The creator of Thrive Central Oregon: a Q&A with Sarah Mahnke
Founder and Executive Director of Thrive Central Oregon, Sarah Mahnke explained the most commonly requested services among the student population and her personal goals concerning the community-based organization (CBO).
“I would love to see the efforts we are making at Thrive work us right out of a job,” said Mahnke.
Thrive Central Oregon is a community-based organization –an organization that aims to make desired improvements to a community’s health and wellbeing–that connects people with basic living needs such as: housing, mental health support, employment, etc. Thrive’s responsibility is to know what needs to be done to apply for a job, a house or insurance successfully.
The Broadside: What is the most often requested service of the student population?
Sarah Mahnke: At COCC, just like off campus, the most requested service we see is housing. How to find it, how to afford it, help with rent, application fees and deposit. We also get a number of requests for basic needs and utility assistance.
TB: What is your goal in life, concerning THRIVE and Public Health?
SM: Our community has a significant amount of varied resources and all of those resources should be as accessible and user-friendly as possible. I would like to keep working with individuals, teaching them not only what is available, but also what their rights are when it comes to housing, benefits and health care. If we keep connecting with people, they [will] learn what is available so that the next time they come up short for rent or have their food stamps cut, they can take what we have learned together and help themselves, their friends or family navigate those systems.
Mahnke added in this answer that Thrive feels some responsibility for ensuring that certain systems continue to act in the best interest for the people of the community.
TB: What’s one thing you would like students to know about Thrive?
SM: We have a ton of information and ideas on how to assist someone in getting from here to there, but you are the expert of your life. I cannot claim to have your experiences or understanding of what does and doesn’t work for you. Come meet us. We would love to talk if there is something you are trying to work out. We would also just love to meet you. Do you have ideas or strategies to help us? [Do you have ideas on how to] increase access between students and what we are trying to make happen over in the Student Life building? We would love to hear it.
Mahnke didn’t originally consider her career as being a part of public health.
“I would have said my work is in housing. In resources. In helping people get and stay housed and connected to the things they need to live the life they want,” Mahnke said.
When she was just starting out, Mahnke got to see, first-hand, the high levels of need in the Central Oregon community. She noticed the resources were there, available, but no one was there to connect people to them.
“That is what led to [my] starting [of] Thrive Central Oregon–with lots of support along the way,” Mahnke said.
Mahnke and others of her staff are available to talk at the Student Life office in the Coats Campus Center (CCC) in the corner offices to the right of the entrance, just past the Associated Students of Central Oregon Community College (ASCOCC) office.
Sarah Mahnke, Megan Stickney, Johannah Johnson-Weinberg, and Abby Fate are the main Thrive representatives at COCC. They are available Mondays and Tuesdays from 9:00a.m. to 4:00p.m. and Thursdays from 9:00a.m. to 1:00p.m.