‘Fix-it Fairs’ return to outer East Portland

If you missed it in November – be sure to visit the 2011 edition of the Portland Fix-it Fair at Parkrose High School next weekend, on January 22. Here’s why …

Nonprofit organizations and City agencies provide free information – and gifts for visiting their booths – during the annual Fix-it Fair, such as at this one held in Powellhurst-Gilbert in November.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In addition to its own reputation for “keeping Portland weird” – our city has another unusual tradition: The annual Fix-it Fairs.

Perhaps like no other metropolis, the Portland Fix-it Fairs provide a free one-stop center for information to help folks stay warmer, stay cooler, eat better, save money and be safer.

2010 Fix-it Fair coordinator Desiree Williams-Rajee spends a moment with co-workers from the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability – Joel Hanson and Leslie Lum.

“We’re now in our 24th season of Fix-it Fairs,” confided Desiree Williams-Rajee, Events and Outreach Coordinator for the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. We visited her, and the fair, in November at Ron Russell Middle School in the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood.

“Here, we provide immediate access to so many of the programs, organizations, and bureaus in Portland that help families save money and be healthy. Organizations put up displays in the common area, and experts offer classes to help folks learn more about saving energy, providing healthy food for their families, and just being more resourceful in the home.”

Arlene Kimura, Chair of the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association, and Mark White, President of the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association, greet visitors at the East Portland Neighborhood Office table.

Riley Schreiber learns about how to stay safe around electricity from Portland General Electric’s Don Nuttbrock – who demonstrates shocking lessons using PGE’s  “Hazard Hamlet” display.

In addition to giving neighbors the opportunity to learn more, Williams-Rajee pointed out that it also gives many nonprofit organizations a way to connect with the public.

Ongoing exhibits & hourly workshops are provided on such topics as:

  • Water and energy savings;
  • Safe and healthy home;
  • Food and nutrition;
  • Neighborhood and community resources;
  • Recycling;
  • Weatherizing your home;
  • Gardening and growing your own food;
  • Yard care and composting; and,
  • Transportation options – including a free bike repair clinic.

“Don’t forget to tell about the free lead blood testing, free giveaways by the vendors, hourly door prize drawings – and yes, a free lunch at noon!” Williams-Rajee reminded.

Volunteer and vegetarian Hannah Grandey, of Northwest Veg, pitches the organization’s benefits to Eleanor Porter.

How does one get the best result with the least amount of work, while doing home painting jobs? Instructor Paulette Rossi tells all, during her “Painting 101” class.

Their Bureau strategically locates the fairs, Williams-Rajee told us. “We look specifically for diverse communities and locations that are community centers. The schools, themselves, have been shown to be great community centers. We look at the demographics of the school, and how diverse the demographics of the neighborhood are.

What’s the best thing about hosting Fix-it Fairs? “It’s the reception that we get from the people in the community – there’s such a wonderful energy. People are happy, they feel like they’re getting information that they really need – and they get a lunch that fills their bellies. In general, it’s a really good feeling.

“Moreover, when they leave,” Williams-Rajee added, “our visitors say they feel empowered to save money and be healthy.”

East Portland Crime Prevention Specialists Teri Poppino and Rosanne Lee say they enjoy empowering visitors by giving them home safety tips.

Amelia Leung talks with Ariana Longanecker  of the Audubon Society of Portland, with whom she is Backyard Habitat Certification Manager.

Parkrose Fit-It Fair on January 22
Be sure to mark your calendar for the next such fair now, and plan to be there between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. “Come and learn how to thrive, by learning to share needed things, maintain the things you have, doing creative purchasing, and a making an attitude change,”  said Williams-Rajee.

Professional childcare is available – and don’t forget the free lunch at noon.

The Parkrose Fix-it Fair is on January 22, and it’s at Parkrose High School, 12003 NE Shaver Street. For more information, call (503) 823-4309, or email fixitfair@portlandoregon.gov.

Volunteers Beth French and Karen Goat remind you to come by at noon and enjoy a free and tasty lunch!

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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