‘Gifts of Parkrose’ a new community celebration

Find out how – and why – these neighbors created a new
event that ties together Parkrose’s past and present …

Enlivening the new “Celebrating the Gifts of Parkrose Together” event are the 71st Ave. Ramblers, playing a toe-tapping mix of old-time string band and traditional music.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In an effort to strengthen inner-community relationships, a group of neighbors put on a unique event on September 20 called, “Celebrating the Gifts of Parkrose Together”.

“The goal of this event is to bring generations together, as well as bring the community together,” explained Mike Vander Veen, East Portland Neighborhood Organization (EPNO) community resource worker and co-organizer of the event. “The idea is to focus on creating an event where people have an opportunity to give what they have to offer.”

Vander Veen said that Bonny McKnight, Co-Chair of the Russell neighborhood Association, started the ball rolling by approaching Rev. Brian Heron of the Eastminster Church about partnering on a couple of events.

In the social hall, co-sponsor Rev. Brian Heron (in the red shirt), from Eastminster Church, welcomes visitors.

Many activities illustrate historical connections
The social hall and courtyard of the church, located on NE Halsey Street just east of NE 122nd Avnue., contained displays and exhibits under a canopy – and music.

One neighbor was demonstrating the finer points of jam-making. At another table, Jerome Harden and his friends were cranking out fresh ice cream the old-fashioned way. “It’s important that people know about the craft of homemade ice cream because, well, it’s the best stuff!” Harden told us.

Inside the Eastminster social hall, neighbors set up historical exhibits that depicted the history of the greater Parkrose area; others showed off their collections of mugs, dolls, and hand-done carving.

Bonny McKnight, Co-Chair of the Russell Neighborhood Association, greets guests at the event’s welcome table.

Event co-organizer Mike Vander Veen is amazed to see that all of the playing cards held in master magician (and local resident) Tim Alexander’s hand have suddenly – gone blank!

Restoring a sense of oneness
We are one community – but one with many ages, cultures, and people,” is how Bonny McKnight put it. “We’ve put on this event to help us connect our community’s youth, seniors, families, and children.”

The event is important to the community, McKnight said. “We think we will all be better off if we know each other, and interact – regardless of age. Our aim is restore a sense of oneness – and wholeness – in our community.”

It came about as McKnight worked with leadership of the Eastminster church looking for ways to help their older members connect with the community. The committee grew into a larger group as members of the Russell Neighborhood Association got involved. “The church did a good deal of the work. Most of the costs for this covered up by a Small Neighborhood Grant through EPNO, funded by Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement,” she explained.

Jerome Harden demonstrates making ice cream the old-fashioned way – and it was delicious!

Promotes community safety
“As people meet, and make new friends,” McKnight continued, “it helps everyone involved make a connection back in the community. Getting to know people we wouldn’t otherwise meet in their daily course of living helps us all feel safer and less isolated.”

In the Russell Neighborhood, many of the residents are widows who still live in their single-family homes.  “We’re finding that more and more of these women feel isolated in their homes, because they don’t know the neighbors who are moving in. They no longer feel safe. We’re trying to bridge the gap from the community they once knew to the community of today.”

All of them from Boy Scout Troop 474, Israel Kamerman and Joseph Bishop spot Ira Kamerman as he demonstrates walking along the temporary, 40-foot long rope bridge they constructed at the event.

From a practical standpoint, related McKnight, “Our committee will use what we’ve learned from putting on this event to see how we can better do a holiday event we have planed.”

Judging from the turnout, it looks as if this celebration was accepted well by the community. Keep watching our Community Calendar – we’ll let you know the date and time of that upcoming holiday event!

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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