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Two groups partner to seek venue they both can call home - Rose City Rollers roller derby and Rock 'N' Camp for Girls

COURTESY: RNRC4G - The Rock 'N' Roll Camp for Girls, which hopes to land a permanent home with Rose City Rollers, helps girls and teenagers with all aspects of being in a band, including posing for a publicity photo (above). A potential partnership and space would allow bands to stay together, says Kristi Balzer, the group's executive director.Rock and roll could take on a whole new meaning, thanks to a partnership between two of the city's hallmark youth nonprofit organizations.

The Rock 'N' Roll Band Camp for Girls and Rose City Rollers both need a new place to call home.

The music rockers and roller derby rollers, both nationally recognized groups, seemed like a perfect fit together.

"I really can't say enough about how intertwined our missions are — the culture of our organizations are similar, we're both Portland originals, and empowering women and girls is the bottom line of our missions," says Kristi Balzer, RNRC4G executive director.

"We attract young people who haven't yet found their thing, and are looking for a community, quite often," adds Kim "Rocket Mean" Stegeman, RCR executive director. "And, we're giving them ways to express themselves in positive communities to be part of, and with adult mentors who see value in watching young women grow up happy and empowered. ... They're as big into gender inclusivity and positivity as we are."

It's all about finding a permanent home for both of them.

The Rose City Rollers, which include the world champion Wheels of Justice all-star team and about 600 adult/youth members, have long called The Hangar at Oaks Amusement Park home. But, fire code restrictions limit capacity, and Stegeman has been searching for a new venue for more than a year. Roller derby requires a certain kind of building to operate — without vertical poles or beams in the middle, for instance.

The Rock 'N' Roll Band Camp for Girls was formed in 2001 by then-Portland State University student Misty McElroy as her capstone project. There are now about 100 similar camps around the world based on its model — "girls rock on every continent except Antarctica," Balzer says.

It schools about 250 girls/transgender/nonbinary students, ages 9-17, each year, about 55 each week of camp, which includes six or seven bands. But, it's never had a home, moving between schools for the several weeklong summer camps.

This year's camps, which start later this month, will again be held at Village Free School on Northeast Sandy Boulevard; before, it was Bridges Middle School on Northeast Columbia Boulevard. Organizers want to provide after-school, year-round programming, but they can't do it without a home.

"We have the recording equipment, we just need the space," Balzer says, "so we could offer courses to young people in sound engineering and give bands an opportunity to record music. And, it would allow bands to stay together."

Because it involves bands, camp can be loud, and it's why a partnership with a roller derby organization made sense. Not only would both have office space and work rooms and such in a new building, but they could organize days where matches don't interfere with music-making. And, one could envision bands playing for roller derby matches.

An old school or church would be ideal for the Rock 'N' Roll Camp for Girls home. Open space for an inside track and seating would fit Rose City Rollers' needs.

"The big thing right now is we still need to find a building," Stegeman says. "Our space sits vacant all day long.

"And, we're looking for additional retail and nonprofit partners."

For more: www.rosecityrollers, www.girlsrockcamp.org.


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