|With tomorrow's holiday I join the rest of Oregon in taking time to give thanks.
Holly Center, right, TANF case manager, and Governor Kulongoski talk to a client at DHS SE Portland office Tuesday.
This year I am particularly thankful for the work of all of our DHS employees across the state as you have managed through this very lean year, working hard to meet levels of need in our communities that we have never seen before. With those thanks comes a wish, that I would like to see our staff get the recognition they deserve from clients, the public and our elected officials. While we can never thank our workers enough for the efforts they make, this week I saw first hand how meaningful it is when people in Oregon notice the work we do day in day out.
Tuesday morning two important people made a visit to the DHS branch on SE 39th and Powell in Portland, the busiest branch in the state, where we process one new food stamp application every nine minutes.
One of the visitors was Governor Kulongoski. He spent an hour with staff members there going around the office, listening to them talk about how they have been managing under the increased caseload in the branch. He was very interested in hearing about the experiences of the workers, how long they have been at DHS and what they like best about their work. He also met with clients who were there applying for much-needed assistance during the holiday season. After the visit he made a statement to the media.
"I am very proud of the people working in this office," he said. "The state needs to be there for its citizens -- our family members, friends and neighbors -- in difficult times. We are a stronger, better state when we provide for each other in hard times."
The other important visitor to the branch today was Tod Kromer. Tod is one of the thousands of clients who have turned to the state for help after facing long-term job loss. A computer programmer for more than two decades, he has not yet been able to find work after being laid off. I got to spend a long time talking with him Tuesday, and so did the Governor. Tod said he wanted to tell us how grateful he was for the help he received from DHS. He said like many people he had preconceived ideas about "state assistance," and frankly, state employees. He expected to have to grit his teeth and get through a difficult, long and inhumane application process. As he told us Tuesday, that wasn't what happened at all. He was so surprised by the experience that he wrote a letter of thanks to the branch, which resulted in manager Carlos Richard calling him to invite him to tell his story to the Governor himself.
"Everyone was so nice and so helpful. I couldn't believe it when I came in and they asked if I wanted to meet with someone the same day," he said Tuesday. "I expected to wait weeks. I just wanted to tell someone how grateful I am."
Meeting Tod, who took the extra step even in his difficult circumstances to send a note of gratitude has made this Thanksgiving holiday even more meaningful to me. And it reminds me -- we can never say thank you enough.
Thank you for all you do to improve the lives and health of Oregonians. I am grateful and honored to be working with so many dedicated people.