Generations United Podcast

Episode 1: Donna Butts on Generations United

May 30, 2019
Generations United Podcast
Episode 1: Donna Butts on Generations United
Chapters
Generations United Podcast
Episode 1: Donna Butts on Generations United
May 30, 2019
Generations United
Show Notes Transcript

In this first episode, Generations United's Executive Director Donna Butts provides an overview of Generations United, which went from a small coalition to the world leader in helping to raise and elevate the importance of intergenerational strategies. 



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Speaker 1:
0:03
This is Donna bets from generations United. Welcome to the generations United podcast, a new monthly series where we're going to share insights from experts in the intergenerational field and how these practices, programs, and solutions really work to improve the lives of children, youth, and older adults. I get to be your host, Donna Butts, and we're really excited about the new podcast. It's something that as with everything that's new, it's a little bit scary. Are we going to soar or are we going to do a belly flop? A lot of that's going to be up to you and your feedback and your ideas about what you want to hear us cover on this show because really what we want to do is spread the word about how important and how powerful intergenerational programs, policies and practices are not just in the u s but around the world.
Speaker 1:
0:53
So for the first episode, I wanted to share a little bit of an overview about generations United and talk a little bit about my role with the organization and why I see feel so very fortunate that I get to do this work. Generations United was started more than 30 years ago and we were founded at a time when people were really trying to pit the generations against each other. There was actually a journal back in the mid eighties that had a young person and an older person dressed in battle fatigues. They were back to back. They each had a gun and the message was basically March 10 paces, turn and shoot, whichever generation is left, gets our country's scarce resources. Our founders came together and said, no, we are a compassionate, caring country that does value. It's most important and at times, most vulnerable generations are booking generations are young and are old.
Speaker 1:
1:48
So they came together. At that time it was the children's Defense Fund, the Child Welfare League of America, a Arp and the national council on Aging. They came together and said, as one of our founders was quoted, Jack Osofsky, we formed generations United to argue for a caring society and today that continues to be the basis of all of our work, our mission, how we try to live our lives as we carry out the important work that we feel like we've been entrusted to lead, to share and to continue. So for me, I came to the organization over 20 years ago, which is amazing to me when I think about it, but really what drew me to the organization was something happened early in my career when I was in my twenties and in my home state of Oregon. I was the team director at the y WCA in Salem, Oregon.
Speaker 1:
2:39
And one of the programs that I inherited when I was probably about 23 years old was one of the first intergenerational programs that at that time was funded by the administration on Aging. And it was designed to pilot and practice and see whether intergenerational programs would work. The one that I got to lead had been running for three years and it matched high school students with older adults who are still living in their own homes. But we're really isolated, very similar to what we're still experiencing today when older adults are one of the populations that suffer the most because of social isolation. So what this program did was once a week we took these high school students for one on one visits with an older adult and it was a wonderful, wonderful relationship that developed over an entire semester. Now, of course when I first took the program over and I was told that the funding was going to end, I thought, well, if we have to cut it, we'll cut it.
Speaker 1:
3:32
And then I went on my first trip with some of these matches and what I found were older adults who didn't get out of bed or open their curtains in the morning except for the day that their young friend was coming. And I found teenagers who skip school except for the day that they were going to go visit their older friend. And the magic. That connection was, they both had purpose. They had a reason to show up, they had a reason to get out of bed and that was found in the relationship they had with each other and the fact that they needed each other and they were stronger together and stronger because they, which were often people who got pushed to the side, were allowed to contribute and valued for their contributions. So I thought, well, we can't cancel this program. So we didn't, we were able to find a way to keep it going.
Speaker 1:
4:18
And I just have such wonderful memories of people and the strength and the enjoyment and the pleasure that was made each week through those visits. Fast forward probably about 20 years and as I was thinking about my career and where I'd been and what I'd done primarily with teenagers and in leadership role and roles in a number of youth organizations, both in Oregon and then nationally, I was thinking about what I want to do next. And I went in to visit with a gentleman named David Lederman and David was one of the founders of generations United. He was head of the Child Welfare League of America and he and I talked and he talked and we talked and after I left he immediately almost followed me out the door and said, Donner, I think I've got the perfect job for you. We have this little organization we started 10 years ago as a loose knit coalition and we've really gotten to the point where we're incorporating and it's either kind of sink or swim and we need somebody to lead it.
Speaker 1:
5:13
Well, I was hooked. I went around, I interviewed with the founders and they decided to select me to do it. One of the wonderful little side stories about David who I think was one of the most amazing child advocates is I recently got to visit a shared site in New Orleans and his son, Keith Lederman is the executive director there and has been for over 20 years and they are a long established intergenerational shared site. So Keith's work and David's passion continue to live on. So all of the positions I had prior to that really helped come together with generations United. It involves a lot of leadership, leadership with values and leadership with compassion and caring. I believe deeply in our mission and have been so fortunate to work with people and people who also believe in our mission are committed to it, have their unique voices and their amazing contributions.
Speaker 1:
6:07
Uh, we're one of the rare nonprofits where we've have three of our key top people have been with us for over 20 years. It's amazing. And the folks that have joined us along the way really have committed and have come and have stayed with us because they all also believe deeply in the power of connecting generations and making sure that we don't let our younger and older people sit on the sidelines and not be able to contribute. So as we've grown and developed, it's been pretty amazing. It started as just a small loose knit coalition. And now 30 years later, we've really become the leaders, not just in the u s but around the world and helping to raise and elevate the importance of intergenerational strategies. And that really goes along with the vision that I've had for the organization. It's not about us, it's about we.
Speaker 1:
6:58
It's not about what we can do at generations. United's world headquarters. It's about what happens in communities every day around the country and around the world. I've been so fortunate because I get to visit so many of those programs, whether it's Ebony's or ridges in the twin cities area that have been leading an intergenerational shared site there for many, many years. And as they've said when I visited them recently, it's just in our DNA. It's what we do. The people that come here believe in it or they leave. And then in Jinx Oklahoma where I just was so amazed at having two public school classrooms in the middle of a senior residence that serves assisted living memory loss. And when I found there was somebody who just had this vision that thought it should be so simple, but he wanted it to last. And I think what I learned from Don Greiner at that incredible facility is that milk will spill.
Speaker 1:
7:54
And I thought that was so important to realize it's not always going to be pretty, but it's so important to make sure that we keep at it and we make it work. There's amazing work all around the country, whether it's Duroda, New York, San Diego County, the new LGBT center that just opened in La county that's looking at the needs of young and old to our wonderful partners in Portland, Oregon, bridge meadows to all the great work that people have been doing in very unique and very important ways that make sense in their communities. So that's what I see our role at generations United being. We don't do the programs. We try to work to support the programs, help them be stronger, help them know about, put quality intergenerational practices can achieve. We've been very fortunate to also be very engaged in the area of grandparents raising grandchildren for more than 20 years.
Speaker 1:
8:47
We've led the field in elevating the importance of multigenerational families and the value that grandparents and other relatives who make sacrifices every day. Recently, we've had some great legislative successes and we really see the tide has turned in this country to win somebody. I remember when we first started, there was a Washington Post headline that said, country club grandmothers are only in it for the money to realizing that grand families are those life savers, that safety net, but also those roots and wings that give these children hope for the future and a wonderful new beginning. So I'm really proud of all the work that, not that I've done, but that we've done, that the team here at generation's United, that our members are network and you have accomplished over the years. That keeps me going. That keeps me excited, that keeps me feeling so fortunate to be a part of this.
Speaker 1:
9:42
And now we get to launch a podcast. This is very cool and I'm looking forward to being able to interview and talk with some of the people that I just told an awe who I think are amazing. We get to talk with Michelle Singletary, who is a syndicated columnist. It was raised by her grandmother, Mark Friedman, who's been a partner, a colleague, and a hero for many years, and has a new initiative called Gen two gen and many others, I hope including some of you. So please let us know what you'd like to hear, who you'd like to hear from, and what you think would be the most interesting on this podcast. Work with us, and let's make it a success for the field to make this world a better place for people of all generations. So looking forward to our next podcast together when we really get launched, please be sure to join us, tune in and make sure that you like us, share us, get us out there, because again, I think it's going to help all of us, which I think is really, really important. So thank you for listening. Look forward to hearing from you. Bye.
Speaker 2:
10:45
[inaudible].
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