by Elaine Friesen-Strang
The forecast predicted rain, but a miracle happened Saturday September 30, just before 10:00 AM, as 80 people gathered at Providence Medical Center to stroll the neighborhood: the clouds parted, sunshine burst through. Being it was our last NeighborWalk of the season, you might say it was providential.
When AARP Oregon began this program three years ago, we had no idea it would become such a vibrant, successful venture. Community Engagement Director, Bandana Shrestha, and a small cadre of volunteers created a series of accessible walks exploring our Portland neighborhoods. Our intent was to provide opportunities for exercise and socialization, while getting to know our communities and what makes them great places for people of all ages and abilities. We were pleasantly overwhelmed as nearly 100 people gathered for our first walk in June 2015. Wrapping up our third season, NeighborWalks PDX had an average of 87 participants at each of our walks, accumulating 26 miles of activity, discovering new things about 12 diverse, unique neighborhoods.
We walked with docs and went to college. We learned about “missing middle” housing, sewage treatment, art, trees, and therapeutic gardens. We enjoyed treats provided by the German American Society while listening to their choir. We heard about the Asian Health & Services Center, Hacienda’s Community Development, NAYA’s Intergenerational Housing, Montavilla’s Main Street, City Hall, Portlandia, Friendly House, and Lloyd District sustainability. There were Rose Gardens in Ladds and Peninsula. We mingled with Chester and his Belmont Goats. It may have been raining, 40 or 100 degrees, but we walked on. We began at Kaiser, ended at Providence, where we savored fruits, cheese, and buntinis, celebrating the end of our season and each other.
A huge thanks to our partners, the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation, Oregon Walks, and all the community leaders and organizations who contributed time and resources. More applause for our tireless, creative, courageous, and sometimes zany volunteers who not only designed the walks but also kept us safe and smiling. That’s you Allan, Candace, Chris, Christine, Doug, Hal, John, Julie, Lisa, Michael, Sandra, Sandy, Steve, and Yvonne.
And to all of you who joined us—told us to slow down, speed up, and speak louder—who came from all corners of our city in tennis shoes, scooters and wheelchairs, with walkers, canes, strollers, children and friends, who became OUR friends and dear walking buddies—thank you! A walk doesn’t happen without walkers. We didn’t name it NeighborhoodWalks, because it isn’t about the place. We named it NeighborWalks, because it’s about you!