By Lorraine Ortiz, Retiring Development Director of NCLC
I clearly remember the day in 2014 I had coffee in downtown Wheeler with my friend and non-profit development colleague Sarah. From our little two-person outside table, we had a perfect view of what was to become—seven years later—the Rainforest Reserve. I had invited Sarah to coffee that day to tell her about an exciting opportunity I had decided to take on. I remember the look on her face when I pointed north and said, “We’re going to buy those mountains.” She didn’t say much, but her look said it all: “What, are you crazy?”
As I reflect on my time as development director at NCLC, it is crystal clear to me that my decision to take this job was a calling—a true calling. We’ve all heard people talk about having a calling, but now that I have experienced it, I can clearly see the seeds of what creates a strong inner impulse that then becomes a particular course of action—or a calling.
The initial seed was planted on a family vacation to the Oregon Coast when I was barely in my teens. This was my first exposure to this place I would come to love with all my heart. Seeing rivers, waterfalls and tall trees that lined the coastal cliffs was a far cry from the palm trees, sandstone cliffs and bikini-clad beaches I had grown up with. Through my teenage years, my mother and I took annual summer camping trips to every state park on the Oregon Coast, where I was able to spend time experiencing those rivers, waterfalls and trees up close—the relationship blossomed, and I fell in love with a place.
Fast forward to my middle 30s, when it was time to make a major life transition. I traded in palm trees for cedar and fir trees and moved to the Oregon Coast. With graphic design and marketing skills tucked under my wing, I knew they were only going to get me so far, so I decided to start an additional business—a kayak shop. In fact, it was the first kayak shop on the Oregon Coast! This little kayak retail/rental shop in Wheeler, called Annie’s Kayaks, gave me a front-row seat to the view of the mountains which were to become—30 years later—the Rainforest Reserve. Seeing that view every day as I guided people in their kayaks in the Nehalem estuary and river emboldened my love of the mountains and particularly the sentinel of that range—Onion Peak.
Fast forward again (skipping over LOTS of years and details; ask me if you’re curious, and I’ll tell you the whole story), I was invited by some neighbors to go on a hike to the “Nehalem Alps” to see the wildflowers. It was a wondrous trip made extra special by our enthusiastic guide, former NCLC board member Doug Ray. (Fun fact: environmental luminaries Neal Maine and Gary Braasch were also on that memorable trip.) The brightly colored flowers, the vastness of the landscape, and the view from those mountains I had been seeing every day for decades were breathtaking. I never could have imagined that it was possible for my love of those mountains to grow even deeper, but it did.
OK, fast forward one more time (… again, skipping over LOTS of years and details), Katie Voelke approached me to come work for NCLC as their development director and to lead the capital campaign to buy the mountains they were now calling The Rainforest Reserve. Enter: The Calling. My immediate and resounding answer was YES, and you know how the story ends. It is a fairy tale with a very happy ending for the people, plants, wildlife and the unique environment of the northern Oregon Coast.
Having the opportunity to be the development director for North Coast Land Conservancy for the last seven years has been not only a tremendous honor but also some of the best years of my life. Imagine working for an organization whose values include integrity, connectivity, common ground and joy—yes, joy! And that is what it has been—a joy—to work with this team of talented, kind, smart, enthusiastic, committed individuals who love and care for the north Oregon Coast.
My gratitude knows no bounds that I was so fortunate to be a part of this historic project for Oregon and help conserve the mountains I love in this place that I love with people I love. If there was ever a calling—this qualifies.
Thank you NCLC board, staff, volunteers and donors for this golden opportunity to answer the call and be a part of a fairy-tale ending. Happy Trails! 🙂