Q&A with our Executive Support & Operations Manager, Stephenie Smith

 Stephenie standing in a field of corn. 

Q. What led you to your job at NWHF?

A. I have always been drawn to the work that Northwest Health Foundation does, especially in the last three years. My work with Open Meadow’s Step Up program lit a fire in me to devote my life to building & supporting healthy communities and fighting racism. After taking a year to work the family business with my mother and sister, it was time to get back to my passion. When I saw the opening at NWHF for the Executive Support & Operations Manager position, I jumped at the chance to work for a foundation whose work and values so closely matched my own. 

Q. What have you learned in your first few months here?

A. I have learned so much in my first few months here! Aside from the normal learning curve of figuring out a new position, one of my favorite parts of this new job is getting to meet so many people from the community! I have learned that there are SO many phenomenal people in Oregon & SW Washington doing amazing work to strengthen underserved communities! I am inspired on a daily basis by the stories I hear and from watching how hard my co-workers work to make an impact.

Q. What do you see as the greatest obstacle facing communities in our region?

A. Big question. Looking at this from a big picture perspective, I will use one word: inequity. This word could be applied to every aspect of life for our underserved populations, particularly for our neighbors of color and our neighbors living in poverty. These groups experience inequities in education, jobs, housing, health care, representation in positions of power, daily microaggressions, and so much more. A large part of this obstacle is the number of people, in power or otherwise, that choose to be oblivious to such inequities. 

Q. What do you see as our region’s greatest strength?

A. Although it doesn’t always seem like it, I strongly feel that Portland has many pockets of strong communities that are working to reduce the inequities that exist. There are many people dedicated to the work of creating equitable environments for every Portlander. I hope that we can figure out how to unite forces and work together more regularly.

Q. Why have you chosen to live in Portland, over any other place in the world?

A. I am originally from Half Moon Bay, California (yes, I am a transplant!). Although I miss the ocean and my family that remains in California, Portland is my home now (and has been since 1999). I originally moved here to be close to my brother’s first child. Since then, much of my family has moved up to Portland, and I now have two nieces and nephews that live here. I am about to have my own baby, and I am so happy that she will be surrounded by cousins and family to love and support her! 

I do love to travel and spent almost a year in St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands many moons ago. I believe that someday I will retire on a tropical beach!

Q. What do you like best about the holiday season?

I am a bit of a Christmas fanatic. To me, Christmas has never been about presents. I grew up in a household with very little money but a lot of love. We never received expensive gifts. We did, however, always get the whole family together to open our stockings (which always had a tangerine in the toe) and to eat. These two things remain my favorite Christmas traditions. Aside from these specific traditions, I cling to the idea that miracles can happen during this time of year and try to give back to my community as much as possible!

Q. What is the best gift you have ever given?

A. My favorite gift to give every year is for my nieces’ & nephews’ birthdays. I take each of them out for a one-on-one dinner to the restaurant of their choice. We started the tradition when they were very young. I love getting the opportunity to spend some quality time with each of them every year. 

Q. As a soon-to-be mom, what are your hopes for your baby?

A. My baby will be extremely loved by our family and my phenomenal community. She is multi-racial. I know this will have a large impact on her life. I have seen firsthand the impact this can have on a student, child, teen, adult. My mission is to keep working as hard as possible for equity and to surround myself and my baby girl with people who will support her and give her space to have tough conversations about her experiences. She will carry on the change-making needed for this community and the world to understand and value difference.