Carolyn Kaleel and Nancy Bolton have been best friends for over four decades and have learned a thing or two about what it takes to surround yourself with an edifying community. They share their story with us today and talk about their involvement in the Portland Fellows Program.
4word: The two of you have been friends for 41 years (congrats!)! How did you meet and how have you stayed close?
Carolyn and Nancy: We met in middle school. We grew up a quarter mile from one another. We would ride the bus to school and back each day, and on the way home, we would decide whose house we would go to. It was usually Carolyn’s because her mother worked, so she wasn’t home and we could make an entire batch of chocolate chip cookies, eat all of the dough, and then thoroughly clean up the kitchen, ensuring we would not be caught. Nancy’s mother is Italian, so she was always in her kitchen.
We have stayed close for many reasons. Happily, we have had the benefit of living in the same city, and proximity does help. Also, many of our major life decisions were made with one another in mind. We chose to attend the same college, we worked together at two different local television stations, and we had our last children two weeks apart. Still, we have each enjoyed different interests and other friends over the years. Through many varying seasons, we have made room for one another in our respective lives. Relationship is always a choice.
4word: When did you know you wanted to work together? What projects have you been a part of together?
Carolyn and Nancy: Given the choice, we would always choose to work together. We feel an energy when we are together that is both good and productive. We feel pretty darn invincible when we are together! Our strengths and weaknesses complement one another, and we thoroughly enjoy one another’s company. One of the reasons we work well together is because we do have different strengths and weaknesses. An ever-present anchor in our friendship that spills out into our working relationship is that we accept one another as-is, and when one feels entirely accepted — even celebrated — for exactly who they are, all of one’s energy can be put toward a common goal. We respect one another immensely.
We have worked for two different employers, at two different television stations, together. We have been involved in several joint prayer groups over the years. Our most recent common endeavor is the Portland Fellows Program.
4word: What is the Fellows Program? Why is a program like this needed?
Carolyn and Nancy: The Portland Fellows Program is a post-college, nine-month program designed to engage young women (and men) in an exploration of their faith and vocation in a setting surrounded by a loving community of believers. It is a holistic approach to the human condition. Six women from around the country are selected. These women move to Portland, where a house is provided for them. They work four days each week, under a mentor, who demonstrates how their day-to-day decisions are informed by their faith. The young women have weekly house meetings, enjoy professional development, Bible study, community service, retreats, and trips. They become an integral part of our local community. On the weekends they get out and explore Portland and the Pacific Northwest.
We feel that this program is important because we acknowledge that “community” can be a buzz word that sounds easier than it actually becomes when lived out. True community involves not just living together with common interests — or even a common goal — but also being committed to each other over the long haul. Vulnerability, submission, and endurance are not for wimps. Authenticity is far more beautiful and difficult to achieve than superficial living. All of this is done under the umbrella of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Faith devoid of religious trappings is a consistent goal of the program.
Carolyn and Nancy: Success is hard to define. For us, success looks like falling down, and getting back up. It is an emerging of an all-encompassing faith. It is the process of discovering who one is made to be, and how that fits into the greater story of one’s life. It is learning to live a wholehearted existence. Many of our fellows have found acceptance and love in our community. Many have discovered what they are called to do on this planet. Fellows have a tendency to stay in Portland after graduation. These women pour into the lives of the fellows who come after them. They give back. Others move away, and stay in touch, flying in for events, sending greetings, sharing burdens, and showing up for one another for years and years to come. Success is making authentic human connections.
4word: What are the benefits of living in community? How can those unable to be a part of the Fellows Program still find community where they are?
Carolyn and Nancy: The benefits of living in community are ridiculously abundant. Everyone wants to know that they belong. We all want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We believe God made us to live in community – we are all connected. Every single thing becomes easier, and harder, when living out loud, when baring one’s soul, when loving while being exhausted, and wanting to simply quit. Community is magic; it multiplies our efforts, diminishes our sorrows, and expands our joys.
Finding authentic community outside of a program like the Fellows can prove to be challenging. We know this because we have worked hard to forge what we have in our community. It is work to find common ground and grow together, rather than apart. It takes fortitude to get hurt, choose to forgive, and show up with all of your bumps and bruises, only to do it again. It requires exposing one’s self and showing up day after day after day.
A personal example of consistently showing up is our birthday tradition of zebra cake. For forty-one years, we have made a special cake for one other’s birthday. We show up (literally) every single year at one another’s homes with candles and cake. That equates to 82 cakes! While this example may appear to be merely fun and frivolous, we think it points to much more; to putting one another above what is convenient and easy, to remembering and honoring tradition, and to celebrating one another well.
4word: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Carolyn and Nancy: To apply to the Portland Fellows Program, or to learn more about it, please visit our website www.portlandfellows.org. We start reviewing applications as early as February. We accept applicants on a rolling basis. The program runs from Labor Day to Memorial Day. We also have a men’s program, and that information is on the website as well. We would love to hear from you!
Who would you count as your “community?” Carolyn and Nancy are a refreshing example of and reminder to defining and staying true to who you need most in your life. If you’re interested in the Portland Fellows Program, please visit their website today for more information!
Carolyn Kaleel was born and raised in the Portland area. She graduated from Linfield College with a B.A. in Communications. She has earned a Masters of Humanities. Carolyn has worked in the television industry as a producer and a writer. She is currently working as a real estate broker in the Portland area. She is a co-director of the Women’s Fellows Program, and a board member for the Oregon Leadership Development Institute. She and her husband, Joe, have three children and one daughter-in-law, all of whom live nearby; a circumstance not taken for granted, but rather celebrated daily.
Nancy Bolton was born and raised in the Portland area. She graduated from Linfield College, with a B.A. in Communications. Nancy has worked in the television industry, as a reporter, weather anchor, producer, and a sales marketing representative. She is married and has two college-aged children. She is involved in multiple non-profits, and serves on several boards. She is a co-director of the Women’s Fellows Program, and a board member for the Oregon Leadership Development Institute. She currently lives in Portland with her husband, Bruce, and her dog, Bo.