The HILLTOP Award (Heroes Inspiring Leadership, Learning, Teamwork, Opportunity and Pride) was created in 2006 to honor individual and organizational efforts to address poverty in Multnomah County.

Charmaine Kinney is the 2019 HILLTOP Award for Individual Achievement winner.

Charmaine Kinney

If you visit Charmaine Kinney at her home, you’ll see a full house. There are people learning to make shawls, friends crafting moccasins and regalia, even visitors who are struggling and need a safe space to talk to someone.  

For Charmaine, serving others is not just part of her job. It’s in her DNA. As long as she can remember, her life has been about helping others. Even when she was struggling to overcome her own obstacles.

“I have 38 years in recovery and my life has been one of helping people,” Charmaine says. “In my own recovery, there were people who helped me. The individuals who helped me showed me a way of helping others.”

It’s that experience, she says, which motivates her to improve outcomes for people experiencing mental health and substance use disorder challenges as a quality management coordinator for the County’s Mental Health and Addiction Services Division. Her job is to be a bridge between the leaders of the division and the community they serve.

But her job is much more than that. She also staffs the Adult Mental Health and Substance Abuse Advisory Council (AMHSAAC), which works to raise the voice of people with lived experience in the County’s behavioral health system. And she was a founding member of the Future Generations Collaborative, which promotes healthy pregnancies and cultural healing in the Native community.

“AMHSAAC and Future Generations Collaborative are a really important part of my story,” she says. “The answer to trauma is healing. There is so much trauma that has happened in many communities. All my work and all my focus is on: how do we heal?”

Charmaine says her job is not a traditional 9-to-5 position. It’s all day, every day. And while some people would fold under the pressure, Charmaine says her work energizes her and gives her purpose.

“What gives me hope is seeing change and experiencing change, both on a personal and an institutional level,” she says. “I’m here to serve—whatever I can do. Together we can do what we cannot do alone.”