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.
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.”