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Meet Dori Painter

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

World traveler and volunteer extraordinaire!

Having traveled in 80 different countries and having worked in dozens of those, Dori Painter has made Evergreen her home of choice after retiring from the foreign service in 1990.  It's where she's chosen to give back what she learned in the first half of her life.

Her exposure has been wide, her experiences many.

IIn 1968 during the Tet Offensive, from her apartment across the street, she watched the Viet Cong attack the US Embassy in Saigon, firing missiles from the yard below.  The following day she walked past the dead bodies of 20 Viet Cong and passed through bloody hallways when she reported to work.

In 1980 she happened to be in the US Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, when President Johnson sent in the troops. "I had the pleasant experience of sitting on the 'throne' when the embassy was being bombed, thinking to myself 'what a way to go!' "

Humor was a necessity working in some of her hardship posts like Guinea, West Africa, where electricity was a rarity, and in Burundi where one needed to know better than to block the path of a mama hippo and her "little ones" en route to the lake.

Her fluency in French took her to the capitals of Morocco, France, Guinea, Vietnam, and Burundi for 2-year assignments.  Her more temporary assignments while personnel officer took her to dozens more in Europe and Africa.

While assigned to the US Mission to the UN in New York City, she got to know George Bush, Sr., during his appointment as US Ambassador to the UN.

Early in her 33-year career with the US State Department, she learned to use a machine gun as well as a handgun and was proud of her marksmanship. It was a matter of security after the Tet Offensive.

Upon retirement she acquired an RV and set out (with her Shih-Tsu, Siji) to see as many of the 50 states as she could, proud to say she's been in 48.  Visiting a friend in Evergreen along that 21,000-mile trip helped her identify where she'd settle down for the rest of her life.  She moved here in 1992.

These days, with the bulls-eye accuracy she acquired in the State Department, she takes aim at attacking social service situations where she can make a difference one-on-one.

Soon after settling in, she began a long and sustained career in volunteering with Mt. Evans Home Health and Hospice that touches many but mostly one at a time.

She volunteers as a respite volunteer, giving a few hours at a time by staying with a patient so that the primary caregiver gets a break. As a member of the bereavement team, she's involved in counseling clients who've lost a loved one.

For the past 16 years she's teamed up one-on-one as a counselor with youngsters at Camp Comfort who have lost someone special in their lives and are needing help in dealing with grief. It's a three-day weekend program for children 6-12 that started in 1995, and she's been part of it since its inception.

She also volunteers for the 9Health Fair and the Freedom Run under the umbrella of Mt. Evans.

In 1997 Dori was a member of the second class of Leadership Evergreen, a program for existing and up-and-coming leaders of the community.  It exposed her to different aspects of the community, and she's been a leader in the field of civic duty ever since.

Twice a month she volunteers for Meals on Wheels, and once each week she answers phones at the Mountain Resource Center in Conifer.  She's an active member of Evergreen Kiwanis and Evergreen Rotary.  For more than 10 years she's been tutoring kids with reading at Bergen Meadow Elementary School through a program started by one civic organization (Evergreen Kiwanis) and now overseen by the other (Evergreen Rotary).

Through World Vision, she's sponsored a Masai girl training to be a teacher in Tanzania, and a family in Romania.  Her annual trips have enabled her to travel the globe as well as visit the individuals she's assisted in Eastern Europe and Africa.  She makes it personal.

Her community service has not gone unrecognized.  She was named Kiwanian of the Year in 1994 by Evergreen Kiwanis.  In 1999 she received the prestigious Minoru Yasui Award, which honors unsung heroes in the Metro Denver area.  In 2000 she received the DAR Award for Excellence in Community Service from the Mountain Rendezvous Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  That same year she was named "Senior Hero" by the JeffCo Council on Aging for her volunteer work with the Seniors' Resource Center.

Her favorite volunteer activity, however, finds her in the prisons for three days every other month with an organization called Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP).  As a facilitator, she works with up to 15 inmates at a time (18-22 hours), putting them through exercises that help them express their emotions and learn to better deal with respect, accountability, risk, responsibility, anger and fear, conflict, and communication without blame.

"It's a program similar to Lifespring," she says, a New Age approach well known in the 1970s and 80s that addressed human potential training, often producing profound, life-changing results by focusing on changing the way people experience themselves.  Dori felt that Lifespring had changed her life, and she was eager to use the approach to help others.  AVP was started in 1975 when inmates of a prison in New York State asked Quakers to teach nonviolent conflict resolution to young inmates in particular.

There's no slowing down for Dori.  She's just returned from a Rotarian trip to Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania where she helped evaluate some of the international programs sponsored by her Rotary group here in Evergreen.

She lives every aspect of life with a purpose.