Supporting Portland's Vegan, Vegetarian, and Veg-curious Community

Northwest VEG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Portland, OR that works to educate and encourage people to make vegan choices for a healthy, sustainable, and compassionate world.
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Volunteer Spotlight: Karen Brokken

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August 2, 2013

We are so lucky to have Karen Brokken as a dedicated NW VEG volunteer. Without this recent MVP grad, our Race for the Animals might not have happened this year! She was the mastermind behind creating the 5/10k routes and probably spent over 40 hours out on the trails making sure that everything was perfect. We are excited to see what she does next for Northwest VEG!

Q: How long have you been veg and why?
A: I've been a "mostly vegan" vegetarian since 2001 for environmental reasons. After I started attending NW Veg and Viva La Vegan events regularly last year, I felt my delusions fall, and I became an "all the way" vegan. It turned out that it wasn't hard to give up cheese after all.

Q: How has being veg impacted your life?
A: I'd like to say that being vegan has had a great positive impact on my life, but I found the opposite to be true in regards to being at odds with my family over this issue. Being the sole vegan among my childhood and other circles of friends has left me feeling like I'm the only one in the choir singing off key. I'm so thankful for all the trailblazers who set up vegan groups and events where I could join in and feel in harmony. I still spend some time "singing with other choirs," but now I feel I'm just singing in a different key and my voice is stronger for its difference from the crowd.

Q: How did you get involved with volunteering for NW VEG?
A: January this year I enrolled in the Master Veg class. I had volunteered at the 2011 and 2012 VegFests and attended a few events through the Viva La Vegan and Portland Metro Veggies meetup groups without ever feeling I'd made any personal connections. That all changed during the Master Veg class. I not only made connections with my classmates and the presenters, but to the subject that I'd thought I knew so much about. Until that first class anyway, when I realized I'd just scratched the surface. I got to learn about lots more volunteer activities through the class, but I also felt a stronger connection to my activism after learning about the issues in more depth. It's also nicer now when I participate in Veg events and see familiar faces that I know have made similar connections.

Q: What has been your favorite or most memorable NW VEG volunteer experience?
A: My most memorable NW VEG volunteer experience was going to Humane Lobby Day early this year, getting to attend a seminar at the State Capitol on the current Animal Welfare legislation bills with hands on lobbying training, then meeting my State Rep and State Senator in their offices and trying to convince them to how to vote on various bills affecting animal welfare. I'd never done anything like it before. It was beyond great to be a part of this well organized event with such a very large turnout of people from all over the state. The director of the Oregon Humane Society, Scott Beckstead, is very well spoken. It made me feel that we'd be heard and together could make a real difference. I've continued to follow legislative issues and join in discussions on line and on facebook with the people I met that day.

Q: What advice would you give to individuals considering volunteering for VegFest?
A: My advice to VegFest Volunteers specifically is to be sure to find time to attend a cooking demonstration around your shift. I believe the best way to reach the hearts and minds of non-vegans and convince them they can make a difference by going meat free is through food. I've encountered a great deal of skepticism that vegan food can be good, and the idea of not enjoying eating can drown out the best animal welfare and environmental reasoning. While most people can make spaghetti and tacos, it's nice to see just how "wow-appealing" vegan food can be in the hands of a pro.

Q: What is your favorite veg meal, either homemade or from a restaurant?
A: I have a very adventurous appetite for trying new things. One of my favorite sources of this is Grant Butler's column in The Oregonian's Foodday where I found a recipe for Eggplant Timpano from a cookbook he reviewed featuring vegan holiday centerpiece dishes. Another recipe from that column was sweet and savory stuffed portabello mushrooms. It called for caramelized shallots, balsamic vinegar, rosemary and grapes for the stuffing -but I didn't like the idea of getting out of season grapes so I replaced them with some persimmons that were going soft. I think they turned out to be the most delicious thing I ever made.

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