Parkrose Life

Parkrose Life Podcast #6 Bryan Atkinson

For this episode, producer Andru Morgan takes my spot as the interviewer, and I fumble my way through answering his questions of me. We had a great time, and I feel like it gives a good snapshot of who I am, my interests, and my perspective on neighborhood. We chat about real estate, Rocky Butte Coffee Roasters, my band Chasing Ebenezer, my work with Eldon “T” Jones, the new Parkrose Faith Collective, and a bunch of other topics relevant to Parkrose like our changing demographics and my take on homelessness in our neighborhood! Maybe we’ll do another episode with me in the future, so let me know what else I can answer or talk about!

To fill out a little more of my story, I grew up in Gresham, graduated from the University of Oregon, and taught middle school and high school English for a couple of years before becoming a real estate agent in 2014. I had the privilege of helping clients buy a house on NE Rose Parkway in Argay Terrace, which was really my first experience in the area and what clued me into how cool this neighborhood is!

For whatever reason, I have always yearned to experience community in my neighborhood. When I lived in Gresham as a teenager, I was looking up information about my neighborhood’s association meetings. Because I had a unique education path, I didn’t have very many friends nearby. Even though I felt awkward or shy about introducing myself to neighbors, I hoped someone would invite me to their block party barbecue. Not having a strong sense of belonging anywhere probably made me crave it even more.

I moved several times as a young married guy and was frustrated that if I became friends with neighbors, I’d be moving again shortly and would leave them behind. I tried a couple of times to organize things, like a party at my apartment complex that only two families showed up to or an awkward dinner party with next-door neighbors we didn’t know at all.

I sensed that there had to be a better way to engage in my community and to make friends in a less forced way. I began learning about asset-based community development from Clark Blakeman’s work with Second Stories, and I also connected more with James Helms, who was the guest on our 3rd episode. He was part of a Christian group called Parish Collective, and I joined a summer-long Nav Neighbors Leadership Initiative cohort that he co-led. The book that most transformed my thinking about community is The New Parish.

We bought our house in Argay in 2016, right in the midst of my learning all this insight about how to approach relationships and community development. As someone who might have made the mistake of assuming there’s a problem and assuming I had a solution, one main posture I learned is to join in instead of start up. As a newcomer to Parkrose, what did I know? I knew nothing about the history of the neighborhood, who the main people involved were, who had been excluded, what issues neighbors had identified, what assets the community possessed, or what initiatives and groups already existed. So right away I joined the boards of Argay Terrace Neighborhood Association and Historic Parkrose, which works for business development along Sandy Blvd in Parkrose, so that I could volunteer but also learn the landscape and meet people. I also served on the Parkrose-Argay Development Study committee looking at development potential for the 122nd Ave farms. The relationships and insight I gained from those experiences are invaluable, and I’ve since resigned from both positions primarily to be home more and also to focus my neighborhood efforts on Parkrose Life content. I’m still in contact with both groups often though.

Now that I am more acquainted with the neighborhood, I am eager to collaborate and connect people who share similar passions and dreams for our community. For example, sometime in 2021 I’d like to host a summit of people passionate about youth sports in Parkrose so we can share ideas and better support each other to create more opportunities for children to play sports! I also started tutoring Parkrose HS students through AVID this school year. There are so many opportunities to plug in and serve our neighbors, so if you have an opportunity or ask or would like some ideas of how you could be a blessing within your own community, I hope you’ll get in touch!

You can listen to the Parkrose Life podcast on Apple, Spotify, many other podcast places, or right here by pressing the play button below. If you subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform, then you’ll never miss an episode.

I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments on this post, or share an idea for a future episode!

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