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With the Sellwood and Westmoreland community now operating the Center, its many classes return

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Experienced volunteer Nancy Walsh, and its new Director David Engle, are helping to keep the new Sellwood Community House thriving - while Kenai, the neighborhood cat, sleeps most of the day on a bench beneath the bulletin board. Portland Parks shut down the Sellwood Community Center for budgetary reasons at the end of August – so the community took it over and renamed it, and now "Sellwood Community House" is buzzing again with classes and activities at the corner of S.E. 15th and Spokane Street in Sellwood.

The October BEE front-page article reported on the recent volunteer deep-cleaning of the center, and the September re-opening of its preschool and after-school programs.

An interview with the new Director, David Engle – and with Nancy Walsh, a former veteran Portland Parks Community Center Director, and now volunteer with the new nonprofit Friends of the Sellwood Community House (FOSCH) – revealed details about some of the forty classes again being offered at the century-old center.

Dance classes taught by Rachel Lidskog-Lim feature Waltz, Rhumba, Foxtrot, and Argentine Tango. This four-week social dancing class is a sampler of Ballroom Dance for ages 16 and up. Classes are in the evenings from 6:30-7:30 p.m., and cost $34 for four lessons. Lidskog-Lim also teaches at "Dance With Joy Studios" in Sellwood.

Other dance classes range from "Introduction to Swing Dance" (East Coast, Hustle, West Coast, Lindy Hop, and Charleston) to " Introduction to Latin Social Dancing" (Merengue, Bachata, Salsa. and Cha Cha), all of which are for ages 16 and up, and are at the same price as Ballroom Dancing. Also, Creative Dance Movement for "My Adult and Me" for ages 2 to 4 is on Tuesdays from 9:30 to 10:15 a.m. David Engle says, "The kids have a blast in this Creative Dance class."

Music classes include "Beginners' Ukulele" on Mondays from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., and "Advanced Beginner+" on Mondays for an hour at 7:45 p.m. "Guitar Lessons for Beginners", for ages 18 and up, are 30-minute classes taught between 7:30 and 9 p.m., and "Private Piano Lessons" are offered from 1 to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

A wide variety of art classes are offered: "Baby Expressions Art", ages 10 to 18 months; "Messy Art" for ages 18 months to 3½ years; and "3-D sculpture" which offers two classes – for ages 6 through 8 and for 8 through 11. Materials used are a variety of building and 3-D sculpture materials, such as Foamcore board, wood, hot glue, cardboard, paper, paper clay, and found or recycled objects. A Community House flyer states, "Any child with a sincere desire and interest in building will enjoy this class."

And the classes being offered continue! Yoga for ages 18 and up on Mondays and Wednesdays, 9 to 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 to 7 p.m. cost $70 for five lessons. Meditation for Adults and Seniors takes place on Mondays from 12 to 1:30 p.m. Zumba classes will begin in November on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.; $34 for four lessons. Judo Kodokan for ages 6 and up will be offered Monday through Friday, with separate classes for Homeschool and Adult, Youth Only, and Families. The Community Strength and Conditioning classes by Geoff Bergman are to be described in a separate article in THE BEE.

The "Indoor Park" classes for children ages six months to five years, $1.50 drop-in or $25.00 for twenty visits are on Mon. Wed. Fri. 10:30-Noon. Game nights for board games, etc., will take place in a couple of rooms, To Be Arranged.

Gail Hoffnagle, the Chair of Sellwood Community House, a SMILE Board Member, and a longtime Sellwood activist and contributor of ideas to help keep the center open, recruited the class teachers, all of whom are new, except for three.

Hoffnagle who, with Walsh, also has a long background in running Community Center for the Parks Department, says of the Community House, "It demonstrates the importance to this community of having neighborhood meeting spaces, where people of all ages can come together, meet their neighbors, develop friendships, and learn new recreational and educational skills to enhance their lives. It's how neighborhoods create bonds between their residents, and give each person a 'sense of belonging' that lasts for a lifetime."

The Sellwood Community House – which was actually the original name of the building in the early 1920s, after the building transitioned from being a YMCA – is currently financed on a "break-even" model, with fees from classes paying salaries and other costs. SMILE's endowment for the Center, received from the bequest of the proceeds of her Brooklyn house by the late Helen Hiczun – which she dedicated to keeping the Community Center open – will be saved for major maintenance and capital improvement projects.

Volunteer Nancy Walsh says, "My hope for the Sellwood Community House is [for it] to remain an important part of the Sellwood-Westmoreland neighborhood – and provide even more opportunities for social, recreational, and educational growth for the residents!" To give an idea of the depth of experience guiding the new Community House, Walsh worked at five different PP&R Community Centers for thirty years, and was a Recreation Instructor at the Sellwood Community Center from 1973 to 1977; and starting in 1993, for two years she was its Program Supervisor, while also being Summer Playground Program Supervisor for five PP&R parks.

For more information about classes, call 503/893-8847. To register for classes go online – www.sellwoodcommunityhouse.net


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