3 Cheers For Our Volunteers!

As a small non-profit with 4 staff, we do a lot with a little. One of the reasons that we can do so much is because of our incredibly committed group of 50+ community volunteers who show up on a daily basis to support our work. These incredible folks sort clothing, help us fundraise, set up tables and tents for the Farmers Market at 6 am, pick up trash, hang up posters around town, serve on our board and various committees, advise us, encourage us and show us how lucky we are to be doing our work in this neighborhood. There is truly no place like St. Johns.

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Our volunteer crew is a diverse group including longtime residents and newer community members, but their common drive is to give back, connect with neighbors and make a difference. We asked our volunteers to share with us why they volunteer and here is some of what they said:

St. Johns Center for Opportunity provides a forum for neighbors to engage with and support one another

“Because I love St. Johns and my neighbors”

“To engage with, promote, and be a part of my community in a positive way”


So, what do you get for volunteering at SJCO? A lot of warm, fuzzy feelings and a sense of community connection are two of the top results. Our volunteers say that they love meeting their neighbors, they love seeing the work that we’re doing in the community and being a part of supporting small businesses and neighbors in need. One volunteer explained the impact of volunteering with SJCO by saying she has found “...joy and a sense of accomplishment in helping others”.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, come join us as a volunteer. We’ve got lots of different roles to fill, from working events to sitting on committees to helping us plan for the future of our organization. It’s a lot of fun, but don’t take our word for it. Here is what our volunteers have to say to encourage you to join us:

“Come out and join us! We love to meet new people!”

“You won't regret it! Help your neighbors and community to thrive”

“It's 199% worthwhile. You get to know what's going on around town. You can be a part of events and engage with people you would probably not otherwise meet. Makes me smile, and offers you abundant good feelings at the end of the day. Learn about the resources that you may need some day while helping to continue their availability”

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Stand with us to bring access, hope and a voice to all of our community.

Sign up here to begin volunteering with us and make a donation online today!

Supporting Local Events with Fiscal Sponsorship


Did you know that the St. Johns Center for Opportunity provides fiscal sponsorship for a number of community events and grassroots organizations in St. Johns including The St. Johns Bizarre, Celebrate North Portland and the St. Johns Museum? Fiscal sponsorship is when a non-profit extends their liability and tax exempt status to projects or events that align with their mission and values. This allows grassroots community groups or events to fundraise under a non-profit umbrella, get administrative support and, ultimately, flourish in our community!

We sat down with 3 leaders from the organizations we provide fiscal sponsorship to:

Mike Verbout, Celebrate North Portland

9 years ago, Mike Verbout saw a need to recognize and celebrate the incredible leaders and organizations who have helped define and support the St. Johns community. He, along with a committee of longtime community members, created Celebrate North Portland, an awards ceremony highlighting community leaders held at University of Portland each spring.


Shamus Lynsky, St. Johns Bizarre

12 years ago, a group of community members wanted to encourage folks to hang around and enjoy the St. Johns community after the historic St. Johns Parade, so they created the St. Johns Bizarre, a festival of music, food, art and community in the heart of Downtown St. Johns. 12 years strong, the event now features over 100 local vendors and 12+ musical acts on 2 stages.

Jason Quigley Photography

Jason Quigley Photography

Barb Anderson and Maria Rojas, St. Johns Museum

2 years ago, a group of St. Johns residents saw a need preserve the rich history of our neighborhood by gathering, organizing and displaying community artifacts. Through the hard work of the volunteer committee, they’ve collected hundreds of photos, documents and stories about our history. They’re currently searching for a permanent space to display the collection and celebrate the history of St. Johns for generations to come.

St. Johns Museum Pop-up Exhibit

St. Johns Museum Pop-up Exhibit

Even though each of these projects are unique, we saw three very clear themes emerge from our conversations about the impact of fiscal sponsorship on each of their organizations:

  1. Fundraising & administrative support from SJCO is key!

Each of the organizations talked about the incredible relief and time saving they get from having SJCO support with accounting, bookkeeping and fundraising efforts. Lindsay provides all accounting and bookkeeping for donations and expenditures, which frees up the volunteer committees to focus on other aspects of their events. “If we didn't have them as our sponsor we would have to obtain our own 501(c)(3) number and task accounting support to a volunteer. For an aspiring non-profit these are huge time crunchers”. -St. Johns Museum.

Also, having the non-profit umbrella for fundraising efforts means that each of these organizations can apply for grants and provide tax incentives for donations to their events. As Shamus explained, “It has really amplified our fundraising abilities. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve been able to raise more funds over the last 4 years because of the help we’ve had from SJCO”.

2. Organizations have been able to grow in professionalism and organization

Each of these events have also been able to increase their budget, their scope or their scale during the time they’ve worked with SJCO as their fiscal sponsor. According to Mike Verbout, Celebrate North Portland has increased in scope to include a wider range of North Portland leaders being recognized in the awards ceremony due to the support of SJCO networks and outreach. He explains, “With SJCO onboard, the diversified outreach that is there... adds a rich dimension to the goal of a more comprehensive inclusiveness in the event”. No longer just a St. Johns focused event, it has grown to include other North Portland leaders. Likewise, the St. Johns Bizarre has grown from a small party in the plaza to now include 2 beer gardens, over 100 vendors and 2 music stages across 6 city blocks. “It has become one of the biggest community events in St Johns, so a lot of that has been able to take place because of the solid support we get from SJCO!” By providing guidance, structure and time saving accounting support, SJCO has given each of these organizations an opportunity to thrive in the community.

3. SJCO is more than just a fiscal sponsor, they’re a great partner!

More than just administrative support, these organizations see SJCO as a true community partner. Whether through event planning support, access to a storage unit and meeting spaces, increasing outreach capacity to a wider range of neighbors and organizations or having strategic conversations about next steps as an organization, SJCO is there. As Mike explains it, SJCO asks “how can we support you, how can we be a team player? I think that allows for greater success for SJCO and the groups for which they are a team player”. The St. Johns Museum reflected on this saying, “Huge thank you to SJCO! They are more than a fiscal sponsor and provide us with business support too!”.

Fiscal sponsorships are one way that the St. Johns Center for Opportunity supports a thriving, diverse and just community where all community members can thrive. Help us continue to offer this service to our community groups. Stand with us to bring access, hope, and a voice to all of our community through a donation to SJCO during our End of Year Campaign.

Click here to donate!

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Meet Our New Board Members!

We are so excited to announce our incredible new board members who will be joining the organization this summer! It is our honor to welcome the following incredible leaders to the St. Johns Center for Opportunity board:

Landon Crowell Board Member

Landon Crowell

Landon Crowell has been in the property rental business for almost 30 years.  He first started working on his parents rentals at 14. He purchased his first rental house on contract at 18.  Since then he went on to buy, build and sell several more houses and multiplexes. Today he is a little more diversified with commercial and residential property in Portland and the Oregon Coast.

While managing his rental portfolio, Landon has been a business owner in the beauty industry since 1993, when he and his brother opened their first salon called Pieces of a Dream.  He then went solo in 1999 and opened his own salon called A New Place.

His entrepreneurial spirit continued to seek new opportunities. In 2000, he started developing his line of relaxers and styling aids (shampoos, conditioners, polishes and pomades).  He was motivated by the lack of quality products for the multicultural community. To date he has 13 core products, none of which contain animal by-products. Additionally, his Landon’s Own product line has gained popularity in professional circles.

In addition to A New Place and Landon’s Own, Landon has authored four books used as curriculum in beauty schools and is also a visiting instructor at beauty schools throughout Oregon and Washington.



Anna Vo
Anna (they/their/theirs) has lectured on inclusion, race, and social justice on four continents, with the aim of affecting institutional and organizational change. A native Vietnamese speaker, Anna is an experienced youth worker, programmer and educator focused on the empowerment of young people, students and People of Color. In the three years they have resided in the US, they have professionally trained staff from over 100 organizations in Oregon around Inclusion, Trauma-Informed Care, Restorative Justice, Inter-cultural Communication, and STEM and Art Practices.

Anna brings with them a rich, varied background, having lived in 8 countries and previously taught workshops, regarding cultural inclusion and working with asylum seekers, at the Alice Salomon University for Social Work in Berlin, Germany. Anna has years of experience of advocacy and social justice work and such, understands that race and ethnicity play a defining role in one’s life experiences and outcomes and these deeply-rooted inequities have vastly negative social and health outcomes for people of color, and need to be at the forefront of how we shape our policies and our direct work with clients in need.


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Jessica Cobb

Jessica grew up in Salem, OR and fell in love with St. Johns 2 years ago when she married her husband at The Colony. They were drawn to the warmth, walkability and greenery that St. Johns has become known for.  And when they decided to buy their first home last March, this was where they chose to lay their roots. Jessica is a leader in the hospitality recruitment industry; and is also able to draw on years of sales, event planning, and project management experience to best serve our community.  When Jessica leaves work (which happens to also be at her home in St. Johns) you can find her in her garden, at a concert or sipping a beer with her husband at one of the local breweries.


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Gabriela Frask

Gabriela is a Midwest transplant who loves all things Pacific Northwest. She moved to Portland in 2009 and is the proud owner of a mid century ranch in St Johns. She holds degrees in history and geography from Michigan State University with concentrations in urban planning and global studies. In addition to serving on our board, Gabriela also serves on the Developing Leaders board for Oregon's commercial real estate development association, NAIOP. She brings expertise in community planning and organizing and economic development and real estate. Gabriela works at a local architecture firm in downtown Portland and when she is not at work, you can find her hanging out around town, cheering on her Spartans, and setting her Fantasy Football lineup. She has a love of travel and adventure both near and far. As a recent new homeowner, she and her husband have a never ending home improvement project list along with an endless supply of fruit grown from their yard.


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Cindy Caggiano

Hailing from Long Island, NY, Cindy has found a lot to love about Portland since she and her husband moved here 12 years ago.  St. John's friendly vibe, access to wilderness and wildlife – like the verdant greens and nesting birds found on Sauvie Island, wonderful weather and close proximity miles of bike trails, are just some of the many reasons they call St. Johns home. In her current position a Senior Project Manager for Charter School Capital, Cindy ensures that charter schools throughout the United States have the best facilities available, so they can focus on their goal of bringing the best education possible to their students.  She brings expertise in real estate law, construction, corporate governance, and finance. When not at work, Cindy can be found cooking, cycling, taking long walks throughout the community, and enjoying time with family and friends.


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Nicole Lammeier

Nicole has been lucky to call St Johns, Portland, and Oregon home since the summer of 2015. She joined the St Johns Center for Opportunity Board in July of 2018 with experience in leadership and non-profit organizations. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from The Ohio State University and is a Professional Engineer licensed in the states of Oregon and California. In her free time, Nicole can be found walking with her husband and their dog through the streets of St Johns, getting lost running the trails in Forest Park, and finding new ways to stay on the move.




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Katie Skaar

Katie has extensive experience at analyzing business impact, creating the narrative around it, and presenting recommendations based on fact-driven data to executive leadership. She brings a strong background to the team in the areas of short and long-term strategy development, transition management, and tackling complex cross-functional challenges.  Katie has 10 years’ experience working in global business management across public, private and non-profit sectors. Katie worked at Hitachi Consulting prior to joining Nike, where she supported various projects aimed at optimizing technology and resource management programs. Prior to her consulting experience, Katie worked in an economic development organization where she led projects that tackled food security issues and access to market initiatives for cocoa and coffee value chains.  She build all of this experience on the backbone of being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama focused on environmental conservation and community development.

Katie received an MBA and Sustainable Enterprise Certificate from Willamette University, and BS from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, Katie loves living in Oregon, surrounded by mountains, coastline and vineyards.  She can be found most weekends hiking with her highly energetic dog, Dharma, or cheering on the Wisconsin Badgers, Minnesota Vikings, or Portland Trailblazers. Katie is always looking forward to new adventures, be it through sport, travel, or spending time with family and friends.


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Josh Leslie

Josh has lived in Portland since 2003, when he returned to Oregon after attending college in New York on a fencing scholarship and spending two years volunteering with Americorps National Civilian Community Corps, traveling around the country and completing a multitude of short projects with different non-profits and government agencies. The most impactful of those assignments was working at a summer camp for people with special needs. So when he came back to Portland, Josh got a job in a supported living program for adults with developmental disabilities, which evolved into a career in case management.

For the majority of the time he has been in Portland, Josh has considered St Johns to be home. Being involved locally has always been important, so he sought out a variety of ways to be active in community. Josh served on the neighborhood association for two years as the Land Use chair. He has volunteered to help organize the St Johns Bizarre, coordinating with the city to ensure that the streets were closed for the event.  He became certified with Portland NET to be a member of the neighborhood emergency team. In his free time, Josh enjoys one off volunteer projects with his partner, having a pint at a local pub, and staying active with multiple gaming groups with his friends.



Veggie Vouchers: Increasing access to fruits & vegetables in St. Johns!

The St. Johns Center for Opportunity (SJCO), which runs the St. Johns Farmers Market, has been investing in food equity work to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for low income community members since 2010. For the past 9 years, we have distributed thousands of dollars to low income St. Johns residents through the Veggie Voucher program and over $40,000 in SNAP matching benefits at the market. The Veggie Voucher program is an independently run program through SJCO, where 9 partner organizations distribute up to $30 per person per month to use for fruits and vegetables at the St. Johns Farmers Market. In 2018, we are serving 117 families.

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One of those partner organizations is the North Portland Multnomah County Health Clinic. We sat down with Adriana Cardenas, a Community Health Worker, to learn more about the impact of this program on her clients and the community. For over 5 years, the clinic has been a partner organization distributing Veggie Vouchers to patients. Over the years, Adriana has seen a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of the individuals accessing these services. The nurses and providers are very involved in the process, taking the time to get to know the patients and their health risks, as well as their financial situation. At the end of the month, she knows that many of her clients run out of food stamps and the extra money provided by the vouchers make all the difference. She explains “A lot of people count on the vouchers, it has definitely impacted a lot of our patients”. She has also seen community and relationships grow around healthy eating habits, through the voucher program and wellness classes offered by the clinic. She sees patients saying “Let’s go to the farmers market together and get veggies together”. They’ll share recipes with each other and clinic staff to use new types of veggies that they’ve never cooked with before because they haven’t been able to afford them until now. As one Veggie Voucher recipient explained, “I like that it limits it to just vegetables. For me that’s an incentive to eat more vegetables. I’ve lowered my A1C. I’m a cancer survivor so my doctors are really on me about eating more vegetables. I have the best recipe for vegetable soup than anyone in the world now. I get my vouchers and I make a huge pot and eat it every day."


When we asked about Adriana’s hope for the future of this programming, she explained that she hopes “the funding continues and that the people who provide the funding understand how much it is impacting our patients and our patient’s health. I really want to advocate for this for the future. It makes a huge difference! As a Multnomah County Health Center, our nurses and our doctors would gladly advocate for the future of this program. It makes me happy to see our patients happy. It has been a blessing to have this program.”



Join us to keep this impactful program going strong for years to come at the St. Johns Farmers Market. Hundreds of families depend on these supplemental resources to bring nutritious fruits and vegetables to their tables each month. Click here to donate today! $10 will help one family match their SNAP food benefits at the market AND you'll be entered to win a sweet set of local self care prizes including massage, yoga, crossfit and more!

St. Johns Farmers Market celebrates 10 years of supporting emerging vendors!

Nikki Guerrero, founder of Hot Mama Salsa

Nikki Guerrero, founder of Hot Mama Salsa

Nikki Guerrero started Hot Mama Salsa in 2009, making small batch salsa that she sold at Cherry Sprout Produce and 2 local farmers markets, including the St. Johns Farmers Market. Nikki wanted to become a vendor at the St. Johns market, which was in its 2nd year of business when she joined, because it was independently run and community driven. She saw that this meant that vendors got more individual attention and support, which especially helps emerging vendors get a strong foundation in the community. Nikki explains “You really are developing that clientele because you’re getting the community to regularly come shop, so it’s a community investment. It’s great for building a business because then you have built in taste testers...that’s great feedback for a new company”. It’s not just relationships with customers that grew from participation in the St. Johns Farmers Market. Nikki met her main chile farmer, Morgan’s Landing Farms, in the first years at the market and continues to source from other farmers that she met at the market in those first years.

Nikki says that one of the most unique aspects of the St. Johns Farmers Market, aside from it being a neighborhood focused market, is the unique location in the plaza .“That’s what’s so great about that space. It’s like the Zocolo of St. Johns, which a lot of other neighborhoods don’t have. That plaza meeting space is so great.” This community gathering space has been bringing neighbors together for the last 10 years of the market and we plan to keep it going strong.

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Nikki’s business has grown to include numerous farmers markets, wholesale distribution to local grocery stores including New Seasons Market and restaurant partnerships. She explains that the future of Hot Mama Salsa includes the expansion of shelf stable hot sauces and chili oils for the national market, as well as more education including cooking classes and pepper education!

We’re proud to have been a part of watching Hot Mama Salsa’s growth and success over the past 9 years and we’re thrilled that each week we get to try those delicious salsas and hot sauces, fresh out of the kitchen, at the St. Johns Farmers Market. How lucky are we? The feeling is mutual, as Nikki explains “I have felt huge support for what we are doing and a really long term steady customer base. St. Johns has been our community. Part of why we’re doing this and working with our local farm community is because we’re trying to create community. Being a part of the farmers market is a huge part of that”.

Help us nourish our neighborhood by supporting the 10 year anniversary of the St. Johns Farmers Market with a donation and by showing up each Saturday to support our local vendors, like Hot Mama Salsa. As Nikki says, “We need to support small community in our growing, expanding ever-changing community. We need to support that small town feel that we still have in St. Johns”. Donate today and join us each Saturday in the St. Johns Plaza from 9 am-2 pm through October 29th.

St. Johns Center for Opportunity on the radio!

Emily in the PRP recording booth!

Emily in the PRP recording booth!

A few weeks ago, we joined the fine folks of the Portland Radio Project (99.1 FM) as their featured organization on their Community Voices Program.

Community Voices is a weekly program that highlights different grassroots organizations across Portland and provides them a platform to share their mission and programming with the listeners of 99.1 FM. Over the course of the week, Lindsay Jensen (Executive Director), Jessica Mendoza (Admin & Outreach Assistant) and Emily Sterling (Development & Communications Manager) chatted on air about our community development work in the St. Johns neighborhood. 

Listen to our conversation here!

Check out all of the amazing programming at 99.1 FM and streaming worldwide at prp.fm. Their mission is to "give voice to local musicians, nonprofits and small businesses". They play a local artist every 15 minutes and are a commercial free radio station. Take a listen! 



"Why I Volunteer"-an interview with Ruth Lane

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Ruth Lane is a St. Johns resident and community volunteer. She serves on the Business Resource Committee with the St. Johns Center for Opportunity, as well as with other community organizations.  

Why do you volunteer?

“I moved to St. Johns 10 years ago and it was very important for me to have a community where I felt like I was in a village. I could get to know people and form friendships and build a network of support, to find safe places that I could walk and get what I needed”.

Ruth explains, “For a community to thrive, the businesses need to be thriving, so I started volunteering with the Economic Restructuring Committee when I first found out about St. Johns Main Street back in 2010. I helped them apply for the money that Mayor Sam Adams was giving to the first 3 communities chosen to be a main street place and we won - I was thrilled. Now, I’m on the Business Resource Team. I simply visit a handful of businesses and see how they are doing, what they need and see how we can help, stay in touch. Having Carmen available from MESO (Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon) is wonderful because she really gets it right away when people tell their story". Read more about our MESO partnership here.

How have you seen the work of SJCO and your volunteer efforts impact the community?

When Ruth first moved to St. Johns, she saw many vacant storefronts in the downtown St. Johns area. Since that time, she has seen an increase in diverse businesses making their home in this community. She explained that “the businesses that are here are glad to be here and to call St. Johns their home, and having the Business Resource volunteers support them amplifies the feeling that St. Johns is a great place to be.”


As for the impact of the St. Johns Center for Opportunity, she explains that “for me, it’s about the community events, having events to gather together with people with a festival air. When SJCO did the Community Expo, that was such a godsend especially in the beginning of the winter for people to come together, have some snacks and see all the resources that are available. This neighborhood feels much more harmonious now. You have been a very harmonizing influence in this space, truly, and to me it all stems from Lindsay’s personality and the people that she chooses to work for SJCO. They are very collaborative and holistic and see the bigger picture and work on a face-to-face level with people. I totally admire this organization and I’m pleased to be a part of it”.

What is your hope for the future of SJCO and St. Johns?

Bob and Sonja, owners of What A Deal in Downtown St. Johns

Bob and Sonja, owners of What A Deal in Downtown St. Johns

“These are my hopes for the future: continuing to create places for people to gather and socialize because isolation kills. You’ve expanded your mission to jobs and housing. I hope all of those efforts succeed because they are all part of the fabric of a strong neighborhood. On the Business Resource team, I really want to see our businesses make a living while servicing the needs of the residents so that they don’t have to go elsewhere. To keep your stores thriving people have got to give them their business! My independent shop owners are important to me because they’re the people I see and I get to know them. I like walking into the shops and knowing the names of people and asking about them, as well as how business is. That is very enriching for me. It’s hard to put into words”.

As we gear up for the final days before the holidays, support your local merchants in St. Johns. You can also sign up to volunteer with St. Johns Center for Opportunity in a variety of volunteer roles or donate online today to support our work. Click here to donate now!



Prospering in Portland


Damian Crowder is a Project Manager for Prosper Portland on the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative team. Prosper Portland is a long-time supporter of SJCO's. We sat down with Damian to hear his perspective about the impact of SJCO on the neighborhood and the city.

“I really like SJCO’s ability to connect with the community. A lot of times in the work that I do, we’re a little bit removed from the community and to have people work so closely with people that they are directly impacting, is just really fulfilling. To just see people really passionate about the work that they are doing and the people that they are working with is inspiring”.

The highlights of our community development work for Damian are encompassed in the work of the St. Johns Farmers Market, because small businesses are able to test their products in the neighborhood and the weekly event provides a gathering place for the community.  He also highlighted the collaboration with Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO), which provides small business coaching for underrepresented community members in St. Johns. To read more about that partnership, read our recent blog post.

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How would the neighborhood be different without SJCO?

Damian explained, “I think without this organization, the neighborhood would become significantly more fragmented, given the gentrification that is taking place. I think SJCO provides a bridge for all residents to be the hub of communication and information sharing and also empowerment for some people who have voices that routinely go unheard”.

One of the most valuable new partnerships, according to Damian, has been the connection to manufacturing employers in the Rivergate area of St. Johns. He sees SJCO providing those connections to employers, helping residents get a leg up in the job application process, which is a huge benefit to the community.

Anything you don’t think people understand about St. Johns Center for Opportunity?

“I don’t think that people understand the breadth of things that you touch. I think people see you in one vein and I don’t think that they understand the number of connections that you have in various aspects between residents, businesses and more. I don’t think people understand how powerful your voice is. That people respect the position of this organization”.

“I really enjoy working with St. Johns because of the passion that everyone exudes for the work. It’s inspiring. I enjoy the vibe of St. Johns. I just like being here.”


Advocating for Affordable Housing in St. Johns

In 2016, Andres Oswill and five other PSU Masters in Urban and Regional Planning students embarked on a capstone project in partnership with the St. Johns Center for Opportunity (SJCO) to build a comprehensive housing plan for the St. Johns community. Over a period of one year, PSU and SJCO engaged community members in dialogue around housing issues and an examination of Oregon housing policy to create the St. Johns Housing Action Plan. This plan is being implemented by the Housing Committee, comprised of a group of community members and the St. Johns Center for Opportunity. Andres now works in Tenant Policy for the Portland Housing Bureau. We sat down with Andres to talk about the impact of his work with SJCO during this project.


Andres explained that the research project was really rewarding because he got to know the people and the neighborhood very closely. “My involvement with SJCO and this project was without a doubt the most significant and impactful involvement of my Master’s Program. I was able to take a theoretical program and put it to use in a neighborhood who needed me. That meant a lot to me! We envisioned and created a neighborhood plan, which is very different from the traditional housing plans that exist at a regional level. It was important to be able to create something to help address issues and create a new model to contribute to the field of urban planning”.

The students and SJCO felt really strongly about engagement with the community during the project. To capture the voices and concerns of community members, they held 5 different listening and engagement events in the area.  George Middle School and the St. Johns Neighborhood Association hosted the listening sessions in the community.  


In these listening sessions, the students heard that the community was ready to do something. There was concern about new construction, the history of only building single-family homes in the area and the students found themselves surprised to find the housing pressure really affecting the community. People were concerned with themselves or their neighbors moving and selling, the increase in rents, eviction and displacement, and the changing profile of the neighborhood from working class to the “next frontier of Portlandness”. They were asking, “What can we do? How can we keep people in their homes?” Unlike other neighborhoods, it has many multigenerational, long-term residents. Andres recalls talking to a community member who had lived there for 10-15 years and she said “that’s nothing around here. In the context of St. Johns, that’s a really short time”. They had the additional challenge of working within this historical context.

What did you learn from working on the St. Johns Housing Action Plan project?

“It was a real look at the housing crisis in Portland. I got a rich background of knowledge for myself to say this is what it looks like: many empty lots built up with high cost apartments, older apartments being gutted and revamped to become high end, people leaving the neighborhood. I got a good definition of what housing stability looks like too. Housing stability looks like being able to live in and stay in the neighborhood that they grew up in”.

Now, Andres is working at the city level writing landlord and tenant policy. He explains that this project informed his current work and he knows that the city needs to keep grounding policy recommendations in neighborhood conversations like they did in St. Johns.

How do you see SJCO’s work impacting the St. Johns community?

Andres said “SJCO has a unique role because it started as Main Street organization and has transformed into a community resource hub. Getting involved in housing advocacy was a huge step for them. I think the organization does its best work when it functions as a hub, a center for convening people who do different types of work to talk and collaborate. In our instance, it was funders, the Community Alliance of Tenants and the Portland Housing Authority. It’s critical to bring all these people together and then push to get things done!”


Interested in learning more about the St. Johns Housing Action Plan recommendations and findings? You can visit the St. Johns Center for Opportunity (8250 N. Lombard St.) to read a copy of the 82 page document or check out more info on our website here

Supporting Small Business Owners in St. Johns


Carmen Madrid is a Business Development Specialist with Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO). For the past 2 years, Carmen has represented MESO serving the St. Johns community at the St. Johns Center for Opportunity every Thursday. She offers free business coaching and support to entrepreneurs of color and underrepresented populations in St Johns. The mission of MESO is “to improve the economic opportunities of underserved individuals through empowerment, education and entrepreneurship for the benefit of the greater community”.

As a Business Development Specialist with MESO, Carmen loves that she gets to work with marginalized communities to help them reach their dreams of business ownership. She sees herself as a bridge to help people who may have never dreamed that it was even possible to be a business owner.

“I love empowering people! I love watching people blossom and build confidence in their business ideas. Seeing a person that was able to overcome a barrier or a perceived barrier to their business is so rewarding for me.”

What has the impact of the MESO partnership been?

Carmen has worked with over 50 small business owners in St. Johns, since the partnership with SJCO began in 2015. They have received support through IDA matching accounts, technical assistance, business and social media support, and risk management support. People sometimes try to take advantage of underrepresented business owners and a lot of what Carmen has been able to do has been to educate and support these owners as they learn their rights and build confidence in advocating for their business needs. She has seen that more communities of color have become present in the business district of St. Johns, especially along the Fessenden corridor. She has worked with Susie’s Carniceria, Dub’s St. Johns, Gabagool, Taste of Casablanca, Happiness Family Farms, Kweki African Fashions and many other small businesses in the neighborhood.

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She has also seen an increase in support and integration into the larger St. Johns community because of the SJCO partnership. One way this has occurred is by providing vendors with access to the St. Johns Farmers Market in 2017. MESO funded two booth spaces for the first 3 weeks of the market, to be able to support MESO businesses that would not have otherwise been able to afford or feel empowered to access the Farmers Market as vendors. This new exposure led multiple vendors to have season long involvement in the market including Rosata from Happiness Family Farms and Patience from Kweki African Fashions. Similarly, MESO funded two booths at the St. Johns Bizarre, to provide new businesses the chance to vend their wares to the public and get exposure in the larger St. Johns community. This level of community integration and exposure through the SJCO/MESO partnership and the welcoming St. Johns community has been crucial for the success of many new local business owners.

What’s next for MESO in St. Johns?

Carmen explains that it is important to keep the partnership with SJCO going strong to see even more community members of color accessing MESO support in the neighborhood. She would love to see more representation at the Farmers Market and the St. Johns Bizarre festival, to keep integrating these business owners into the neighborhood. She would also love to see the existing businesses scale up to the next level, like a food cart becoming a brick and mortar store.


Are you interested in learning more about MESO business coaching support in St. Johns? Carmen holds office hours every Thursday at the St. Johns Center for Opportunity. Set up an appointment by e-mailing her at cmadrid@mesopdx.org.

Help us #amplifywhatspossible in 2018 by donating to support the St. Johns Center for Opportunity here. Double your impact with a matching grant from Porch Light Realty, if you donate by December 22nd! 


The Arts and Belonging in St. Johns

Kirista Trask coordinates quarterly arts events in St. Johns through the St. Johns Center for Opportunity (SJCO). She is also a professional abstract mixed media artist who lives in the neighborhood and has a studio in Cathedral Park Place. We sat down with Kirista to talk about the impact of the arts in St. Johns and the work of SJCO to support the arts in the neighborhood.

Photo by Nicole Elizabeth Taylor

Photo by Nicole Elizabeth Taylor

As a working artist living in St. Johns, Kirista loves that she lives so close to her studio.  She said “I love walking to work. My studio is one mile from my house. I also get to hang my artwork in the neighborhood with the people that I live around and I get a view of the bridge from my studio!”. Kirista’s abstract mixed media art is currently hanging in 45th Parallel Wine Shop in downtown St. Johns. As the coordinator of the artBURST events through SJCO, Kirista curates and supports local artists to show at the quarterly Art Walk, where local businesses partner with an artist to display their artwork for the evening, the Farmers Market Art Constitutional, a fine art and craft fair set up alongside the Farmers Market vendors, and the Holiday Night Market at Cathedral Park Place. “SJCO and these artBURST events provide an environment for artists and craftsmen to interact with their neighbors in the place that they live and work. This has the added benefit of exposing the neighborhood to art and art experiences that they might not otherwise have access to. SJCO is growth oriented because they are supporting artists who are also small business owners and entrepreneurs!”


Why are the arts important to a neighborhood?

“Art helps people connect with each other. Connection makes neighborhoods safer because people know and are invested in one another. SJCO provides opportunities, which only improves the livability of St. Johns. Art impacts lives in so many different ways. As budget cuts happen, arts programming is more and more important and often we lose access to it, especially young people. It is important to keep access to the arts in the neighborhood, through these types of events and exposure, especially for kids”.


The September Art Walk in St. Johns was one of Kirista’s favorite moments this fall. The bustle of people walking around, looking at and buying art, engaging with local business owners, art and sculpture in the plaza, all of this activity added a new energy to St. Johns. You could see St. Johns engaging with the community and artists in a way that was so positive and also family friendly. The St. Johns Center for Opportunity makes space for these types of activities so that neighbors, small business owners and practicing artists can connect and support one another.  

Kirista describes that a lot of art studios and spaces are located in SE Portland, so it is all the more important that SJCO continues to bring artists into the neighborhood for artBURST events. This provides access to the arts and helps attract artists to places like Cathedral Park Place Studios because artists need to practice in areas where they can also sell their work. SJCO artBURST events help encourage that.

What is your hope for the future of arts programming through the St. Johns Center for Opportunity?

“I would love to see the ArtBURST go from a quarterly to a monthly event. That will take more community participation in these events, which I think will happen. The businesses have been awesome and incredibly supportive of the art walk. I would also love to see a yearly Artist in Resident position that engages the community directly in community art programming!”


Support the work of SJCO to maintain and grow a vibrant arts community here in St. Johns by donating to our end of year campaign here. Our goal is to raise $7,000 by December 22nd. Donate online here today!

The artBURST Holiday Night Market is this Friday, December 1st from 4-9 pm at Cathedral Park Place (6635 N. Baltimore by Occidental Brewing). Listen to live music, buy local, handmade holiday gifts from 25 vendors and tour open artist studios in the building. More information about the event here. 

Roosevelt Homecoming 2017: Making it Home

This post was originally published on the Roosevelt Alumni Association Website, by Jinnett Powell, St. Johns resident and Roosevelt High School PTA President. 


Thanksgiving weekend, and I wish all who read this a relaxing (we can hope, right) and bonding time with friends and family.  Neither my husband nor I am from N. Portland (I’m a New Englander, and he’s a Sheboyanite), yet St. Johns is home.  It wasn’t always that way for me.  In fact I’ve spent most of the past 15 years living here feeling like an interloper.  We never intended to stay longer than a few years before moving back to be closer to family, but we got stuck.  Not in a bad way.  More in the way of “not wanting to leave.”  We were growing roots even though I continued to always feel like an outsider.

We were both drawn to North Portland because the neighborhoods have a distinct sense of place - a rich history, full of their own small town quirks that made us want to be part of them.  I’ve always made a point to be involved in my community, but many of my efforts took me outside of St. Johns.  Until, that is, my son’s sophomore year at Roosevelt when I join the newly starting PTSA.  In doing so, I got the chance to work with alumni, and quickly came to appreciate the dedication and passion that many of you hold for Roosevelt, it’s history and the success of its students.  Helping host Homecomings pre-game celebrations that included the pep-rally parade and tailgate BBQ made me feel like part of the local community in a way that I never had before.  


The Parade, organized by Mike Verbout and the St. Johns Center for Opportunity created a magical mix of community groups, such as The Beat Goes On, playing and marching along side RHS students in the Roosevelt Rider Elite Dance Team and Roosevelt Jazz Band, surrounded by Future Riders from local youth groups and neighborhood schools starting as young as preschool.  It highlighted how the Roosevelt community’s roots begin way before and extend long after those 4 years of high school.  The tailgate party, sponsored by the RHS Alumni Association and hosted by the PTSA was a similar, collaborative success in which alumni and parent volunteers fed over 1000 students, families, and guests!


The Alumni Association’s vision for the tailgate, started the previous year in  2016 in lieu of the Alumni Annual Dinner, was to provide an all-inclusive event that would bring together the greater community to celebrate Roosevelt - at no personal cost! When my family attended last year, I was inspired, and knew that I wanted to do my part to ensure the Tailgate became an annual event by getting PTSA to join in hosting. Thanks to generous donations from local businesses including Franz Bakery, Tim’s Chips, Willamette Valley Meat Co., New Seasons, as well as the support from the Alumni Association and SJCO, we  were able to continue the tradition of a community Tailgate BBQ - free to all!  

The entire event, as well as the student athlete's performance on the field, brought Roosevelt some much deserved public admiration.  I overheard visitors young and old alike, saying “wow, what a great event! What a great place - it feels just the way a homecoming should!”  I went to bed tired- but already dreaming up ideas for Homecoming 2018! I also realized that for the first time, I didn’t feel like I just lived here, I belonged here.

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The RHS PTA is hosting a fundraiser to raise money for the 2018 Senior Grad Party this Friday, December 1st at 45th Parallel Wine Shop in St. Johns from 6-9 pm! Free admission and snacks. 

Business Spotlight #4: Etcetera

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Etcetera Gifts & Goods was the dream of mother/daughter duo Sherry and Brie Wissler. Sherry was an experienced business owner and retail sales representative, having run Generations, a maternity and children’s clothing store on Hawthorne for 15 + years. Brie was an artist and stylist specializing in jewelry, home décor and furniture. With their powers combined, they launched in the smaller space behind Etcetera’s current location on Lombard in August of 2011.


At the time of their opening, Grammy & Nonna’s Toys occupied the front of the property but within the first 6 months of opening, the toy store closed and the duo jumped at the chance to move into the larger shop space. They didn’t have enough inventory to fill the space when they moved, but Brie said they “went with their gut” and didn’t let the doubt of “Why are we expanding? We’ve only been in business for 6 months” stop them from building the store of their dreams. Sherry’s business experience provided a great safety net for them to explore, experiment and expand Etcetera into the store that it is today.

Etcetera is filled with beautiful products for kids, men, women and the home. They specialize in products that are local, handmade, fair trade or sustainable. They have been a longtime seller of Betsy & Iya jewelry and Appetite bags, both of which are Portland companies that have experienced huge growth in the past few years. Brie explained that this is one of the most exciting things about working with local artisans. She gets to provide a retail space to highlight their creations and watch them grow and evolve their styles over time. It’s gratifying to be able to support artisans as they launch their careers.


Jewelry, cards, candles and beard oils have been best sellers, as of late, but Etcetera is also expanding the clothing section of the store, which features fair trade, organic and locally screen printed products. There are also baby clothes and toys, perfume, home décor, hats, purses, flasks and more! The retail space is family oriented and it has always been important to them to make sure there is enough room for strollers and wheelchairs to navigate the space. It was important for Sherry and Brie to create a space where everyone felt comfortable and welcome.


Earlier this year, Etcetera had a heartbreaking loss. Sherry passed away after a 4-year battle with cancer. Brie explains that her mother taught her so much about the ins and outs of running a retail business, and that their business was a true collaboration and friendship. It has been a challenging year, as Brie has taken on all aspects of running the store. She explains that she is even more committed to the business after having gone through a loss of this magnitude because she is still wants to do this. “You just can’t continue to take on this much work and responsibility if you don’t have the passion for it after such a tragic loss”. The store is a continued way to honor everything her mother taught her; and a tribute to the dream that they built together.


Etcetera is part of our local St. Johns economy. Brie lives just a few blocks from the store, she grew up in Portland and has watched the city grow and change. She thinks it is important to know where your dollars are going, to know the story of the shop owners and artisans that you are supporting with your purchases. Etcetera seeks to promote and highlight the work of local artists and fair trade international artists. Some of Brie’s favorite products in the store include hand woven baskets made by an African women’s collective that teaches the women business skills, vibrant wool purses by Manos Zapotecas, a women’s collective in Oaxaca, and St. Johns jewelry makers Frawn & Indigo Alice. There are also vibrant cruelty free nail polishes and matching flasks by Odeme, because who doesn’t need a matching flask made in the USA? This is just the tip of the iceberg for unique gifts. There are so many more treasures to find, so stop in today. Brie says that many people come in and say “I’ve been in St. Johns for a year and have never stopped in until today”. Well, if that’s you, the time is now. What are you waiting for? Explore all your local stores and businesses, you might be surprised at what you find! Etcetera is open Tuesday-Saturday 10-6 pm and Sunday 11-5 pm, and will have extended hours throughout the holiday season.


What’s next for Etcetera?

  • Join them for their 1st ever Fall Fashion Event, Friday, November 10th from 6-8p! Check out all the newest styles and new brands of Organic, Fair Trade and Local apparel and accessories. Enjoy discounts and refreshments and be the first to shop limited production items.  

  • They will be participating in Little Boxes, a citywide shop local program that provides incentives and prizes for shoppers supporting local businesses on Black Friday! Go check out the adorable felted animal ornaments and other holiday decoration and gifts in the store.  

  • Follow them on Instagram @etceterapdx. They do contests and drawings to win free products!

  • They are hiring a part-time salesperson for the holiday season. Drop a resume by the shop to apply!


Shop Location: 8621 N. Lombard, St. Johns, Portland, OR 97203

Contact: (971) 279-2473 or etceteraportland@gmail.com 

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Etceteraportland/ 

Business Spotlight #3: What A Deal Thrift Store

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5 years ago, Bob and Sonja opened “What a Deal” Thrift Store in downtown St. Johns at 8953 N. Lombard across from Baxter Auto Parts. Sonja had always wanted to open a thrift store and after 10 years in Hawaii, they moved to St. Johns to take care of Bob’s ailing mother. The decision to come out of retirement and start a thrift store hung on one caveat: Bob said he would only agree to open one if it didn’t smell like a thrift store!

When you walk into the business, you’ll notice, there isn’t a whiff of dust in the place. That’s because Bob meticulously cleans, mends and fixes each item that comes through their doors before it goes onto the shelves for sale. You can find just about anything inside this shop: band t-shirts, dresses, baby clothes, kitchen items, board games, original art and jewelry, Christmas decorations and more. It’s all carefully categorized and priced to sell. Their goal was to create something good for the neighborhood, a store where anyone could find something they need or want at a great price, hence their tagline “Everyday items for Everyday People”. They’re like a mini-Goodwill but with Goodwill’s OLD prices, Sonja explains. They get all of their items from community donations. Over the years, they’ve seen some interesting donations. They once got a junk drawer filled with mainly paper clips, half used receipt books and miscellaneous paper scraps but under all of that were 3 gold teeth. They took the teeth to a metal smith shop and got $180!


If you’ve walked through their doors, you’ve likely experienced that it’s more than a thrift store. There is a feeling of “aloha” here. Bob and Sonja both agree that “a lot of nice happens here”. There is a seat at the counter where customers are welcome to sit and chat, Bob and Sonja greet each customer with a smile and they’ll help you find what you’re looking for, even if they don’t have it in the store. Once, a customer came in looking for a notebook but they didn’t have any in stock. Another customer overheard the question and said “I’ve got one in my car that I’m not going to use, you can have it” and she went out to get it for her! Over the years, they’ve witnessed and received quite an array of kindness and generosity in the community. Bob described that people often say “keep the change!” when they’re paying for their items. Once, a couple came into the store, shopped a bit and then came back an hour later and said “We own a bar on Hawthorne and we’ve started a “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” fund, where we give out a little bit of money to people doing good work. We just really appreciate how you do business and how friendly, open and awesome you are, so here’s a check for $487, just because!”. 

They see the occasional shoplifting from customers but they’ve got a straightforward good cop/bad cop vibe when dealing with customers. Sonja has an eagle eye in the shop to make sure things stay on the shelves and, for the most part, people respect the fact that they’re a small business who treats every customer like a friend.

It’s a family business. Bob and Sonja’s daughter, Sheila, helps manage the store and the inventory in the shop. Most days, you’ll find all 3 of them working at the shop from open to close. As Bob explains, the shop is their life. They work 6 days a week and haven’t taken a vacation in a long time but they’re passionate about the store and the community.


Outside of work, Bob and Sonja are both artists. Bob paints and sings, Sonja makes jewelry that you can purchase in the shop, along with creating pastels, drawings and collage work. You’ll often find them at Patty’s for Saturday night karaoke, where Bob does a classic Neil Diamond or Willie Nelson song. Bob and Sonja love the St. Johns community and they want to continue to be a great spot for deals and unique thrift store finds in the neighborhood. Stop by, say hello and find a great treasure today!

Upcoming events:

·         Tuesdays are Senior Citizen day with a 25% discount.

·         Military Veterans get 25% off EVERY DAY.

·         When you bring a donation to the shop, you get 30% off your purchase.

·         Don’t forget to check out their epic Christmas tree display (which takes 2 weeks to set up) in the front window of the shop in December!


Business Spotlight #2: Peninsula Station

St. Johns Center For Opportunity is focused on elevating our small business community, along with community engagement, workforce development and housing advocacy. As our neighborhood businesses grow and change, we want to highlight both the new and established businesses that make up our community. Twice a month, we’ll be highlighting the stories of business owners in the community. Are you a business owner that would like to be interviewed? Do you want to hear the story of a particular business in St. Johns? Let us know at info@stjohnsopportunity.org


Since March 29, 1989, Kenn has been behind the counter at Peninsula Station in downtown St. Johns. Located in the old Kasper Insurance Agency building at 8316 N. Lombard, Peninsula Station serves as a hub for shipping and mailing services in the community.

Kenn’s roots in St. Johns go back to his great grandfather who stopped in St. Johns in 1910, to work for a mill in the neighborhood before settling in the Banks-Vernonia area. He continues to share the history of St. Johns through the display of historical photos in his shop, as well as his willingness to share memories and history of the neighborhood with his customers.


So, what exactly IS Peninsula Station? Step inside and you’ll see PMBs (private mail boxes), shipping and packaging materials, a copy machine, a carousel of postcards, historic St. Johns photos on the walls and plenty of quirky memorabilia. As Kenn describes it, the business is modeled after Mailboxes Etc. and was one of the first mail receiving agencies in the area. This means that you get your mail delivered directly to Peninsula Station if you rent a PMB from Kenn.

You can do much more than just pick up your mail at Peninsula Station. You can do your shipping and faxing, make copies, buy postcards, get passport photos taken, and get a lot of random questions answered! Kenn describes himself as an information broker for the St. Johns neighborhood and he’s always happy to help a customer who has reached an impass with some problem or is just curious to learn more about the neighborhood.

Some things you might not know about Peninsula Station are that over the years, Kenn has developed a reputation among artists as a top notch packaging and shipping service for their fine art prints. Kenn once foiled a $1.4 million multi-state crime ring that had a PMB in his store because he had a hunch that something fishy was going on with this particular customer. When Kenn isn’t at the store, he’s an avid soccer player and coach in both indoor and outdoor leagues.

If you haven’t been in to Peninsula Station, go check it out and meet Kenn. You’ll also meet Sherri, a longtime employee of Peninsula Station for over 20 years! Keep an eye out for a collection of photos created by Louisa, a long time St. Johns resident and customer, who has been bringing Kenn hand-collaged photo series of herself in a variety of hilarious scenarios: being hugged by a grizzly bear, carried away by birds and more. They’re on display around the frame of Window #1. You don’t want to miss them!


Business Spotlight #1: The Story of Bridge City Kid

St. Johns Center For Opportunity is focused on elevating our small business community, along with community engagement, workforce development and housing advocacy. As our neighborhood businesses grow and change, we want to highlight both the new and established businesses that make up our community. Twice a month, we’ll be highlighting the stories of business owners in the community. Are you a business owner that would like to be interviewed? Do you want to hear the story of a particular business in St. Johns? Let us know at info@stjohnsopportunity.org


This week, we’re highlighting Bridge City Kid, one of the new businesses in downtown St. Johns. Opened in April of 2017, Bridge City Kid is an outdoor store exclusively for kids located at 8402 N. Lombard Street. Business owner Chelsea grew up in Portland and was always seeking adventure in natural spaces. When she became a parent 5 years ago, she wondered if she could keep that spirit of outdoor adventure alive while still being a “good parent”. She didn’t see many models of how to take babies and kids on adventures in nature, instead she saw an emphasis on constant technological stimulation and staying indoors. She wanted there to be something different, a model that could help parents and kids connect with nature from very early ages, to explore the wildness and beauty of nature together.

This was the belief that Bridge City Kid was built upon: to create a space that encourages kids and parents to get outdoors and discover new things from a young age, so she created a retail space where kids are front and center in the shopping experience for socially conscious outdoor retail products. Bridge City Kid is the first outdoor store for kids of its kind and it’s right here in our neighborhood! As many outdoor retailers reduce their children’s product inventory, she is building a retail space specifically for kids. In addition, she envisions it becoming a community gathering space for families, where they can meet to hike with kids in Forest Park and listen to live music in the winter months. She encourages everyone to come shop and play!


You may have seen the sign in the window: All Profits to Charity and thought, how is that possible? It’s a new approach to business that Chelsea calls retail non-profit. Like any new way of doing business, there has been some confusion about the business model. As she explains it, the business model is that after she pays her own salary, she will donate all after-tax profits to environmental and local non-profits working to get youth outside. She plans to start a 501(c)(3) non-profit to manage the donations so that all contributions from the business are fully transparent and available to the public. In addition to selecting socially conscious products to carry in the store, she seeks to create a business model that gives back in all aspects.

These adorable onsies are made by a local artist Carved Life, who donates 10% of each purchase to Doernbecher Children's Hospital!


What’s next for Bridge City Kid? Chelsea is excited to continue to build community with families in St. Johns. There are plans to build a rock climbing wall in the space and host movie nights for families in the winter months. Chelsea is collaborating with Hike It Baby to start hosting family hikes in Forest Park that leave from the shop. She would also like to build up a youth outdoor rentals program where you could rent kid outdoor equipment including snow shoes, wake boards and more for your outdoor adventures!

Some things you might not know about Bridge City Kid:

  •  The space was a grocery store and an antique store previously. Chelsea is committed to sharing the story of the space with clients and maintaining the unique, wild spirit of the St. Johns community while leveraging our amazing proximity to natural spaces like Forest Park and the Columbia Slough!
  •  They have a consignment section and are looking to build up their inventory! Bring in your lightly used outdoor gear for youth aged 0-14 and receive 45% cash or store credit, which is higher than most consignment store rates!
  • Kids can play while you shop. Try out products like bikes, soft Frisbees, skateboards and more!
  • Bridge City Kid is a Burley dealer, so you can bring in your Burley stroller for repairs, parts and pieces, questions about your warranty or new purchases of strollers and bike trailers.

Welcome Chelsea and Bridge City Kid to the neighborhood by coming to their Grand Opening Celebration on September 17th from 11 am-7 pm. There will be live music, food, drinks and lots of fun products to try out with your kids!


Meet our new board members!

This month, we are onboarding 4 new board members to our team! Join us in welcoming Kathy, Coya, Phil and Chris to the SJCO family! 

Kathy Glanville
Kathy loves living in St. Johns and is excited about the newly expanded mission of the St. Johns Center for Opportunity. She is looking forward to being more involved in her community in ways that strengthen our neighborhood. She holds a BA in Consumer Studies from the University of Utah and a Masters in Public Administration from Portland State University.  Her career is in higher education as a Systems Analyst for an ERP Software company, Ellucian. Kathy also recently completed the NET (Neighborhood Emergency Team) training and is now an active NET. During her down time she loves spending time with her husband and their dog and looking for unique photography of the St. Johns Bridge.

Coya Crespin
Coya has lived in the St. Johns area for 7 years and firmly believes in uniting with her fellow renters to work for a greater good. She currently works at Community Alliance of Tenants, as a member of the Grassroots Organizing Team.  In addition to going to school part time, she is a currently working on a fellowship with Organizing for Action. In her spare time, she enjoys chilling with her two children, who are her Sun & Moon, and eating tasty food.

Phil Crowder
Phil is an Oregon kid by way of California and has called Portland home for almost 10 years. He fell in love with the St. Johns neighborhood while house hunting with his wife a few years ago. Phil's passion for helping others has always manifested itself through his career in management, sales and customer service.  His genuine interest in giving back to the community was developed while pounding the pavement and assisting on a senate campaign in Colorado 3 years ago. He earned his diploma from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) with a Major in Business Administration and a Minor in Psychology.  In addition to being on the Business Resource Team, he also is an animal lover and spends time volunteering at the Oregon Humane Society.  In his spare time, you can find Phil at West Coast Fitness, out on the running paths, trying new Portland restaurants (and the wines and craft cocktails to go with it), watching his favorite teams (Ducks, Giants, 49ers) and spending quality time in his lovely St. Johns home with his wife Rachel and OHS rescue cat, Gouda.  

Chris Robasky
Chris Robasky is a first generation college student from rural Pennyslvania, graduating from Penn State and Loyola Chicago School of Law.  She happily sold all her belongings and moved to Portland in 1999, and soon after bought a house near Pier Park where she lived until recently with huge dogs (Stella and Ghost still live there with nice renters who take care of them).  Chris still lives in North Portland and regularly visits and loves St. Johns.

Chris has worked as in-house attorney and in employee/labor/HR professional positions for large employers including Nike and Providence Oregon Region.  She currently is a labor relations manager at Multnomah County. Chris enjoys most things that don’t involve too much exercise, and likes to think about traveling.  

Gentrification: Can a St. Johns Housing Action Plan help?

Article by Barbara Quinn
Published in the St. Johns Review on April 21, 2017

Though the city and political leaders have talked about it for years very little has happened to address the rapid gentrification of our city and particularly in north Portland. Has the situation improved after past housing forums with political leaders? Not enough. This time I hope it will be different.

The recent eviction of residents at Titan Manor Apartments in St. Johns is testimony of the failure to address housing issues. According to some sources Portland hasn’t been able to slow its rental crisis because “in a city that prides itself on progressivism, many of the traditional tools used to create more affordability are off the table.” Until last year, the City did not require inclusionary zoning, which mandates that new buildings include a certain number of affordable units. There’s no rent control in Oregon, and efforts to ban no-cause eviction are currently being challenged at the city and state levels. The city has embarked on big urban-renewal projects in the past few decades without putting measures in place to ensure that tenants in those neighborhoods won’t be displaced (The Atlantic, Can Portland Avoid Repeating San Francisco's Mistakes, Semuels, 5/17/16). More than half of the city’s tenants spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. Rent increases can rise rapidly in some cases even doubling.

While St. Johns has the most diverse high school in the state, Roosevelt High, with close to 1/3 white, 1/3 Latino and 1/3 African American students, that diversity is currently being threatened by displacement due to the cost of housing. Diversity has been the heart and soul of our community, diversity of age, ethnicity, income, and faith.

The neighborhood is increasingly becoming white upper middle class like the rest of Portland because the free market is driving housing prices sky high in a traditionally affordable neighborhood. The free market, lest we forget, produced a San Francisco where houses' average cost is over 1 million dollars. Generally only wealthy, white people can live there. Is that where we want to go? Heck no, everyone says, but what are we doing to prevent it? Little to nothing. Apparently here in our city and in our state, the free housing market rules.
The Comprehensive Plan, in contrast, envisions the St. Johns neighborhood as a town center with diverse residents, where people are able to age in place. Yet, how can that happen if older residents can no longer afford property taxes? Or afford to stay in the neighborhood they love? Ethnic diversity? Forget it. The average Hispanic family can now only afford a 1-bd home here. Just ask the owner of Novedades Prado whose Hispanic customer base is eroding. They are fleeing the neighborhood. African Americans? They are also fleeing. We are becoming whiter and wealthier with each development.

The solutions implemented so far may have helped but have not had enough impact to change the gentrification process, aka the forced flight from the neighborhood due to the cost of housing.

April 10 St. Johns Forum to organize a Housing Action Plan
The housing forum on Monday, April 10 at the St. Johns Community Center was organized to address these serious issues. Its purpose was to get feedback in order to form a St. Johns Housing Action Plan. Sponsors were St. Johns Center for Opportunity, St. Johns Neighborhood Association and PSU Urban Planning students, who acted as facilitators. The organizers want to help neighbors preserve what makes our neighborhood unique.“St. Johns is like Mayberry,” the woman to my left said. But Mayberry never saw a housing boom like this.
There is strong support for diversity here, the facilitator said, but the success of a plan depends on interest from the community and its leaders.
I joined the break-out group that sounded most interesting: Creative Housing Solutions. Some suggestions from the group were: formation of land trusts and a local tenants' union, more affordable permitting and taxes for building accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and education of residents on what affordable housing should look like. Traditional houses and buildings could be preserved and remodeled into multiple housing units, no-cause evictions should be banned, (currently the ban is being challenged at the city level and discussed at the state level), and meetings could be convened with developers to find out how to give them incentive to support a housing plan. All this is good.
But the challenge lies ahead to keep the issue front and center and build productive partnerships to make a Housing Action Plan that makes a difference. There are good examples available. The neighborhood that's taken the most initiative on affordable housing has been Cully. Living Cully, a coalition, has been rushing to create affordability before prices spike. Living Cully is trying to 'move as much land and housing out of the system as possible into some kind of community-controlled model,' says representative Cameron Hetherington. Right now, about 14 percent of the land in Cully is shielded from the market in some way, to maintain affordability, twice as much land shielded from development than in the rest of the city, he says. It helps that land prices are still relatively low since it's an outlying neighborhood.
They’re also working with other community groups to ensure the city follows through on affordable-housing commitments in a way it didn’t in the past. The group Anti-Displacement PDX meets every other week and tries to make sure policies are in place to protect every neighborhood from the churn that the city experienced in the past.

“Our fate is bound up in the fate of our allies in north and northeast Portland,” Herrington said. “We have to be working together city-wide on the policy landscape and getting the right policies in place, really supporting each other in neighborhood-based fights in general” (Ibid.).
What must we do to preserve what is unique, what we like, the diversity, the traditional housing styles, and small town lifestyle in our neighborhood given that growth will occur? As always, we must fight back and refuse to accept half measures by our city and state leaders. You can get involved and keep updated at the St. Johns Center for Opportunity website. Or you can drop in the office at 8250 N. Lombard St. 

We need partnerships with other neighborhoods and groups who are forging ahead in this fight such as Living Cully and Anti-Displacement PDX. Gentrification hurts young students the most so we need partnerships with school advocates such as the Roosevelt Alumni Club and the PTAs. We have a right to determine what kind of neighborhood we live in and to demand of our political leaders support for our autonomy in achieving reasonable and affordable housing costs for all residents.

Community Building through Food

Meet Josephine.
It's not a person, it's hundreds.

Josephine is a company based in Oakland, CA, who has recently expanded its entrepreneurial food model to Portland. At the heart of it, Josephine wants to help people in communities feed each other better and use food as a powerful and positive agent of change for communities all around the world.

There is a lot more to learn about Josephine, so we suggest you spend some time getting to know them online.

Home-based cooks can sign up on Josephine, cook delicious meals out of their home, and hungry community members pick up the nightly meal from the cook’s home. Each cook has a page on the website where they can share their upcoming meals and what day they’re preparing that meal. Then, community members can order those meals online and pick it up at the cook’s house. 

As a new venture to Portland, Josephine is partnering with community based organizations to help get the word out and build partnerships to help build successful community models. We’re excited to be partnering with Josephine! As the operators of the Farmers Market and an organization that supports home-based businesses and entrepreneurs, we look forward to building a strong St. Johns community around food.

There are two ways you can experience Josephine.

Eat. Sign-up on the website (it’s free) and you’ll get access to the cooks in your area. Luckily, there is a handful of cooks on “the peninsula”. Some of the meals coming up in the neighborhood include carnitas tacos, potato and kale enchiladas, and a grilled bone-in pork chop.  So take a night off from cooking and give it a try.  If you’re new to Josephine, use promo code STJOHNS for $10 off your order

Cook. If you have a passion for cooking, it’s easy to become a Josephine cook. You get to set the menu, pick the price, date of meals, and pickup times. Plus, Josephine connects you to resources to help you build a strong business and following. Learn more about what it takes to be a Josephine cook.

Finally, check out this journalist's perspective on Josephine.