Julie Harrelson, CEO of the Harrelson Group, Fund Manager of Cascade Angels, has a beloved penchant for taking selfies with entrepreneurs, investors and people of Oregon who support building a strong Oregon through entrepreneurialism. This blog continues a series of selfies + blogs about the amazing people she’s met in the last couple of years. #julieselfie
Every community should have a Betsy Warriner or 100 Besty Warriners. I met Betsy when I first moved to Bend, and she was inclusive and introduced me to several members of the community. In addition to her volunteer and philanthropic activity, Betsy is an active investor in startups, and was the founder of her own, Volunteer Connect. She’s also helping organize the upcoming Volunteer Central Oregon Board Fair, which will feature 22 local community organizations in need of board members. Check it out, if you’re looking for a way to give back.
Betsy and I recently discussed her focus on authentic connections, her experiences abroad and the satisfaction she gets from being engaged in community.
You started Volunteer Connect and have invested in the Bend Venture Conference Social Impact track and Cascade Angels among many other community activities. What drives you to give back to the community?
Justice and empathy
Caring about other people is my biggest driver. Doing the right thing by others permeated the air when I was growing up. Plus, I read Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince and Other Tales, and no sensitive child could see the world the same after that. Later, being drawn into the civil rights, peace, and women’s movements strengthened my early sense of justice and right.
There is a hard-to-describe feeling of deep satisfaction in being involved in community – feeling connected and like I belong. I like being in the middle of what is happening, rather than looking in from the sidelines. And being involved with people who are doing good fills me with hope for our future, countering the forces of fear and despair around us.
Face it, I’ve got a strong controlling streak, and I like being in charge. But I also like working with people, so I get to practice this balance when I’m leading a project. My leadership in the past few years has been mainly through inviting and engaging others in the satisfaction of being involved in the community through volunteering. Not only is volunteering great for the person doing it, but our world needs involved people, now more than ever.
Being involved in giving has saved me from living a sheltered life immersed in my own dream world. Growing up, I handled family chaos by retreating into books and nature. Some people saw me as “spacey” – the word my family used was “vague.” In my teens, I consciously faced a choice point between retreating and being engaged in the world, and I chose engagement, inspired by a lot of people I admired. I still have to track where I am and who in the world just came up to greet me, but I get to give and be involved in spite of this challenge. I truly feel that this choice has saved me from a lonely and dissatisfied life. I often feel as if I’m swimming out beyond my depth, but I love the water!
If you had some words of wisdom for members of our community, what would they be?
If you are wondering what in the world you can do to make a difference in the face of our massive world problems, just do one thing and see how it works. Then, take a next step. You can choose action at any moment.In a conflict situation, pause to breathe, listen for what the issues are for the other side, and try to reach some agreement on how to move forward.
Can you share one interesting project you are involved in now and some of the results?
In addition to being involved with Volunteer Central Oregon, the new Volunteer Connect, I have embarked on another venture. A diverse group of us have begun a community engagement project we call Community Conversations. Every quarter, we will invite community members of all backgrounds to join together over supper to talk about community, listen to each other’s stories, and build relationships across our divisions. So far, we have had one pilot gathering, and the participants said that they were inspired by hearing each other’s diverse experiences and concerns. Our core values are Curiosity, Compassion, and Connection – and we experience all of these. Our website is communityconversationsbend.org
Most interesting place you have lived and why?
I lived in Ethiopia for two years with my husband and two very young daughters in the late ‘60s. We were fascinated to live in a country so different from our own, and yet found it easy to build close relationships with profoundly kind and interesting people. A high point was camping in the mountains, surrounded by Gelada Baboons, in a nature reserve only accessible on horseback. During our second year, the revolution was getting started, and my daughters remember soldiers chasing a group of demonstrating college students through their schoolyard. We learned enough of an extremely complex language to be able to shop for food (the best chicken I’ve ever tasted) and be somewhat polite, but my daughters remember understanding the language before they could speak English.
Favorite book of 2017 and why?
Just Listen, by Mark Goulston. Since reading this book, I find myself listening better and enjoying it more, and therefore learning more from a whole lot of different people. Plus, Goulston presents a whole lot of strategies for dealing with difficult situations.
You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].