Portland interns connect church to community


logoEvery summer since 2011, Portland’s First United Methodist Church has been sponsoring two young students from their community as interns in local non-profit organizations. This program, funded by the Greathouse Internship Endowment Fund, was created by the congregation as a thank you to Rev. Lowell Greathouse, their associate pastor for four years. In addition to work experience, the internship is intended to continue the church’s involvement outside the church’s walls. The purpose of the internship is to create and maintain a connectional relationship between First United Methodist Church and Portland/Metro community organizations whose primary mission is to work to alleviate human suffering caused by economic hardship, poverty, health, safety, and/or environmental concerns.       

I1st UMC Internsnterns work for 200 hours from June to August in an agency chosen by the intern; the church provides their wages. Interns have worked for a number of local agencies including the Macdonald Center, Portland Police Bureau, Imagine No Malaria, Mt. Hood Little League, and the Goose Hollow Family Shelter.
In order to become a Greathouse intern, prospective recipients must submit an application describing the organization they have chosen and an explanation on why they would like to serve there. Then they interview with a panel of people from the church discussing everything from details about what their work will be to how this program will help them with their future career plans.

"That connection from the congregation to the community is the goal of the program."
Mark Olson, Coordinator of Volunteers, Hospitality and Outreach at Portland’s First United Methodist Church, talked about how the internship does more than give the interns experience, it increases the church’s connection with the community. “Often, these are agencies that have had no prior connection to First Church and subsequently leads to on-going support programs by the church for these worthwhile community organizations.” He then went on to add a specific example of the Macdonald Center, where intern Julia Tawney worked in 2011. “First Church is now actively partnering with Macdonald Center in inner Northwest Portland to bring social services to the poor living alone in single room housing. This relationship likely would never have developed had First Church not had an intern assigned to Macdonald Center several years ago.”
Maggie Zach
Maggie Zach, a 2014
Greathouse Intern.
Maggie Zach, a 2014 Greathouse intern, called the program, “A rich and rewarding experience,” and elaborated on what made the program so effective. “It put me a step ahead of my peers in gaining work experience and opened me to new skills and experiences. It expanded upon a traditional internship by emphasizing giving back to the organization I was supporting, as well as involving my church community.” That connection from the congregation to the community is the goal of the program.
Josh Hauser
Jeff Brittain, 2015
Greathouse Intern
This summer, marking the program’s fifth year, the two summer interns are involving themselves in two very different agencies. Jeff Brittain, who has a graduate degree in Environmental Science from Portland State, is spending his internship gaining experience in a local water management agency. Josh Hauser is working with Oregon-Idaho Conference Director of Communications, Greg Nelson, helping smaller churches improve or establish a web presence and providing web content for the conference website. Each intern will report back to the congregation at the end of August describing their work and seeing what future involvement the church could have with their agency.