Keep Oregon Well is a public advocacy campaign designed to reduce stigma surrounding mental and behavioral health, build a trauma-informed community, and give people the opportunity to learn more about mental health and stand with those struggling with theirs.

This ongoing volunteer spotlight blog series features some of the many caring, talented, passionate people it takes to spread the word about Keep Oregon Well throughout Oregon!

Keep Oregon Well Volunteer Spotlight: Dennis Schloeman

Why does mental health matter to you?

Mental health matters to me because it is such an integral part of who we are. It is deeply personal which is why I believe that mental illness often has had such a stigma attached to it. Mental illness strikes at the very core of who were are. It affects our interaction with everything around us. Good mental health enables us to have positive relationships with family, friends, and others we come into contact with. It also allows us to deal with life situations in a healthy manner. If we are not mentally healthy, those interactions are much more difficult and frustrating to all involved.

What initially made you want to volunteer with Keep Oregon Well or Trillium?

I’m not sure that I would have considered volunteering at the Children’s Farm Home if not for a volunteer experience I had with our church high school youth group the previous summer. I had taken our youth group to Camp Attitude which is a camp that is dedicated to serving special needs children and their families. The week that I spent there with those children and their families really impacted me. I felt that this type of ministry was very important and that I somehow would like to become more involved with helping people who had challenging life experiences. When I returned home, I told my wife that I felt being involved in opportunities like this was something I/we should pursue. Of course at the time, I was primarily thinking about additional volunteering at Camp Attitude.
About 6 – 7 months later, my church told me that they had received a call from the Children’s Farm Home and that the Farm Home was trying to reach me. I returned the call and found out that there was a client who had requested that someone meet with him for Bible study and prayer and wondered if I would be interested. I wasn’t sure initially as I was already pretty busy serving as the volunteer high school youth director at our church but I agreed to meet with them and to see what this might involve. After meeting with the staff and client at the Children’s Farm Home and praying about it, I felt led to accept the opportunity of serving as a “Faith Volunteer”. After I had been involved for just a few weeks, the Farm Home found out that I could play guitar (and piano) so I began doing guitar lessons as well as meeting with clients who wanted to discuss spiritual issues. Over the last 8 years, the opportunities have increased from just meeting with a client for a couple weeks to being on campus for several evenings each week to meet with individual clients in all of the residential units.

Tell me about your favorite volunteer experience?

It would be hard to pick out a single volunteer experience and say that that particular experience was my favorite. I have been serving as a volunteer working with teen-agers for over 32 years both at my church and now at the Children’s Farm Home. I just really enjoy helping teens. That’s a tough time of life. It’s always rewarding to see someone discover their musical talents or to help someone deepen their relationship with God. I enjoy spending time one-on-one with youth, getting to know them, and helping them in whatever way I can either musically or spiritually.

Keep Oregon Well is centered around wellness and self-care. Tell us about some of the ways you take care of yourself.

There are several ways that I use to take care of myself. The first is my relationship with Christ. My faith gives me the strength to get through the tough times and to realize that I’m not in this by myself. My music has also played a big role in self-care. Music has been a part of my life since second grade when I started taking piano lessons. I’ve found it very relaxing to just sit down and play my guitar. Lastly, even though volunteering is supposed to be about helping someone else, it helps me keep perspective and balance. Volunteering is very rewarding to me personally and helps give purpose to my life.

Do you have a favorite quote you would be willing to share?

It’s hard to pick just one, but here are a couple of my favorite verses:
Micah 6:8: 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (English Standard Version)
Romans 12:1: 1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (English Standard Version)

Is there anything you would add?

I think the real heroes who need to be acknowledged at the Farm Home are the staff that work in the residential units with the clients. They have the very difficult (and often thankless) job of being with the clients day in and day out and having to deal with some very messy situations. I really appreciate all of the effort that they put into helping the clients. I feel honored and humbled to be allowed to help them out.

Denni, like many of our long term volunteers, started volunteering with us based on the request of a client. Trillium Family Services responds to requests from our clients of all faith backgrounds. We have really appreciated Denni’s flexibility in responding both to clients who want to learn to play a guitar or those who want to talk about matters of faith. Thank you Denni for your many years of service.