Maylee Oddo, who works at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, says volunteering is “this lovely intersection of values and passion without encumbrances or entitlement or obligation.” Bob Pennell / Ashland Daily TidingsBob Pennell
By Angela Decker for the Tidings Posted: 2:00 AM September 28, 2011
Locals may recognize Maylee Oddo from various Ashland events, such as the independent film festival, the Martin Luther King festival, fundraisers for Ashland schools.
For Oddo, volunteering is a way of life that began in her teens. She’s offered a helping hand to homeless shelters and literacy organizations, helped displaced refugees, led youth groups, campaigned for local school levies and bonds, and worked for a crisis-intervention center for battered women.
“For me, volunteer work is this lovely intersection of values and passion without encumbrances or entitlement or obligation,” said the 47-year-old mother of two. “I’ve gained so much more than I have ever given.”
Oddo added that one of her favorite volunteer jobs was serving on the board of the Ashland Schools Foundation. “It is an incredible organization, and to work in Ashland is the best. People here understand the value of an education and they are so generous and supportive.”
Oddo, who also works in the fundraising division of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, spoke with the Daily Tidings about her passion for community involvement.
DT: Where are you from originally?
MO: I was born in Pusan, Korea, but I grew up in Portland and lived in several areas of the Midwest.
DT: What brought you to Ashland?
MO: I wanted to return to Oregon to be closer to my family. I chose Ashland because it is a great town, and in particular because of the quality of the public schools. When I moved here, my kids were little. It has been 11 years and I love it. My son is a junior at Ashland High and my daughter has graduated. I am so happy with the schools here.
DT: What do you do at OSF?
MO: I’m in development, the fundraising arm of the festival. I was very fortunate when I was hired. I had left manufacturing engineering to raise a family and I had not worked outside of the home for over a decade. OSF took a chance on me and hired me based on my local volunteer work. OSF is a hybrid of arts and commerce, and there is something beautiful about that. The job fits well with my interests.
DT: What are some favorite aspects of your work?
MO: The fantastic people, the incredible art, the intellectual curiosity and talent, the sincere and universal will for the greater good.
DT: When did you begin volunteering?
MO: Oh boy. I’ve been volunteering since I was 16. Because of that I’ve literally gotten to see the world. I’ve learned so much about people and our humanity, and I have met the most amazing people. I really didn’t do that much at any given time, as it was spread out over years. There are others who truly do and give so much more.
DT: Do you have advice for people looking to volunteer?
MO: In Ashland there are so many rich opportunities to connect with the community. Whether it is with the schools or the theater or running, I haven’t seen any arrogance. If you show an interest in something here, people will want to pull you in. Just look around. This a great community for doing service. There are so many ways to contribute to the community and have really rich experiences.
DT: What do you do at the Ashland Schools Foundation?
MO: The tele-funding mostly, when we call and ask for donations. I was on the grant committee, the chair of the fund drive for three or four years, and I was the board chair for a couple years. I stepped down from the board. It was time to give other people a voice. I’m a strong personality, I can be a loudmouth. That’s why there are term limits. ASF represents the intersection of my values, my strong feelings about education and the community. I am still just blown away by all the hard work the foundation does — it is amazing.
DT: Do your children volunteer?
MO: My daughter still volunteers with the Ashland Schools Foundation. She’s been to more of the tele-funding nights than I have.
DT: What organizations are you working with now?
MO: Currently, I’m on my alma mater’s alumni council and do a little talk every now and then for prospective parents adopting trans-racially. I am also on the Ashland Independent Film Festival’s advisory council, but will be stepping down to become a screener for them soon and am totally thrilled.
DT: Do you have family in the area?
MO: I have my kids here and my family in Portland. I was adopted into a family of six boys and one girl. I love my family. I talk to my mom almost every day. In 2000, I also connected with my biological family, some in South Korea, some in Portland. My family is big. It’s a big topic.
DT: What are some of your outside interests?
MO: I wouldn’t consider myself a runner, but I’ve somehow managed to find myself doing a bunch of races lately. I also like to hike and want to do Kilimanjaro someday. I love arts and crafts, knitting, sewing, embroidery, you name it. And I love dancing, like just going to a bar and boogying down. Enjoying these things is not to be confused with being good at doing any of them.
DT: Is there anyone in the area you admire or who inspires you?
MO: Oh my gosh, there are so many amazing people here in the valley who have my utter admiration and devotion, more so than any other of the dozens of places I’ve lived. I admire people who live their lives with integrity, wit, humility, humor and grace.
Angela Decker is a freelance writer in Ashland and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.