Multicultural festival meets community needs

Find out why volunteers put on a second ‘Community Care Festival’ in outer East Portland …

Here in the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization Community Center, located in the Hazelwood neighborhood, visitors come to the 2016 Community Care Festival to learn about local organizations and services.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Part a multicultural celebration, part a neighborhood networking event – the second Community Care Festival held in outer East Portland took place on May 28, at the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (known as IRCO), in its Sokhom Tauch Community Center.

Tables were set up around the multipurpose room and gymnasium, giving nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies their own space to meet the incoming guests.

From recycling to housing, visitors learn and get resources from vendors at the festival.

“There is a lot of ‘need’ in outer east Portland; and that need revolves around topics such as food, housing, transportation, climate justice, and education,” commented co-organizer Debbie Gordon about the event.

Activity at the springtime Community Care Festival swirls around its organizers Debbie Gordon and Layla Assem.

Her co-chair, Layla Assem, added, “We’re encouraging involvement in community activities, neighborhood programs, involvement in the civic process of learning how to register to vote and voting, getting active into the community, defending their own rights for neighbors, newcomers, and Native Americans, so they can take part and be active, and advocate for themselves and others – and help build a community together.

“We’re trying to get together, have fun together, and have worked together,” Assem smiled. “When you know each other, it helps; ignorance breeds prejudice. The more we are educated and understand each other, the less fighting and violence will take place.

“Also, we’re trying to help people get all the services that they need, and to have them know that people care about them in the community,” Assem said. “People in outer east Portland have been under-served.”

Olive and Dingo present a rollicking musical “Story Time” that delights kids at the festival.

Rosewood Community Center Events Manager Aaron Vongdeuane, Rosewood NPI Director Jenny Glass, Midway Division Alliance Director Lori Boisen, and Outgrowing Hunger Director Adam Kohl share ideas for helping outer East Portland thrive.

Gordon chimed in, saying the purpose of the festival is “building community, and strengthening families in our neighborhoods, and our larger community.  We need to do this because we need to build our resiliency for so many reasons – for safety, earthquake readiness, for the future – for anything that comes at us.”

Some 15 volunteers worked to present the fair, the organizers said. “We did get an East Portland Neighborhood Office grant for $500 to defray expenses, and received other donations,” Assem told East Portland News.

Multnomah County Health Department Lead Screening Program’s Jacqueline Long draws blood for a screening.

Telling visitors about the mission and work of the East Portland Neighborhood Office is Hazelwood Neighborhood Association Chair Arlene Kimura.

“The best thing about it, for me, is seeing people happy, and getting together – and finding valuable resources here,” Assem said.

Gordon said she liked how the festival “mixes it up, seeing people who are from different cultures and backgrounds enjoying the day together; learning from and about each other.” Plans are already afoot for another such festival next year.

Lunden Hudson of New Avenues for Youth tells about the program at this year’s Community Care Festival.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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