Friday, October 4, 2013

Adopt a Block Project Launch with Matt Potratz

By Elizabeth Morgan
Have you ever known a person who has just been there - whether to chat, or listen, to laugh, to share? Have you ever considered how much it would mean to someone who has no family to reach out and let them know that someone cares – that they still matter? Is there a child or a family in your neighborhood with unmet needs?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, here’s one more: Do you have 30-40 minutes on Wednesday evening (6 p.m.), Oct. 16, at the Rex Theatre, to hear how Matt Potratz is planning to bring the community together in his vision of “Adopt a Block” Project for Orofino?

All I knew about Matt was that he was a person of tremendous spirit and he had been miraculously bounced back into life after being in a coma in a close brush with death. He had been caught in an avalanche a few years back while snowmobiling. I’ve ready several of his columns and heard he was an incredible inspiration to others. He hasn’t missed a beat. Matt sports a fierce determination to make the most of his life and the situation at hand.

As I approached the house to learn more about Adopt a Block, a couple of young boys asked who I was and who I was looking for, they sent me to the front door when another young man answered, and invited me in. Eight little guys altogether were playing contentedly around the house. It was noisy, but a happy noise and they all seemed to understand the rules. “Three of the boys are mine,” claimed Matt, “the others are friends over to play.” “They seem to have no where else to go.” he states simply. On this particular Friday and most of the others, “they come here where they know and their parents know it’s safe.” Sometimes they come to eat; sometimes we watch movies or do activities. It’s what we do. It’s just one way I can help.”

Adopt a Block originated in some of the more desperate neighborhoods in L.A. Matt attends church at New Bridges in Lewiston and the congregation has made some big changes for some very needy residents.

Technically, it was a faith based program, but that’s not a priority in Matt’s perspective. Adopt a Block is all about people serving people, and what better way to serve God than by helping those around us who need it most?

“It’s not about me, my ordeal, or my book,” he clarifies, it’s about helping those who don’t really have a choice,” and that’s why he has focused on serving the elderly and youth in our area. “I’ve checked around and identified a few areas of particular need right now. Brookside Landing and Clearwater Health and Rehabilitation are such examples. Both facilities have many residents without family near and who rarely receive visitors. Matt would like to facilitate small groups (two-five people) to go and share an hour once a week with some of the residents.

At the other end of the spectrum, he is working with the schools to help locate the families of young children with unmet needs. Matt would like to pair them up with a family able to help make a difference, in whatever way they can.

“The best part,” he said, “was that while we think we are the ones giving, we are actually the one’s receiving. Once a person feels the fulfillment that helping others brings, it’s hard to stop. Matt considers it a way for him to give back to the community that never gave up on him and gave him a second chance at life.

He tells how his accident helped to open his eyes to being a person and a father. As one might anticipate, priorities shift after such an event, and Matt wants others to know that we are all capable of rearranging our priorities - we shouldn’t need a tragedy as a catalyst to begin.

“If I had the chance right now to go back and be the old Matt, I wouldn’t do it,” he shares. “No way. I had no idea what life was really about." The relationship with his God, his family, and his sons has evolved ten-fold since the accident.

As the days get shorter, darker, holidays lurk around the corner, and our paychecks (if we have one) are having to stretch even farther, it is also a time of loneliness and hardship for many. A visitor with a familiar face an encouraging word, can make a world of difference to those without.

So on Wednesday, Oct. 16, do yourself a favor, see what all the excitement is about, learn how you can help. Meet with Matt Potratz, and others in our community who want to make a difference at 6 p.m. at the Rex Theatre. Refreshments will be served.

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