Suzette Matthews is a pacesetter for giving of oneself to benefit others

Nearly everyone knows a woman who volunteers somewhere — usually once or twice a year for a charitable cause with her friends.

Anyone who thinks that is an example of an altruistic lifestyle hasn’t met Suzette Matthews of Gresham.

“Super woman” would be a better term to describe this pacesetter, who lives with her husband, state Rep. Greg Matthews, D-Gresham, and their three daughters, ages 12, 9 and OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM HART - Suzette Matthews, owner of Small World Learning Center, is seen just outside one of the classrooms at her day care center that serves youngsters age 6 months to 12 years.

Matthews is totally involved in her daughters’ lives — more than just transporting them to their activities.

The girls’ activities include several sports, band, dance and Girl Scouts.

For example, instead of just sitting alongside the sports field and watching her daughters participate, she volunteers to be the team mom and takes on responsibilities that assist the coach and the players.

At her daughters’ schools, she volunteers to help teachers in their classrooms twice a week.

Add the duties she gained when elected president of the Parent Teacher Student Organization — a role that brings her into the school every weekday.

Forget what she’d like to do for herself; Matthews supports her husband in everything he does in Gresham, when he’s not in session at the Legislature.

He’s also a very busy person, serving in Salem during the sessions, taking long shifts as a career firefighter for Gresham Fire & Emergency Services, directing activities at a youth camp and emceeing several local events. While helping him in everything he does in Gresham, she manages their daughters’ complicated schedules and provides transportation.

While assisting her husband, Matthews provides lead support for the annual firefighters’ Easter egg hunt, cookies with Santa and the firefighters’ union picnic.

Matthews also is involved in the Teddy Bear Parade, sponsored by Soroptimist International of Gresham. She participates in the event along with her husband, who has been the event’s master of ceremonies for many years.

But beyond community activities, Matthews focuses much of her efforts on raising her children to be responsible citizens of their city and neighborhood.

“My girls are my life,” she said. “Everything we do centers around them, and I feel that each stage of their lives is unique and important.”

For years, Matthews has valued her relationships with her parents and her husband’s parents, and she is trying to instill that same attitude in each of her girls.

“(Matthews) manages to participate in all facets of (her daughters’) hectic schedules,” said her father-in-law, Dale Matthews. “She is the ultimate mother, which is her first priority.”

Matthews doesn’t like the spotlight on her altruism. She prefers to assist others in the background, and takes her own brand of pride in knowing she has done something helpful.

For example, assisting teachers at school in a secondary role of support is just what she likes to OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM HART - One class at the Small World Learning Center in Gresham gathers around the day cares owner, Suzette Matthews.

“Given the budget woes of our schools and the declining resources,” she said, “I think it’s important for parents to assist in creating an atmosphere where our children can achieve success.”

If all of this wasn’t enough to keep one mother busy, Matthews has owned and operated a business for a number of years. She owns the Small World Learning Center, a growing and popular day care center with 22 employees who serve 110 children ages 6 months to 12 years.

Even though she has a center director, Matthews is a hands-on owner and participates in all decisions.

Center Director Karlene Ryan, who works directly with Matthews daily, is continually amazed at her boss’s ability to manage so many activities at the same time while giving 100 percent to everything.

“(Matthews) is probably the most giving and generous person I know,” Ryan said. “She gives of herself, whether it’s her children or her husband or her (extended) family or the people at the center or her children’s school. Everything comes before her — first.”

Ryan says Matthews is never paid to be involved in any of her volunteer activities, and she never complains about the amount of responsibility she has accepted.

“I don’t know how she does all that she does,” Ryan said. “She just does it.”

Matthews’ father-in-law says one indication of the quality of her work is the fact her business has been awarded Day Care Center of the Year five OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM HART - Day care center owner Suzette Matthews stands on a porch overlooking part of the supervised playground at the Small World Learning Center in Gresham.

“(Matthews) is totally involved in numerous civic programs in Gresham,” he said. “Our entire family benefits from her hard work and dedication.”

With three pre-teen girls involved in multiple activities and a husband who is a career firefighter, union president and state representative and the level of activity that Matthews assumes, “this is a very busy family,” Ryan said.

But what benefits the community and sets Matthews apart as an exceptional woman is her spirit of giving — to anyone.

Matthews says this recognition has embarrassed her because she doesn’t need the spotlight and never wants to show pride in herself. Her altruism is self-motivated.

“I have always been someone that others could rely on in times of need,” she said. “They know that I will do everything I can to assist.”

Ryan is likely not alone when she values highly her friendship and working relationship with Matthews.

“It touches me to know her,” she said, “(Matthews’ giving) is not for any (selfish) reason. It’s just who she is.”

Contract Publishing

Go to top