Community Voices: Carlos Salcedo
Central Oregon Leadership Council member Carlos Salcedo is interim director of community and philanthropy at St. Charles Health System, a Central Oregon health care provider headquartered in Bend. He is also a board member of Better Together, a Redmond-based, cross-sector partnership working to increase student success throughout Central Oregon.
OCF: Could you talk a little about the work you do?
For St. Charles, I engage with many nonprofit organizations and also with the individuals that are served by those nonprofits. I also serve on the board of directors for Better Together. They do community work aimed at improving education outcomes for children and youth from cradle to career: making sure kids have the same educational opportunities and, as they’re getting older, have the same opportunities in the marketplace. And they connect that work to equity. And rightly so, right? That’s a huge part of education.
OCF: With all those commitments, you still manage to find time to volunteer. Why is volunteerism important to you?
To be honest with you, I never thought it was when I was part of the private sector. But since I have been doing this work, I think the simplest answer is because it makes a difference. You create positive energy because you are giving of yourself, and that in itself is a positive to society.
I’m not even that great of a person when it comes to volunteering. There are people who do very much deserve that banner or that label. But when you put yourself in front of kids or people in need, just that interaction is worth the effort. The mere fact that you’re putting yourself in a position where you’re getting to interact with a human being—who may be isolated, who may not be getting that type of positive interaction—is important. It makes a difference.
OCF: How did you get involved with OCF?
I was attending the OCF Central Oregon Latino Partnership Program, and I believe Cheryl Puddy recommended me to the OCF Central Oregon Leadership Council. It all started by engaging with the Latino Partnership Program here in Central Oregon.
OCF: What do you like best about your role on the Central Oregon Leadership Council?
I always default to the interactions with people. I really like the people that sit around the table. Not because they think alike or because they agree with me—which they do not—but because it’s people that show up and care. I always enjoy that.
The other thing is, I really do think very highly of OCF. I think they do great work, and I think they engage with the community in the right way. And when I say “the right way,” I mean the way that I think is valuable. They take action, and they really do act based on the voices that are around the table. I really appreciate that.
OCF: Is there a response to community needs by OCF that exemplifies that type of action for you?
With this COVID experience, they were so willing to listen and collaborate with us at St. Charles. We also donate money to community organizations, so we approached them about doing some collaborative funding—not just to fund collaboratively, but also to collaborate in our processes. That way, organizations did not have to apply twice for grants. They were just so open to chat with us and engage in that manner.
They also started to change the way they interacted with communities and started to direct funds to communities by listening and working closely with local individuals. They were able to fund organizations that normally might not get funds. That is just a great example of an organization that is walking the talk. Because you hear organizations talk about this all the time, and they never do anything! But OCF just did it.
OCF: What do you think is most important for prospective donors and volunteers to know about OCF?
When it comes to people who are donating money, like people who invest in the market, it’s that you’re going to see a return on your investment.
OCF: So, a return in terms of helping your community?
Right. That’s the return on investment that I’m talking about. It’s not monetary. If you are someone who donates to an organization that is identified as doing some type of good, then that good is your return. And I think OCF gets a great return.
OCF: What do you think about how Oregon’s people and institutions have responded to COVID-19?
I think you could say we’ve done well, but I think we’ve done well for the people we always do well for. That’s not to negate any of the good that was done, but maybe we just need to think about things a little bit longer and start to identify those groups that we don’t do well with, and start focusing on that population.
OCF: What do you think we’re learning, as Oregonians, from the pandemic and the wildfires?
You know, we talk about how bad things are, but things were bad before for the same people. So I hope that we’ve learned to change our focus in terms of reaching out to those people who have been marginalized and who will continue to be marginalized.
Before, when we were trying to get people’s voices to come to the table, it was like, “How much is it gonna cost?” Now we know: It’s an Internet connection! How much is that? Forty bucks. It eliminates that argument, so now we can take clear action. Hopefully, we’ve learned that lesson and can start to act upon it.
OCF: How can we move toward a more equitable society?
We have to give it away. And when I say that, I think it’s ownership and empowerment. We always talk about it, but we never give it away. We always build systems, and just by the fact that we’re trying to build them, it disempowers and takes ownership away from people. In my opinion, what you need to do to empower is to give it, support it and embrace it.
We build these very elaborate systems for empowering. You need to go through 1-2-3 steps before you get to feel empowered. However, that is not the way it works, because then you are in the same position you were before. And I think ownership is the same way. So give it away!
OCF: When you say “give it away,” does that mean stepping aside and letting other people take leadership positions?
That’s exactly it. And offer opportunities of ownership to a larger group of individuals. This opportunity to talk with you is amazing. How do we include and offer this to others? I have a seat at the table, and I am getting a chance to voice my thoughts, but I can tell you this: There are a lot of other people who can say a lot better things than I can. I guarantee you that. But they don’t have the opportunity that I do, so how do I step aside and let somebody else speak?
OCF: What gives you hope?
I’m always pretty hopeful about stuff, so just the fact that we’re here gives me hope. And the fact that we get to have conversations like this gives me hope. I am hopeful that people can disagree and show a diversity of thought, and we continue to move forward learning and changing.