Joni, Adam, Therese, and Meredith sat down with Diane Frank to interview her about her experiences with L’Arche Portland. Read the interview below to learn more about Diane.
Diane: I have a Joni story. Shortly after I became involved with L’Arche-
Therese: When was that?
Diane: Oh, that would have been 1998. A year or two later- I was a professional painter by trade- I offered to paint the interior of the Nehalem house and also help with some initial remodeling. The painting went on for a couple of weeks because it’s a big house and I was painting by myself. It got [to the point] that every time I walked through the door, Joni would pinch her nose like this (Diane pinches her nose, then Joni looks at her and pinches her nose the same way) because I was painting so she associated me with the odor. But it was just the funniest thing it was like sign language.
Therese: How did you end up getting involved in the first place?
Diane: Well I had a friend who was involved with L’Arche and he took me to a softball game over at Neahkahnie house. That’s when Dean Boose was still in the community and Paul Lipscomb’s daughter was there. I was so impressed by how loving and kind and respectful everyone was. The ball game was great fun to watch because no one was hitting anything, but they were running around the bases and being encouraged and it was just really fun. I just thought we need to see more of this in the world. And that’s how I became involved. Then Matt and Mike invited me to join the board so I became a board member for a few years. When my schedule got really crazy because I bought a little apartment building in Tacoma, I couldn’t be on the board anymore because my schedule became unpredictable, I went off the board but stayed on the tree sale.
Therese: Was the tree sale going on before you got there?
Diane: It was, it started about seven or eight years earlier. Matt Weisensee and his family started it as a fundraiser but it needed help. It needed some organization and it just needed more energy. So, I joined matt and we had a little committee then and one by one people fell away from the committee so it became Matt and myself and it worked better that way because it was just easier. I found a location for the Hollywood lot so we had a second lot which made a huge difference of the income, but also made twice the work.
Therese: And you’ve been doing it ever since?
Meredith: That’s how a lot of us know you.
Diane: Yes, completely stressed out trying to figure this that or the other out. I think that’s how a lot of people do know me, from the tree sale.
Meredith: Are there parts of the tree sale that bring you joy?
Diane: I really like working with the growers. I mean, I like selling trees and I’ll always take a shift or two during the sale, but I just really like working with the growers and I like going out to the farms. It’s been a real pleasure because we have two new growers that we’re working with who are just wonderful people and grow great trees. They’re just so pleasant to work with and it’s been really nice to do that. Especially now that we have a tree shortage.
Therese: We do? Because of the fires?
Diane: No, because of economics. We did really well this year, but that’s because of forging relationships. We had a good relationship with Tom Norby and he turned us on to Valentin, then valentine shared us with a grower that he works for and brought us a couple hundred noble firs at the end of the sale that really made a difference on the financial end of it.
Therese: What makes you keep doing it every year? You don’t get tired of it?
Diane: that’s a good question. I have thought about it at times, but one thing is that I really like working with Matt. We’re simpatico in some kind of unusual way and our skillsets are very different. Sometimes we drive each other up the wall because of that but in the end we both have the same goal and its really meaningful. Plus, now we’re really making a significant amount of funds for L’Arche and that’s rewarding because it's making a big difference with how the community operates.
Meredith: It’s a substantial portion of our fundraising.
Therese: We love going down to get the tree. This was my first year so I didn’t know what to expect.
Meredith: For so many of our extended community members, that’s one of the ways they contribute, so I think it’s’ really mutually beneficial for both L’Arche Portland and the wider city to have that relationship.
Diane: I agree. We get so many repeat customers, its word of mouth, we just have dozens and dozens and dozens of repeat customers. We start to say “how did you hear about L’Arche?” And the answer I would say about 80 percent of the time is “we come here every year for a tree.” And that’s really gratifying, because we’ve built a community around that. And they don’t go anywhere else, they come here to buy our trees. Our trees aren’t the least expensive in town, they’re not, but they are great trees and they’re wonderful quality and they’re always super fresh.
Therese: For a good cause.
Diane: That’s it, they really like supporting the cause. Even if they don’t really know much about it. They just know it’s a good cause and that’s enough for them.
Therese: So, it’s you and matt, and has anyone else been doing it for that long with you guys?
Diane: Paul Della, in various roles. I think that’s it.
Meredith: I’d say we have a lot of faithful volunteers that come back.
Diane: We do, Peter Lax is one of them. Paul Lipscomb too. We do have a lot of volunteers that we turn over and over again. One of the problems we are facing is that a lot of our volunteers are aging out. But we’re bringing in lots of new people too.
Therese: Do you have any hopes for the tree sale? Once you’re done with it, is there a legacy you want to carry on?
Diane: Once I stop being co-chair of the tree sale, which I don’t see happening very quickly, I would hope that someone would step in to assume my role who would be with the sale for a long time because its complicated and there are a lot of moving parts. It’s kind of like the volunteer coordinator, there’s just a lot to it and you can’t teach it you just have to do it. Once you’ve done it, it all makes sense.
Therese: Once it’s tree lot season, how much of a time commitment is it for you?
Diane: Well, now it’s a little less because we have the tablets and last year, we had Hazel, Hazel made a huge difference. I would say 25-30 hours a week. It starts in September; Matt and I have our first tree sale meetings in September. We put together our plans.
Joni laughs loudly.
Therese: So, consistency, that’s the key. That’s the key in L’Arche too, in general I feel like that’s important.
Meredith: What is one lesson you feel you’ve learned from L’Arche over the years?
Diane: Oh, there’s not one. I would say patience, being mindful of always being respectful, to look at situations with a broader point of view. Not just being efficient and getting things done but being really broad and open instead of on task.
Therese: How do you balance that? Cause your whole role you have to be so efficient and on task.
Diane: But that’s also who I am and how I operate, therefore for me to step back and let people make mistakes and fail and not be perfect and not be one hundred percent all the time has been hard for me at times, I’ll be honest it’s been hard, but now I have become more and more adept at it. So that’s a pretty good life lesson. You can always learn no matter how old you get.
Joni: Booboo (cookies)
Therese: That’s a good question. What’s your favorite thing to bake? Do you like baking?
Diane: I do like baking. I like to bake cakes and I like to bake cookies. I used to do all the baking for the benefit concert, the first three years. I did all the baking and hors d’oeuvres for that. Then they brought in the caterer. Three days of baking. We had a lot of people!
Meredith: Adam do you remember being at the tree sale? You used to go down there a bunch after work.
Diane: Adam used to walk down to the tree sale in the Montavilla lot by himself. What was the name of his friend, was it Frank? This was a sweet moment with the tree sale. We used to call them super volunteers. Volunteers who would work a lot of shifts and come in on short notice when we need them. We had this one volunteer named frank and he was wonderful. He and Adam were best buddies. Whenever frank was working a shift, we always let Adam know and he always walked down and spent the entire time with frank. Frank was so good and so kind to Adam. Unfortunately, he developed cancer and passed away a few years after he began volunteering, which made all of us incredibly sad. He was just such a lovely man. We have a lot of stories about relationship in the tree sale. We feel that the tree sale is a friend raiser as much as a fundraiser and that’s the goal. Matt Weisensee taught me that. He’s right, you make all kinds of friends. We have a lot of great support from the community and that makes it successful as a result.
Meredith: If you could describe L’Arche in one sentence as a tagline what would you say, from your perspective?
Diane: Kindness. We need more of that don’t we?