Volunteers stepping up at Sellwood Community House
Last year the October issue of THE BEE reported that on September 7th and 8th the newly-renamed Sellwood Community House – formerly run by Portland Parks and Recreation, and then known as the Sellwood Community Center – was the happy recipient of the efforts of seventy volunteers who turned out to clean, paint, move furniture, and hang the new sign over the front door.
Now the Center is run by its own nonprofit organization with a paid staff, and is maintained and supported by volunteers. Last fall, that new organization, Friends of Sellwood Community House, negotiated a one-year lease with PP&R for $1 – and its Board is now in negotiations with PP&R for long-term use of the building.
The rambling old building, which was actually originally named "Sellwood Community House" over one hundred years ago, is much loved by Southeast neighborhoods, and is once again vibrant and well-used – serving as a preschool, after-school program, and a Center for many kinds of sports and classes, including dance, music, yoga, and Judo.
In 1909, THE BEE – then itself only three years old – announced that plans were underway to construct a Y.M.C.A. Center at S.E. Spokane Street and 15th Avenue. That building was completed in 1910, offering a gymnasium, a kitchen, a large "living room", and assorted other rooms – including 14 dormitory rooms that were rented by blue-collar young men employed by local lumber mills, the worsted mill, and streetcar lines. A decade later, the building was transferred to Portland Parks, and today, those dormitory rooms on the second floor are well-used for classes and programs for all ages.
These days, the Sellwood Community House still welcomes volunteer individuals and groups to keep it clean and maintained.
Here's just one example: On Leap Year Day – Saturday February 29th – a group of ten seniors, who've called themselves the "Work Group" for forty years, labored there from 9 a.m. until noon.
The first hour they raked, swept, weeded, and emptied the garbage can on the outside patio. During the remaining two hours they sat in the small second-story kids' room, sorting through board games and puzzles to make sure all the pieces were in the boxes, and tossing boxes that had no future. There was laughter, cajoling, and reminiscing as they found donated board games that they themselves had played in their childhoods.
These "Work Group" members were not always seniors; they formed forty years ago, in 1980, to help their young families and homes. One Saturday each month, they would go to the home of one family and work from 9 a.m. to noon in the yard, or doing various jobs in the house. The recipients of their labors were three families in Sellwood, one in Woodstock, and one in Lake Oswego. These days the group remains active, continuing to donate monthly workdays at each others' homes, while also now being a social and family support group.
However, in February, the Lake Oswego couple in the group, who recently moved into a retirement complex, announced they were willing to redirect their "work day" for community service – and Work Group member and Sellwood resident Ardy Dunn suggested that the group perform volunteer work at the Sellwood Community House. Dunn had volunteered several times there on her own, as have many Sellwood and Westmoreland residents, and she had found it fun and fulfilling.
That suggestion was adopted by the others, and on February 29th Community House staff member Jess Alt – one of two after-school program coordinators there – was the contact person for the Work Group. She supplied brooms and dustpans as needed; and later guided volunteers up two flights of stairs to the room where puzzles and games were stored in a closet. She showed them that one job was to put a latch high up on a door, so pre-school children couldn't "explore" their way up to the attic, when they were there on weekdays.
At the end of the day, the outside yard was cleaned, most games and puzzles were "in order", a vacuum cleaner was repaired, and the needed door latch had been installed. It was a satisfying day.
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