‘Parks Champions’ are working to create more vital, inclusive public parks

At Portland Parks Foundation, we are so pleased to honor Matthieu Kambumba and Ginger Edwards as the 2018 Parks Champions award winners. This annual award recognizes outstanding park, community center, natural area, or community garden volunteers. Honorees also get to designate a Portland Parks Foundation grant of $1,500 to a community organization that aligns with the Foundation’s goal to create a thriving and accessible parks system for a healthy Portland.

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Matthieu Kambumba is a leader in Portland’s Congolese community and an Oregon Food Bank Ambassador. He has been integral in activating the new Wood Community Garden in SE Portland’s Centennial neighborhood. His contributions include community outreach, culturally responsive gardening classes, and securing of grants. Matthieu has designated a grant to support Wood Community Garden, noting that it means “more opportunities and resources for the Wood community to achieve [our] goal to be self sufficient and sustainable. It is the opportunity to have more time together to build and strengthen the community."

An advocate for North Portland parks and neighborhoods, Ginger Edwards has been especially active with Arbor Lodge Park. She organizes community groups and businesses to volunteer throughout the year, is part of the tree team, and helped to fund and personally maintained an ADA accessible restroom at the park’s popular and inclusive Harper’s Playground. She said, "if you do things for the right reasons, and share your goals, other like minded people will show up and join you. That is what has happened at Arbor Lodge Park and Harper's Playground. This shows that something close to me and important in our neighborhood resonates with others outside of our neighborhood." Ginger also works as Ginger has designated her grant to support Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association.

Congrats Matthieu and Ginger and thank you for all you are doing to support thriving, inclusive Portland parks!



The impact of partnership: a farewell from Jeff Anderson

As I retire from the Portland Parks Foundation at the end of October, I want to share just a few thoughts about the impact of partnership in fulfilling our mission.  

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We do nothing alone.  In America there’s a persistent myth of the impact of the rugged individualist.  I’m not sure whose interest this myth serves, but the truth is that ALL of our enterprises depend upon continuity, collaboration, cooperation, and community.  Even the world’s greatest innovators in science and art, or leaders in commerce and politics, acknowledge that they “stand on the shoulders of giants.”  Partnership works across time as well as tasks.   

In three years at the Portland Parks Foundation I’ve been privileged to work with selfless community volunteers on our board, on our Footbridge campaign, and among many park Friends organizations, as well as dedicated staff at the Foundation and at PP&R.  They are the greatest strength of our city—people dedicating their time and expertise to public good—and in the case of volunteers, they do it for free.  They are leaders not because they command but because they serve.

When leadership is rooted in service, partnership is a natural consequence.  We don’t go it alone.  Partners look not to compete but to complement each other’s strengths.  And, as the saying goes, partners’ “many hands” are what makes “light work.”  We get a lot farther with less effort rowing together in the same canoe than by taking on the current by ourselves.  And we owe a lot to those who built the canoe.

The Portland Parks Foundation was literally founded on the concept of partnership.  Perhaps even more now than at PPF’s inception in 2001, partnership is important to help preserve and improve the public spaces that Portlanders prize as highly as any other city service.  Even as we expect clean water to run from our faucets, or our streets to be maintained, or our neighborhoods to be safe, we expect to go to the park.  And we do just that—tens thousands of us every day—because public parks are an essential feature of the city we know and love.  They are magnets drawing others to live here.  Every Portlander has the right to be on our common ground, under the sky and trees, away from the traffic and the noise, in a place that we share as a community. 

From Forest Park to Gateway Green, it has always been a combination of private and public partnership that made this possible.  Look at what Verde has accomplished with public and private partners in Cully Park.  Look at the lively plaza downtown that is Director Park.  Visit Southeast Portland’s upgraded Sellwood Park, or the stunning Peninsula Park Rose Garden in north Portland.  These special places stem from partnership.  Reflect on a concert or sporting event or movie you saw in a park this past summer.  Hundreds of partners create Summer Free For All.  And next summer we’ll have a virtual public art installation in the erection of the Barbara Walker Footbridge, spanning west Burnside to provide safe passage along the Wildwood Trail—the latest of the Parks Foundation’s major efforts, with nearly 1,000 private donors contributing $2 million.

Successful partnership will continue to derive from leaders who serve.  Whether it’s the PP&R staff giving their best, or the community volunteers who spend evenings and weekends with their hands in the soil, or the fundraisers and private donors who give time and treasure to parks, we must complement each other’s work, remember our debt to those who have gone before, and our responsibility to those who will be here when we’re gone.  The Portland Parks Foundation seeks to make and keep these connections, and to keep Portlanders close to nature.  If our connection to each other and to nature is broken, Portland may as well be just anywhere, or nowhere.  But as long as we are here together, and we work together, we’ll be somewhere special.  Thanks for making it so.

PPF's newest board member's lasting impact on Portland parks

 PPF Board Member Mary Anne Cassin. Her legacy to Portland parks includes 22 years with Portland Parks & Recreation and a planned gift through Portland Parks Foundation.

PPF Board Member Mary Anne Cassin. Her legacy to Portland parks includes 22 years with Portland Parks & Recreation and a planned gift through Portland Parks Foundation.

Mary Anne Cassin was with Portland Parks & Recreation for 22 years. At the end of her time there, she managed the implementation of the successful 2014 campaign to pass a bond measure that would raise up to $68 million for parks. We’re now at the halfway point of the implementation of that money. It is making vital repairs and improvements citywide and it has prevented many playground facility closures. Read about it here. Mary Anne has joined the Portland Parks Foundation board and we’re so delighted. We sat down with her in September, just before her first board meeting.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! What’s your favorite neighborhood park?

I had a hard time choosing just one, so I’ve narrowed it down to two. My own neighborhood park, Gabriel Park, is such an amazing urban amenity. At 90 acres, it has a stream, a forest, a community garden; it has everything; and yet it can still be a place to be quiet and contemplative. I’ve absolutely loved living near it for the past 30 years. When we built Southwest Community in the late 90s it has become an incredible resource for the city since the community center was built.

You said you had another one, what is it?

Tanner Creek Springs, because I worked on it, and because it’s such an unusual and wonderful one square block amenity. It does so much in so little space. It manages to make you feel like you’re off somewhere in a wetland somewhere with the still water, and the stream, but at the same time it still fits so much into its highly crafted space in an artsy neighborhood. I just think it’s great.

What is your favorite thing to do in a park?

That’s easy, walking in a park, you see people, you see plants, birds, it’s just a wonderful way to go through life. It’s so much better than walking anywhere else because you’re away from cars and you’re in a little bit of nature.

Do you have a moment or memory that encapsulates this?

I remember walking up the stairs at Washington Park Rose Garden one time, it hit me really hard that I was in this amazingly gorgeous place with all these roses and all this beautiful art and sculpture, and that it belonged to the people. This was no one’s private garden, it belonged to all of us.

What inspired you to join the board?

I know some of the people quite well, having worked at Parks for so long. It’s full of people I admire and miss working with, so that will be nice. The mission also inspired me. It’s close to my heart. What the Portland Parks Foundations has been able to do in its short existence is phenomenal. Public funds will not always cover, what in an ideal world they should cover. The fact that the foundation is there to help bridge that divide is wonderful.

You’ve put Portland Parks Foundation into your will - what inspired you to make this kind of commitment?

My career is so tied into Portland parks and when you think about legacy, you tend to think about what will continue to have value to people, not just people but also to habitat. That’s what kept me at Parks all those years. The benefits are so universal, no matter what kind of person you are, what kind of animal you are, even the water — everything benefits from parks. It’s hard to find any kind of nonprofit that rings all the bells that way. You can address hunger, you can get people books, but it all felt like a tiny little slice. Portland Parks & Recreation has done such a good job of being responsive to people. I know enough about park history to know that it is responsive to the culture and the needs of the time. It’s not just this static thing, it will continue to grow and evolve with what it needs to do. Parks seemed like a really good place to leave things for.

What would you tell someone considering a legacy gift but not sure of what the next step is?

Just go do it. The Portland Parks Foundation makes it so easy. They will sit down with you, answer any questions you have without pressure. You can just have an exploratory conversation. The fact that it’s a younger organization makes it more user friendly. I did a couple legacy meetings in my exploration stage, and I felt welcoming arms from the Portland Parks Foundation, more so than I did from bigger, more corporate organizations.

Do you have anything else to add?

It takes a while for any organization like the Portland Parks Foundation to find out who they are and hit their stride. I really think they’ve found it now. It’s an exciting time to be a part of it. I have the context to see that!

We’re so excited to welcome Mary Anne to our board. To learn more about legacy gifts click here.

 

Summer Goals: All Portlanders Play

 Chariti at Peninsula Park

Chariti at Peninsula Park

By John Pfeil

Last year’s Movie in the Park at Hamilton Park gave Summer Free For All’s program supervisor, Chariti Montez, goosebumps. “Our staff were like, ‘Okay great, we’ve got a band, we’re building a stage, we’re getting the microphones set up …’ But when the scheduled performers, Tongan group Mosimosi Koula, showed up the evening of the performance, they said, ‘We don’t do this on a stage!’”

Summer Free For All empowers Portlanders to create and cultivate community and celebrate our city’s growing cultural diversity through 1,800 free activities at 77 sites all over Portland. It includes free concerts and movies, as well as free lunches and supervised playtime for kids, all in parks. In 2017, the events attracted more than 200,000 Portlanders and provided over 100,000 free lunches for kids. The program is organized by Portland Parks and Recreation in collaboration with many community partners across the city, including Portland Parks Foundation. This year, PPF raised over $66,000 from generous donors including Columbia Bank, Juan Young Trust, Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, Portland Trail Blazers, and KEEN.

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Chariti Montez leads PP&R’s Summer Free for All team. Her personal story is reflective of Portland’s growing immigrant communities. Chariti was born in Salem with a Mexican immigrant father and a white mother.  Her family worked in the fields, and when she was young, her father was deported. She did not see him again for 35 years. Her father eventually returned to live in the United States through an amnesty program in the 1980s. Among other things, her experiences while growing up, first in Salem, then in Portland and Vancouver have helped shape her perspectives on how parks programs can positively impact all Portlanders

In 2015, PP&R commissioned a study to learn more about who was being served by their flagship summertime events, and who was being left out. “It found that folks who came ... were largely from the dominant culture, college educated, and middle class. We weren’t reaching people of other groups in the same percentage that live in the city,” Chariti said. Since that time, Chariti has made it her mission to help diverse communities see themselves in the Summer Free For All schedule.

That Movie in Hamilton Park is a great example of how Chariti and her team have helped the program be more responsive to our city’s growing cultural diversity. Back at Hamilton Park, directed by members of Mosimosi Koula, the group dismantled the stage and set up a few microphones in the middle of a large circle. The group sat in front of the movie screen in the grass and performed. When it got dark, they finished and ‘Moana’ was projected onto the huge, outdoor movie screen. “It was amazing,” Chariti remembers. “These are different kinds of performances, the audience is a part of it.”

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Another way that Chariti’s team has transformed the program is to actively engage new communities and groups who have not traditionally accessed opportunities for partnership and participation. “The way Summer Free for All works is that a community partner applies to host a movie or a concert series. Some of those groups have been doing it for years. They were the groups that knew about it. If you are a group that knows how to navigate the system, or how to apply, or how to fundraise, or that the program is even for you, then you’re going to choose the band and the movies that you like. That reinforces the programming. If it’s always the same community group picking the same kind of music or the same kind of movies, then the people who are not included don’t come, don’t see anything for them, and don’t think it’s for them.”

So when 12-piece Cuban dance band Pilon d’Azucar played the Washington Park Summer Festival on the famous Washington Park Amphitheatre stage last year, friends pulled her aside and said, “You had something to do with this. It’s a really big deal that these performers are in this garden at this venue right now.” Any day of the year you can see visitors from all over the world in the garden, but people from that community still didn’t feel like the space belonged to them. “It was a really proud moment for the performers, and to have so many people from the Latino and Latinx community community show up felt impactful.”

“There’s this ephemeral aspect to Summer Free For All that’s really fun, this sense of community and placemaking. All of the sudden there’s a stage that, for most of these parks, wasn’t there the day before, and the next day you’re not even going to know it was there.” The stages may come and go, but the inclusiveness and diversity resulting from Chariti’s work will have impacts for generations to come.

Our picks for Summer Free For All 2018:

Friday, July 20th at 6:30 pm at Harrison Park (SE 84th Ave. and Harrison St.)

Concert: Joe Kyle - Indie rock, classical, pop vocalist, and voilinst looper

Movie: Can (2011)

Wednesday, August 15th at 6:30 pm at Laurelhust Park (SE Cesar E Chavez Blvd and Stark St.)

Concert: DJ Prashant & Jai Ho! Dance Troupe - Interactive Bollywood and Bhangra dance

Movie: Chak de! India (2007)

Thursday, August 9, 6:30 pm at Dawson Park (2926 N Williams Ave.)

Concert: Eldon “T” Jones & N Touch - groovy jazz

Thursday, August 18, 6:30 pm at Dawson park (2926 N Williams Ave.)

Concert: EMBRACE - contemporary Christian and gospel

Saturday, August 18 6:30 pm at Gateway Discovery Park (NE Halsey St. and 108th Ave.) Tonga Day 2018

Concert: Tongan 101 - Tongan/Pacific Islander music and dance

Movie: Moana (2016)

 

Photos courtesy Ben Brink, Fred Joe, and Luceil Rice and Portland Parks & Recreation and John Pfeil of PPF

Community Connections through new PPF Board Leadership

Meet JR Lilly, PPF's newest member of the Board of Directors. JR brings with him a deep connection to the Native community as well as a true love of parks and respect for the value that they bring to life in an urban setting. PPF is honored to welcome JR to our team. 

JR Lilly
Civic Engagement Coordinator, Native American Youth & Family Center (NAYA)

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What is your favorite neighborhood park? My favorite park is Peninsula Park which is always worth the drive across town no matter where I live. I just moved and my neighborhood park is going to be Thomas Cully Park (opening Jun 30).

What is your favorite thing to do in a park? Growing up I was in all the sports, so anything active is great. Some of my best memories are with friends playing kickball on a nice sunny day. Our parks are always great for a simple walk or to toss the football with family.

What inspired you to join the Portland Parks Foundation's board? I love our parks! And I want to make sure that everyone in Portland has access to a place that is safe, fun, and welcome. The Portland Parks Foundation does great work and I look forward to supporting those efforts.

The value of community involvement in local parks

"Even if you don’t go to a park every day, you can still recognize the value that it has." - Gary Maffei

Our board chair, Julie Vigeland, recently sat down with Charles Jordan Circle member Gary Maffei to learn why he supports public parks. 

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Tell us about your upbringing and how it’s influenced your relationship with parks.
Well, I’m a native Portlander—I grew up in Southeast Portland—and our closest park was Mount Scott. I used to spend all summer there. As a child, I remember that the parks system was a center for the neighborhood. We couldn’t afford to go to the beach or to the mountains or on vacation, but we could walk over to the park and have a picnic or play on the playground. I also used to do Little League in Lents Park. My brother did the Babe Ruth league for high school and my dad was a coach.

What has your relationship with parks been like as an adult?
For 20 years of my career, I lived near Council Crest, and I’d go for walks there. We’d take the dog out for runs because there were beautiful hills for playing fetch—the ball would just keep going and so would the dog! In my career years, I was on the City League for tennis, so we played in all the city parks: in North Portland at Peninsula Park, at Grant Park, up at the Rose Garden tennis courts… It was lots of fun.

In your view, what makes parks important for cities?
It’s a gathering place for the neighborhood, especially the parks that have community centers. The community center at Mount Scott had a roller rink in the basement that we used in the winter, and of course the pool opened in the summer for all the kids. The park near where we live now has the farmer’s market and movie nights in the summer—they have a man-made hill where people put their blankets out, and a big screen so everyone can watch the movie.

How can we make parks more accessible for Portlanders in every neighborhood?
I think it’s important to promote the use of existing parks, and also maintain the existing parks so that people want to use them. Maintenance isn’t as exciting as big new projects, but it’s necessary so that parks and sports facilities don’t fall into disrepair. The Parks Foundation has a unique position where you can really advocate for maintenance within the parks, or even for a bond measure to make improvements.

Do you know of any parks advocates who are doing inspiring work?
Any civic leaders that are in love with Portland are going to be in love with the parks—I mean, who isn’t? Even if you don’t go to a park every day, you can still recognize the value that it has. Anybody who’s donated to parks is supporting parks.

You’ve mentioned a number of parks. If you had to choose a favorite, which would it be?
I’d say Mount Scott. I grew up there—20 years of my life was spent in that park, whether that was hanging out with friends, swimming in the summer, or bicycling there. As an older person, my favorite has been Gabriel Park, because I play tennis there. I’ve spent so many evenings playing tennis there, with friends or in the League.

Meet Our Intern

Heidie Ambrose
PPF Programs and Partnerships Intern

We are delighted to introduce our new intern, Heidie Ambrose, to our team at PPF. Heidie is hard working, insightful, and a very thorough researcher. As an intern, she offers fresh perspective and a new voice to our discussions.

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What is your neighborhood park?
Rockwood Central Park

What is your favorite thing to do in a park?
I love to go hiking with friends and exploring playgrounds with my nephews.

What inspired you to join the Portland Parks Foundation?
I'm interested in the non-profit sector, and care deeply about Portland's green spaces.

What are you most excited to learn about during your internship?
I'm excited to learn more about development, as well as the grant application and review process. It's especially helpful to be a part of the grant program that PPF facilitates. I'm starting to understand what an organization is looking for in an application and getting excited about the proposed projects.