Pathfinders of Oregon staff work in East County:
Sara Garcia-Gonzalez – Advocate/Parenting Coach, Michelle Wright (sitting) – Early Childhood Specialist, Michelle Lewis (with flowers) retired Program Manager, Carmen Peterson – Program Assistant
Lourdes Obispo – Program Assistant, Victory Hall – Parenting Coach
Back row Diane Holmes – Advocate, Glenna Hayes –Center Director, Sandra Casillas – Operations Manager
Gresham's Rockwood neighborhood is getting ready to Rock the Block on May 31 and June 1. Neighbors are invited to enjoy a community feast, an all-day celebration, and a summer of fun and activities for youth. And Rockwood Nation plans to keep up the momentum all summer long.
"We're having a big kickoff on May 31 through June 1," says Mindy Clark, outreach director for Pathfinders of Oregon, one of a group of social service agencies and nonprofits supporting Rock the Block. "We'll be serving dinner for 500 people with foods from all over the world including Africa, Asia and Mexico. This is a highly multicultural area so we want everything we do to reflect that."
The Feast of All Nations will be celebrated from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday May 31, at the Plaza del Sol, 18535 S.E. Stark Street. Food will be served at 6 p.m. Then on Saturday June 1, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., families are invited to a community celebration that will include a kids' parade at noon, as well as music and dance, arts and crafts, soccer, basketball and other fun activities.
Nonprofits, health and social service agencies also will be at the celebration, to let people know what's available for them, and to sign up children and teens for all kinds of summer activities.
"Parents: come on out and encourage your children to come out to be involved with positive activities this summer," says Catherine Nicewood, president of Rockwood Neighborhood Association.
"We have a lot going on all summer."
No kidding! The Rockwood Intercultural Summer Experience, known as RISE, will offer youth programs and activities designed to keep children and teens safe, healthy and happy.
A host of different agencies and nonprofits have come together to produce RISE, including Pathfinders, the "I Have a Dream Foundation," Rosemary Anderson High School, Reynolds School District, the City of Gresham, and many more. The Aztec Dancers, for example, say they will be in the plaza from 7p.m. to 9p.m. every Wednesday evening.
Making sure children and parents have enough to eat is part of the plan. But the details of where food will be provided are still under discussion.
"Rockwood has the second-highest poverty rate in the state – behind Warm Springs reservation,"
Nicewood says. The neighborhood is also one of the most diverse in the city with sizeable numbers of Black, Latino and immigrant residents.
Data from Pathfinders, which drew information gathered by Multnomah County's public safety coordinating council, shows that 8,607 people—about one-third of the neighborhood's residents- live below the official poverty line. And since one-third of Rockwood's residents also are under 18, the neighborhood has a high concentration of hungry children.
Nicewood says RISE was created to make sure children and teens aren't left to hang out on the streets, hungry, penniless and with nothing to do this summer.
"We did have the PAL Youth Center here, but that's gone," Nicewood says. " The Boys and Girls Club is trying to take that over, but it has a lot of work to do. And the only other program is the Salvation Army, which serves 40 children and has a long waiting list."
High crime rates have been a problem in the neighborhood, but Nicewood says the public perception of Rockwood as crime-ridden doesn't tell the true story.
"Rockwood has the highest density of any neighborhood in Gresham with over 15,000 people," she says. "When you look at the statistics, it doesn't have any more crime per capita than any other area. So we want to change that image."
Other events planned for the summer include:
Aug. 3: Nadaka Festival includes cleaning up Nadaka Park from 9 a.m.-noon followed by a community festival from 1 p.m.-3p.m. Free hot dogs and fun for kids. Park is at 176th and Northeast Glisan.
Aug. 6: Rockwood Neighborhood Association's National Night Out from 5:30-8p.m. at Vance Park, 1400 SE 182nd Ave.