Rosewood summer party creates community spirit

See how volunteers with the Rosewood Initiative and four outer East Portland churches created a community event that served hundreds …

Hundreds come out on a lovely summer evening to the Rosewood Community Dinner and Fair.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Along the streets surrounding the intersection of SE 162nd Avenue and Stark Street, residents face the problems associated with increased transient renters, gang violence, and few resources.

A positive influence in the area has been, and continues to be, the Rosewood Initiative.

And, on August 6, Rosewood volunteers decided to host a community dinner and fair in the parking lot in front of the Rosewood Initiative center.

Rosewood Initiative Director Jenny Glass spends a moment with organizer Marge McDevitt, with St. Joseph’s the Worker Catholic Church.

“This is our second year,” remarked the lead volunteer from the Centennial neighborhood St. Joseph’s the Worker Catholic Church Social Justice Group, Marge McDevitt.

“Last year we prepared a community dinner for 200 people,” McDevitt told East Portland News. “We had about 400 show up.

“So, this year we prepared for 600 people – 400 hamburgers and 200 hot dogs and buns, and we were out of food in about 45 minutes!” McDevitt said. “This is a measure of success.”

Musician Gabriel Bradford entertains, playing his keyboard.

About a year and a half ago, McDevitt said, Rosewood Executive Director Jenny Glass came to her church group to talk about the Rosewood Initiative.

“I thought that Rosewood was a very good idea,” McDevitt continued. “I’ve lived here since 1961 – back then it was pretty much farmland and not at all like it is now.”

Last year, her church held the community dinner and fair using their own volunteers. “In February, we put on a ‘chili feed’ and invited other churches to participate. Today, the Parklane Christian Reformed Church, Freedom Foursquare Church, and As Is Church volunteers are all helping with the event.”

St. Joseph the Worker Council 13700 Knights of Columbus volunteer Alan Stickel serves another free snow cone.

This effort is valuable McDevitt said, “Because the community has changed so much. It used to be ‘middle class’, whatever that is; there is a lot of poverty. So many people who live here now have been transplanted from North Portland, displaced by gentrification there.

“We need to have a neighborhood again,” McDevitt observed. “We need to bond together to again, make a real neighborhood, take care of each other, and become part of our community.”

Visitors take a look at the offerings of vendors, nonprofit organizations, and community groups, at the Community Fair.

The 40+ booths set up are an extension of the Rosewood Holiday Market held last November, according to McDevitt.

“As it turned out, it has been a great idea to have a ‘community fair’ here at the same time,” McDevitt reflected. “There are people who represent every aspect of our community. And we have many organizations represented where people can see that they can get help, and support.”

Local farmers from the non-profit “Outgrowing Hunger” Neighborhoods Gardens Project sell fresh vegetables at the fair.

Gary Schultz with Boy Scouts Troop 544 and Shelli Thompson, both volunteers from Parklane Christian Reformed Church, dish out some of their 50 gallons of freshly made pasta salad, made with candy-sweet tomatoes and veggies from members’ gardens.

Although most of the food was soon gone – except the delicious pasta salad, being served in paper cups after they ran out of plates – a throng of people stayed on, listening to music, enjoying shaved ice treats, browsing among the vendors, and participating in a drawing.

“This is our best event yet,” commented Rosewood’s Jenny Glass. “In fact, it’s awesome.”

Asked why this community dinner and fair is important to Rosewood’s mission, Glass replied, “This is our mission! The vision of Rosewood is bringing everyone together, celebrating, and being part of our community.”

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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