / manager of a quasi-governmental grant making program (which I still run), managing up to $2 million a year in grant making. Now my sweet spot, I guess you could say, is to really play off my dual citizenship in the grants world, pull back the curtain, open up that Black Box, and try to give the grant-seeking folks an experience of what it’s like for the grant making folks. I think having what I call the “3-D Perspective” – as opposed to a kind of tactical tunnel vision – is hugely important. And being able to zoom in (to the fine detail) and zoom out (to the very big picture) quickly and without becoming seasick is crucial too.

Being able to write well is important. That means being able to organize information clearly and compellingly. Attention to detail is important, yes indeed. But more than this, I do believe, the ability to stay clear of single-organization / single-focus tunnel vision and step fully into the possibilities as a catalyst for positive change in the community … that’s what I really like to see.

What do you enjoy about non-profit work in general?

My first 10 years in grown-up jobs were pretty much all about writing for corporate clients: business press releases, business publications features, ad copy, etc. I used to call it “selling soap.” It was gratifying to put my skills and creativity to work, but soap was not my passion. I didn’t encounter non-profit work 'till my early 30s and there was no looking back. People of passion work in all kinds of areas. And these days there’s more and more crossover between for-profit and not-for-profit organizations in terms of our roles as change agents in the world. But working with and for not-for-profits just keeps me closer to the heart of that change-agent energy. Many nonprofit folks are entrepreneurial in their approach to their work and I’ve always had a strong (in-born) entrepreneurial streak so I value that as well. And gosh, the not-for-profit sector is so under-resourced! I guess I just decided to dig in and go deep in an arena where I could really make a difference.

Your online courses are amazing, especially for the prices. What do you want potential students / customers to know about your grant courses if they are deciding between your courses and other online grants courses? What makes yours unique?

The comment I hear most often about my online courses is “Gosh, I thought it would be just another dull and dry presentation. But you were so enthusiastic! Your passion was contagious. The time just flew by.” I love that! 

I make a commitment every single time to bring that aliveness and energy and excitement and inspiration and confidence to the training I do. No one will be bored on my watch! The other aspect that sets these courses apart is that dual-citizenship thing – the fact that I can speak with authority about what life looks like “on the other side,” from the grant maker /program officer’s perspective. This is jaw-dropping for almost everyone … it’s so hard to really get outside our own “black box” of beliefs and perspectives … there’s that “aha!” thing again. You just don’t get that 360-degree, 3-D view in other grants trainings!

When students complete your courses, you send a congratulations e-message as well as a profound quote. Do you attach a profound quote to all e-mails when students complete any course of yours? What made you want to do this?

It’s all part and parcel with my commitment to show up and encourage and inspire. Profound quotes ground me and keep me moving forward, and if I can share something that does that for someone else, I will. I use a quotation from Peace Pilgrim at the bottom of every email. I’ve used the same quote for years and years. Every once in a while I try to mix things up and use a different one … but this one just keeps coming back: “Live in the present. Do the things that need to be done. Do all the good you can each day. The future will unfold." – Peace Pilgrim. The simplicity and directness are what appeals to me. 

[I also use quotes] from Howard Thurman, [and it] is just so deep and rich and just feeds my soul and makes me feel brave enough to do really tough things. And don’t we all need more of that in our lives?

Please tell me anything else you'd like to share!

There are big plans for GrantsMagic U in 2018! The foundations (of the business) are solid now and we’re ready to grow and evolve in a big way. We now have more than 4,500 community members from (at last count) 48 states, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, and at least 11 foreign countries. How amazing is that! I’m both humbled and thrilled … and can’t wait to get busy on those big plans.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Re-posting March 2017 article from The Oregonian

In this world full of uncertainty, political upheaval and violence, it's so refreshing to read about wonderful, ordinary citizens who help each other...

This story, in particular, stood out to me:

Monday, December 4, 2017

Mountain Mel's Serves Up a Melodious Blend of Marvelous Loose Leaf Organic Herbal Tea

--By Emily Anderson

Mountain Mel's is a tea company that makes wonderful loose-leaf tea as well as a few other items like body balms and salve, bug repellent and lip balms. The tea names are wonderfully witty and the one tea I sampled tasted tea-rrific. It's called UnFrazzle Your Dazzle. 

Melissa Mutterspaugh is the owner who happily and fortuitously stumbled upon her herb-inspired creations which inadvertently led to her starting a business. She is an avid nature lover and believer in natural healing methods and before becoming an herbalist, she was a wilderness guide.

Guiding her decision was the fact that people would pay her to teach them stuff about plants while exploring nature. She thought she'd make her own herbal remedies and she sold them to people, made her own labels, and although she always told people to check with their doctors for medical advice, she knew she was on to something good.

Over the course of a few years, she studied herbalism at two schools - Elderberry School of Botanical Medicine and the School of Traditional Western Herbalism - both of which are in Portland.

"The beauty of herbalism is that it is a never-ending spiritual journey," Mel said. "There is just so much to learn. Whether you’re a farmer or a formulator, there’s just always so much to learn about how much body and plants work together. "

Mutterspaugh opened up a shop over three years ago in Welches, Ore. She used to have an office space that also served as a retail shop, but this space now serves as the production facility where her products are made.

A chiropractic office across from her Welches shop carried her products when she first opened in early 2014. She has taught two classes at the National University of Naturopathic Medicine (located in Portland). Her connections from conferences she attends annually at N.U.N.M have led to people selling her products to their clients. Mountain Mel's is now sold in a few acupuncture and naturopath shops throughout the Portland area as well as (soon-to-be sold) in the Vancouver Wellness Clinic. Vibrant Family Medicine and Midwifery in Gresham have sold Mountain Mel's for three years.  

This week, on December 7 from 6 to 9 p.m., she will be selling her tea-riffic business, in a manner of speaking, at Portland Athletic and Outdoor. She'll be participating in their "Athletic and Outdoor Annual Industry Celebration" which is teaming up with the Oregon Angel Fund. The O.A.F. is hosting a competition for attendees to vote for businesses who give a three-minute-long pitch about their business called In the Running. This event takes place at Terrazign at 939 S.E. Alder St. So if you'll be downtown Thursday evening, let her un-frazzle you while dazzling you with her infectious personality. If Mountain Mel's is chosen by the audience as a winner, she'll have a meeting in January with the Oregon Angel Fund for a shot to receive angel investment.

But if you don't have a chance to meet her, you can purchase her goodies through her website (hello holiday shopping!) and there is free shipping on orders over $50. She's also offering a 50 percent discount to people who purchase her products through then with the code INTHERUNNING. Mutterspaugh is also going to be insanely busy these next two weeks, selling her teas in person at various locations in the Portland metropolitan area but she's always excited to sell her products face-to-face.

The names of her teas are teasingly terrific and they come in beautiful, tall, skinny cans.  

What is more terrific is that Mutterspaugh hit the grocery jack-pot of sorts when she landed her products in New Seasons Markets, a natural grocery retail chain that is prominent in Oregon.  

When the buyer at New Season's Market first sampled her teas in 2015, she was pleasantly surprised by how naturally good it tasted while at the same time being good for the body.

Mel and her team are currently busy making plans to raise funds (starting with the In the Running event on Thursday) to help get her products in more stores. She and her team are gearing up for having their products sold in 495 stores across Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington throughout 2018. Her company also donates one percent of its annual sales to environmental non-profits vis-a-vis 1% for the Planet.

Mel is always sure to inform people to consult their doctors about whatever ailment they face and that her tea isn't considered formal medicine, but she is delighted that her business circle of naturopath practitioners and acupuncturists truly value her simply wonderful teas.

Photo by Emily Anderson - A close up view of the calming, delicious tea

What comes to mind for internal ailments is the Diges-Teas she sells. When asked what her favorite herb is, she had trouble narrowing it down but mentioned calendula and plantain. Her Diges-Teas contains these ingredients: peppermint, lemon balm, fennel, anise seed, plantain and chamomile.

"I absolutely love calendula" Mutterspaugh muttered to me when we chatted. "It’s amazing to help regenerate skin cells. I have an amazing painting of it in my shop. It’s anti-fungal and great for bee stings and bug bites. Plantain is a weed that grows everywhere. When in doubt, plantain is the way to go. Everyone tries to kill it. It draws out infection really well. It’s great to help with snake bites or spider bites. It draws splinters out of a carpenter’s hand easily. It’s so great for the gut and the skin."

If your curiosity is piqued like mine was, I dug a little deeper to find out more about calendula. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, "the flower petals of the calendula plant (calendula officinalis), or pot marigold, have been used for medicinal purposes since at least the 12th century. Calendula is native to Mediterranean countries... Traditionally, calendula has been used to treat stomach upset and ulcers, as well as relieve menstrual cramps, but there is no scientific evidence that calendula works for these problems. Today, calendula is often used topically, meaning it is applied to the skin.

"Fresh or dried calendula petals are available in tinctures, liquid extracts, infusions, ointments and creams. Calendula products should always be protected from light and moisture and should not be used after three years of storage."

Other than calendula and plantain, she likes another herb.

"As far as being a business owner and mother goes, my favorite herb to take for ingesting is ashwagandha root. It’s an adaptogenic herb. It allows your body to adopt stressors in life. It’s a gentle but effective herb. If you take it over a long period of time, you definitely know you’re able to handle more that life hands you."

She has a tincture of it on her nightstand she takes every night.

According to the Chopra Center, "Ashwagandha, one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing, has been used since ancient times for a wide variety of conditions, and is most well known for its restorative benefits. In Sanskrit Ashwagandha means "the smell of a horse," indicating that the herb imparts the vigor and strength of a stallion, and has traditionally been prescribed to help people strengthen their immune system after an illness."

The Chopra Center also says that using Ashwaganda can alleviate symptoms of stress, fatigue, lack of energy and difficulty concentrating.

Mutterspaugh has a tea called Where is My Mind? A Mental Tea for Clari-Tea and Focus and one of the ingredients is Ashwagandha. Her description is clever and intriguing: "Do you have trouble focusing? Can't remember what you were supposed to do next, or where your keys are? Where Is My Mind???"

We've all misplaced our keys, so maybe the key to relieving mental stress would be to buy a tin or two of her teas. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Second Annual Holiday Pancake Breakfast with Santa to be Held at Newark Community Center December 9th, to Benefit Drivers for Survivors

--Story by Emily "Miss Parmigiani" Anderson

For those of you living in the Alameda County area who like to support good causes and also love pancakes, then going to a breakfast on Saturday, Dec. 9 at Newark Community Center might be the perfect event to feed your soul.

The Newark Community Center is hosting the non-profit Drivers for Survivors on Dec. 9 from 8 a.m. to noon for the 2nd Annual Holiday Pancake Breakfast with Santa. Drivers for Survivors is a non-profit that pairs volunteer drivers with cancer patients who need rides to their medical appointments. This event is a fundraiser and an anniversary to celebrate its founding over five years ago.

According to Drivers for Survivors' press release, Castro Valley Performing Arts will be giving performances, there will be a silent auction and raffle, and, of course Santa will be in attendance! Food is being sponsored by the Newark IHOP and McDonald's. Newark police and the Alameda County fire department will be flipping the pancakes. And Calif. state Sen. Bob Wieckowski and some Newark city officials will be there as well.

The kids will be able to get their faces painted, and Jewelry by Design (a Newark, Calif. jeweler) should be have items available for auction.

Please click here to register:

The admission for adults is $10 and $5 for kids under age 12. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at the above link or at the door on Saturday.

For information on Drivers for Survivors, please read the article I published in July:

and please visit their website.

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Few Oregon Restaurants To Donate a Portion of Veteran's Day Sales to Returning Veterans Project

--By Emily Anderson

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day, and while Oregonians will be celebrating in many ways, there are a handful of Oregon restaurants that are participating in what is known as Chow Down for Vets, a community event created by a Portland, Ore.-based non-profit called Returning Veterans Project. If anyone eats at the participating restaurants tomorrow, each restaurant will donate a portion of their days' sales to Returning Veterans Project.

Pastini Pastaria, a popular Oregon Italian-themed restaurant chain, will be donating a portion of each sale to the Returing Veterans Project, according to their blog. Pastini Pastaria will "also be offering a free entree to every current service member and veteran on Veteran's Day along with a big 'thank you!' from all of us at Pastini." According to their website, in order to receive a free entree, any veteran or current service member will simply have to let his or her server know. Other participating eateries are On Deck Sports Bar & Grill (located in downtown Portland), 12 Bridge Ciderworks & Taproom in Oregon City, and The Pit Stop Sports Bar & BBQ Grill in Beaverton.

The mission of Returning Veterans Project is to provide free health services for veterans who have served in the military after Sept. 11, 2001 and their families who live in Oregon and Southwest Washington state. According to their website, "Returning Veterans Project fulfills its mission by recruiting, training and supporting a volunteer healthcare network of more than 335 licensed independent mental health and somatic practitioners, healthcare clinic providers and equine therapy projects. To become an R.V.P. provider, each practitioner must be licensed in good standing, complete our application / orientation process and agree to deliver only pro bono mental health and somatic services (massage, acupuncture, chiropractic and naturopathic care and more) to post-9/11 war zone veterans, service members and their families throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington."

Mike McCarrel is the director of operations at Returning Veterans Project. When asked about what he enjoys most about working here, he says that "R.V.P. [provides] the opportunity to connect the military community to the civilian community. Our whole model is based on asking volunteer professionals, the majority of which are not veterans, to volunteer a slot of their [health] practice to a post 9/11 veteran or a family member. This creates a space not only to provide needed services to veterans and their families, it also creates an avenue for people from very different backgrounds to connect and support each other in their local communities."

He's not sure yet if he can make it to Pastini Pastaria, but he will try. He also may grab a beer from On Deck Sports Bar & Grill, a new partner that joined forces with his organization last year. Jeff, of 12Bridge Ciderworks & Taproom, will donate 15 percent of all cider sales to the Returning Veterans Project. Jeff served as a Marine Corps reservist for six years.

"I have a special place in my heart for those who serve in combat" he said. "They need all the help we can provide."

Veteran's Day became a legal holiday declared by the U.S. government on May 13, 1938, but the idea behind honoring war heroes started on November 11, 1918. The World War 1 armistice (temporary halting of fighting) was on November 11, 1918 and lasted about seven months before the war officially ended. In November of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared Armistice Day as a day to celebrate and honor those who served in the war. Throughout time, Veteran's Day (when it became a legal holiday) became a way of the U.S. government and fellow Americans to recognize those who served in both world wars and then, as of June 1954, the government voted to change the phrase from Armistice Day to Veteran's Day as a way to honor those who served in the Korean war. Since then, Veteran's Day is a way to honor all of those who served in any U.S. war.

So come down, chow down and know that by simply eating a meal, you are helping a worthy non-profit provide free health care services to worthy veterans.