Community, the dictionary definition reads: an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location. But how do you build it? How do you meet one another? How do you get off your phones, out of your house, step out from behind the computers and TV’s that seems to monopolize our lives….
This question of how to bring our community together came up one day when I was walking to my vacation rentals. I own a duplex on an adorable, creative commercial street in Portland called NE Alberta Street. I realized on my walk that I didn’t know all of the business owners on my block. Maybe knew their names and said hello, but didn’t really know what was going on with them, in their lives, with their businesses. So I invited everyone to an informal meeting so we could meet one another and tell each other about ourselves and businesses.
What came out of that meeting were 3 common threads:
1. These businesses didn’t feel like the nearby residents were shopping locally.
2. Amazon and online shopping is changing the way people shop- so people aren’t leaving their houses.
3. The long time residents didn’t feel comfortable, they didn’t feel connected to the street.
We knew we wanted to do something about this. We wanted people of all types to feel welcome on our street, we wanted to know their names, we wanted to create that small town feeling of community. We felt that the world was becoming more reclusive and insular and we didn’t want that for ours. So we formed a group, called Block 14 (we are on NE 14th and Alberta) and began planning a good old fashioned block party!
Around this same time I had heard about Star Throwers, a program set up in the vacation rental community, “To change the status quo by directly solving our community problems (aka. Throwing Stars). Unwilling to let others’ actions (or lack thereof) determine how we live our lives or run our businesses and refusing to let others mine our goodwill, We, the Star Throwers invite you to help us in throwing back as many stars as we can.” I knew I hit gold. This group was living the values I had been wanting to develop with our block. With their help and support they helped me fine tune ideas as well as develop new ones. http://thestarthrowers.com/
Since our fun and sun filled block party- we have had another Holiday themed event- where we had 50 local high schoolers singing Holiday Carols on the street. A percentage of sales from this event went to a non profit down the street who works to provide affordable health care. https://nxneclinic.org/
I can feel the momentum rising, and most importantly I feel a connection and unity among us as small business owners. My hope is that this keeps growing, spreading, and creating a stronger neighborhood.