Residents and staff at Willamette View emphasize benefits of supporting local community causes

Cliff is at a Habitat for Humanity construction site with a hard hat on

Many of those who call Portland’s Willamette View senior living community home embrace an active lifestyle with fitness classes, arts programs and interest groups on campus, in addition to countless opportunities to socialize at events and activities.

But the campus is not the only place where residents and employees alike get involved. Many embody the spirit of building community together and are engaged not only in the day-to-day life on campus, but also volunteer countless hours to support good causes.

Willamette View resident Cliff Hillebrandt, 76, is one resident who embodies this philosophy. He’s a long-time volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and has been involved in building homes for those in need in Beaverton, Hillsboro, Tigard, Tualatin and parts of Clackamas County for the past 11 years.

He’s also worked on Habitat projects in three other countries.

“I just feel like if you’re fortunate to have wealth in money and talents, that you should share it with others who have needs in those areas. I guess I’ve always helped others. That’s just part of my nature.”

Cliff Hillebrandt, Willamette View resident

Hillebrandt works at Habitat three days per week, logging in 25-30 hours of service weekly, doing a little of everything — ordering materials needed for houses, planning what needs to be done, making assignments for volunteers, and working alongside others to build houses.

In fact, he said that’s one of his favorite parts of the job — working side by side with people who will move into the donated houses. He enjoys meeting the people who will receive new homes and learning their stories.

What’s more, Hillebrandt said he gets back just as much as he gives when it comes to his volunteer work. He said the social interaction makes him feel good, as does “using his head” to get tasks done. Not to mention, he said, there’s “a lot of therapy in swinging a hammer.”

“Technically, I do it for my own mental and physical health,” he said. “I’m making a difference and I’m doing something worthwhile.”

Whether it’s taking part in fitness programs or helping make the community a better place, Hillebrandt said being involved is encouraged at Willamette View.

In fact, that spirit of being involved — as well as Willamette View’s location — were big reasons that resident Bibi Momsen, 81, moved into the community. She’s been volunteering in elementary schools since 2002, and when she moved into Willamette View four years ago, one of the selling points was that there’s an elementary school just two blocks away.

As a result, she’s now a reading tutor at Oak Grove Elementary School, working with students in a range of grade levels, from little ones just learning to read, up to fifth graders who are more independent.

When Momsen works with first and third graders, students read to her and she helps them with words they don’t understand or can’t pronounce; and they work on comprehension by talking about what they’ve been reading. She also helps fifth graders answer questions about what they’ve been reading. In doing so, Momsen assigns herself homework — reading the same books as the kids so she can better help them in the classroom.

“Every time I move somewhere, I get myself into an elementary school. It makes me feel happy, and hopefully it helps them, too.”

Bibi Momsen, Willamette View resident

Living so close to the school means that Momsen sometimes runs into students she helps when in places such as the grocery store, where it’s common for the kids to approach her, say hello and give her a hug.

“The teachers need help,” she said. “It’s nice to know what you do is worthwhile. This is something I can give.”

A young boy hugging a senior woman outside of his school

At Willamette View, it’s not just the residents who find time to give. Some employees, such as Human Resources Manager Selene Andreasen, also make time to volunteer.

Andreasen has been a volunteer on the board of directors for Oregon Impact since 2013. The nonprofit is focused on transportation safety in Oregon — issues including distracted drivers, DUIs, texting behind the wheel — as well as pedestrian safety, and child car seat safety training. The organization also puts on crash reenactments at high schools during prom season to heighten awareness about driving under the influence.

In addition, she’s on the Clackamas County Victims Panel through Oregon Impact. The job includes collecting the required funds for those who’ve been mandated by courts to attend lectures and informational presentations about the victims and dangers of driving under the influence.

Even though her volunteer work can sometimes interrupt her workday at Willamette View, she said the staff and supervisors are supportive of her efforts because they recognize the good it does in the local community and they fully understand the need for it. ”They are very supportive of me going out and being involved in the different panels and things that come up,” she said.

Like many of the residents who give their time, Andreasen is also an empty nester and said it makes her feel productive to help others.

“It’s making use of my time with something that is meaningful.”

Selene Andreasen, Human Resources Manager