My name is TomiRene. Before I share my story, I must express heartfelt appreciation for my late friend, Mel T! Mel, thank you for planting the seed; that seed was the idea that I volunteer at the Hollywood Farmers Market (HFM).
When I first moved to the Hollywood district in 2009, I’d been homeless for 10 months and I knew I was living with some type of cancer. I’d spent the better part of a year begging doctors for help, but I was told, “You don’t have cancer. You are just an overweight, depressed woman who is homeless.” After hearing this time and again, never being taken seriously, I became a fragile empty shell of who I used to be. However, throughout this struggle, I found peace and joy in my 35+ year Buddhist practice. Thankfully, I found a doctor who heard me and cured my cancer in April 2016.
Mel was a longtime HFM volunteer. He volunteered with many organizations with a goal to connect people and organizations in ways that created win-win relationships, ones that continue to flourish to this day. I met Mel as a fellow resident of one of the buildings owned by Home Forward, previously known as the Housing Authority of Portland (HAP). We served together on a couple of committees working to help foster housing with supportive services for our city’s most vulnerable citizens.
My first experience with the HFM happened through my window. I spent the summer Saturdays of 2009 listening to the musicians playing a block away. Am I the only one remembering the steel drums? I loved the music, but I felt unworthy of actually going to market. Mel encouraged me to volunteer in 2012, and finally in May 2015 I signed up as a volunteer. A wheelchair-bound one at that.
Ari Rosner, the HFM market coordinator, and our “go to guy” welcomed and supported me in large and small ways. In a mere few weeks the market became my happy place where I felt valued without judgement. I soon started volunteering at our Tuesday market, the Lloyd Farmers Market (LFM). My love of the markets grew to the point that I wanted to further my efforts in helping make them successful, so I joined the board of directors, serving as the board secretary. Unfortunately, while it was a great experience, it was short-lived due to health issues. I left the board determined to reapply as soon as I was able.
Now here we are in September 2021, and not only am I still volunteering at both HFM & LFM, I’m back on the board serving as co-chair. One of the best aspects of volunteering and serving on the board is the community I’ve built. While I’m glad to see friendly faces on Zoom at our monthly meeting, I miss the “gab & nosh” that we would share over chocolate and other goodies. We’re all looking forward to putting COVID behind us.
Serving on the board has been fulfilling experience for me. I hope that my story will encourage you to consider volunteering at the market or joining our board. As a board member, or volunteer committee member, you’ll get to take an active role in overseeing the direction of the Hollywood and Lloyd Farmers Markets, both of which are held year-round. You’ll gain insight into how our local food system works and feel a sense of involvement in the community. We seek applicants from all backgrounds and with a diverse set of skills. In particular demand are folks who have experience with community outreach, agriculture, communications, accounting/financial planning, human resources and marketing. Our goal is to compose a well-rounded, effective Board. You can find out more about board, time commitments, and a link to the online application here: https://hollywoodfarmersmarket.org/about/board/
Next year we will be celebrating our 25th anniversary. We would love to have you on our board helping to usher in the next 25 years of our/my happy place. Please come plant yourself in our little community plot! Our #1 goal is creating, sharing, and having fun!
by TomiRene Hettman, HFM board member and volunteer