Prolific volunteer's expertise doesn't heed city limits
Elizabeth Start lived in 18 different places before high school in a family that was “very food and housing insecure” throughout most of her childhood.
“I always idealized this American culture and finding a place that I could really call home, and when we came to Milwaukie in 2011, I knew we found this place,” Start said. “Getting to volunteer and really be engaged civically is just such a pleasure, and really, you know, looking at my childhood and that sense of belonging and sense of place, I’m really grateful to have a community like this where I can have an opportunity to be involved and get to do all of these things and really get to meet other folks in the community.”
Milwaukie City Council recently selected Start to be honored as the Volunteer of the Year.
Start has volunteered with the city since 2016. She first served on the city’s Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, which helped shape the plan that will guide growth and development in the city for the next 20 years.
Milwaukie has given out an annual Volunteer of the Year award since 2012. When asked what advice she’d give someone interested in volunteering, Start said, “The best way to get started is by just jumping in! Think about a cause or group you love, find a nonprofit that supports them and reach out. Be brave!”
Start has also been involved with the Linwood Neighborhood District Association for many years, becoming the neighborhood’s vice-chair in 2021 and then chair in 2022. In that role, she leads Adopt-A-Road volunteer events, helps plan the neighborhood’s annual block party, coordinates monthly meetings, and more.
As an active member of the city’s Equity Steering Committee, which began meeting in January 2022, Start has been credited with being invaluable as the committee established itself and developed a mission, vision, and goals.
Already earning praise from the police department, the committee has been working to help reduce inequalities in city services; recruit and retain city staff from communities of color and other marginalized communities; and collaborate with local agencies and organizations to facilitate equality, justice and inclusion actions.
Milwaukie Councilor Desi Nicodemus acknowledged Start’s outstanding service and dedication to Milwaukie. He told Start at a recent City Council meeting:
“Your tireless efforts and selfless commitment have made a tremendous difference in the lives of so many people. Your hard work, passion and generosity have touched the lives of countless individuals, families and organizations in our city. Your contributions have not only made our community a better place to live but have also inspired others to get involved and make a positive impact. We recognize that the work you do as a volunteer is often behind the scenes and goes unrecognized, but please know that your efforts have not gone unnoticed. You are a shining example of what it means to be a dedicated and compassionate volunteer, and we are so proud to have you as a member of our community. Thank you again for all that you do. Your commitment and service to our city are truly appreciated and valued.”
Start’s volunteerism doesn’t stop at Milwaukie’s city limits. Since 2014, she has shared her expertise with the community about reducing, reusing and recycling as a Master Recycler.
Start is also an Oregon Recycling Advisory Council member representing small businesses. She is a board member of the Women’s Foundation of Oregon, which tackles some of the most challenging issues facing women, girls, and gender expansive people today.
Start also volunteers with ReDeploy, an organization that hires veterans to repair household goods to be donated to other veterans who are receiving housing.