Journey completed: From crime to “Café au Play” at Tabor Commons

We’ve followed this story from the beginning, as an illegal drug drive-thru has become a community center. See what volunteers have created, in this unique place …

With the driveway concrete removed and replace with permeable pavers and gardens, many folks gather to celebrate the opening of Café au Play.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Since the “Drive-thru Wake-Up Deli” owner was busted for peddling pseudoephedrine for use in meth labs, the property at 5633 S.E. Division Street – right across from Atkinson Elementary School, and near Franklin High – has finally opened as the Tabor Commons’ community center – after years of urging and prodding by local community activists, led by Paul Leistner.

> Click on these story titles to read how this story has progressed:

Thanks to thousands of volunteer labor hours, donations, and City of Portland grants, this one-time gas station now houses “Café au Play”, a nonprofit coffeehouse community center.

Lara Tucker shows off her bashful bunny, Cloud.

It’s a happy day, say Café au Play founder Kristin Heying, Sophia Heying-Sullivan, and board members Hilary Nelson, Charles Heying and Josh Lighthype.

At the opening celebration in July, Kristin Heying – founder and executive director of Café au Play – explained her concept. “It’s a place for families, and for the larger community, to gather and develop support systems. and exchange resources.”

About the time Leistner was developing plans to make the one-time illegal drug source – even held in the hands of the federal government for a time – into a community-owned site, Heying said she conceived of it becoming a community café.

“We started working together in 2006,” Heying remarked. “The mission of Tabor Commons is about developing community. When Paul learned about the Café, we decided that this was a perfect fit.”

Playing at Cafe au Play: Charlie Tex-Underdown, who pretends to drive his dad, Perry Underdown.

It has been a very long journey, admitted Heying. “Now, I’m looking forward to having a space where people can come on a regular basis. Perhaps they’ll get involved by volunteering to teach classes, or to hold little fund-raising events for us. The idea of people really, truly developing these support systems that are really crucial, when you become a parent.”

Throughout the day of the opening celebration, folks stopped by this unique community center to enjoy food, music – and engage in creating community.

> To learn more, see their website: CLICK HERE to visit it!

Musicians Duo Royale entertain at the celebration. “He’s Roy and I’m Al!” exclaims the guitarist.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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