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5441 SE Belmont St
Portland, OR, 97215
United States

(503)719-6779

Confluence Environmental Center

Blog

Meet + Greet with our new Executive Director

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Please join us for a casual MEET + GREET as we welcome James L Holt Sr. as Confluence's new Executive Director.

Thursday June 7th
5pm-8pm
at
Rogue Eastside Pub & Pilot Brewery
928 SE 9th Ave
Portland, OR 97214

James hails from Central Idaho and the homeland of the Nez Perce Tribe.  He earned a degree in Environmental Sciences from the University of Idaho.  James has a background in tribal public policy and collaborating on complex, natural resource management issues. He is also passionate about social equity, having earned a certificate in Diversity and Stratification. James believes in advocating for social justice in all facets of natural resource planning and management. In his free time, you will find James hiking the local trails or fishing with his wife Feather and their children.

Alumni Spotlight: Gareth Stacke

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 photo Tari Gunstone Photography

photo Tari Gunstone Photography

Gareth was a Confluence AmeriCorps Member in 2014-15. He served at Portland Fruit Tree Project (PFTP) as Community Orchards Coordinator. We sat down with him over coffee and talked about his Confluence experience and where it lead him to today.

What did you do as the Community Orchards Coordinator?

I managed four community orchards and helped facilitate the creation of a fifth. The orchards created a space for growing fruit for neighborhoods without good access to fresh produce, community building and public education.

However, the most important part of my time at PFTP was far and away looking at cool bugs with children.

What are you up to now, and how did your time with Confluence prepare you?

I am currently employed at Zenger Farm as a Farm Co-Manager. Along with the other co-manager, I run all aspects of organic farm production on 2.3 acres and coordinate our beginning farmer training program. Located in a low-income neighborhood, miles away from the nearest grocery store, we primarily grow for a CSA catered to folks in our zip code, especially those experiencing food insecurity and/or living with chronic, diet related health conditions.

I definitely would not have felt prepared for the position without the experience I gained at Confluence and PFTP. While serving with Confluence, I was able to rapidly gain new skills because I suddenly had levels of responsibility I had never had before.

Confluence is unique among AmeriCorps agencies in that is prioritizes equity in its trainings. This is essential for training members to collaborate most closely with those most impacted by environmental injustice. I knew how to grow food before spending time at PFTP through Confluence, but I didn't know how to recruit volunteers on a grassroots level, for example. Most importantly, I learned how to effectively prioritize working with folks who face oppression in our food system (ie People of Color, LGBTQ, women, immigrants, and many other communities and populations of people). Confluence doesn't just teach you how to wear many hats on a job, but also helps you decide which hat is going to fit the best.

Who should apply for a position with Confluence?

I think there is this perception that AmeriCorps is for people coming right out of college who don't necessarily know what they want to do with themselves. I was happy to find that this was not the case with my colleagues at Confluence.

Eleven months is a very short time to try to address huge structural issues that create large-scale environmental injustice in our society. I think participants are going to find success serving in an AmeriCorps position if they don't come in with a savior mentality and try to fix everything as an individual. I found that my colleagues who were most serious about listening to the communities they were working with found the most success.

Usually, the best listeners are people who come from the community they are collaborating with or at least have working familiarity with said community. In short, people who are solely trying to use Confluence as a "resume" builder won't find nearly as much depth in the program as those who are serious about its mission.

How did your perspective on environmental equity work shift after going through confluence?

I think more than anything I had a much more tangible grasp on what the work actually looks like in a day to day setting. So much of engaging people is creating ways for equitable participation. If you are hosting an event about air quality in a low income neighborhood, how will you insure that people can actually come? Will there be childcare? Is there food so people don't have to skip dinner? What sort of transportation can they take to your event? After going through Confluence, I now think of environmental equity in an intersectional framework.

What is a belief or understanding you had coming into the program and how did it shift?

That people don't like healthy food like kale or whatever else. Almost everyone likes fresh produce, especially when they get to grow or harvest it themselves.

Do you have any book/movie/podcast recommendations?

A really great book about Food Jusice (or injustice rather) is "The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming" by Natasha Bowens; it details why farmers of color have been left out of the picture in American agrarian systems.

Another formative book for me is "Are Prisons Obselete?" by Angela Davis. Or if that is a little radical for your taste, "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander.

I don't watch too many movies about food or the environment, but my favorites are Tangerine, Moonlight, and almost anything by Werner Herzog.

What was your favorite tip for living on the AmeriCorps stipend.

Most farmer's markets have awesome SNAP Match programs, where if you spend EBT SNAP (i.e. food stamps) tokens, the market will double your purchase for free.

There are also even some CSA farms that will give you a scholarship if you are using SNAP! Check out the Portland CSA Coalition to find a farm that does this.

Otherwise: check out An Xuyen on SE 52nd and Foster for the best Banh Mi in town; it's like, $3.50. In general Foster-Powell is a great neighborhood to live if you are on a budget.

Any parting Thoughts?

I also wanted to pass on a great piece of advice I heard at an artist talk by Sarah Schulman:

"If you are young and white and moving into a building where everyone else is West Indian, at least introduce yourself to your neighbors. At least ask 'is there a tenant association'? At least go to the local church or work at the food pantry. At least teach somebody how to read or teach a kid to swim. At least buy your coffee from the bodega instead of the five dollar coffee place. I mean there are so many decisions people can make if they are occupying or colonizing a neighborhood or they are coming to be like their neighbors."

MLK Day of Service 2018

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Confluence was proud to join with families and school groups at the Oregon Food Bank to help package food for delivery to families across the state.

Our day started with an in-depth exploration of the intersections of race, poverty and food insecurity. Heather and Kearstin worked to plan a day that included no just service to our community be education and context to help us understand why our help was needed and what it means for the larger impact on society.

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At the end, we did not solve the hunger problem in Oregon, but we did join with dozens of other concerned citizens and community members and neighbors to help package 14,168 pounds of pasta that would be distributed to help feed 11,806 families. And that's a pretty good start.

2016-17 Members + Fellows Graduate

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And in the blink of an eye, a year passes and we send these lovey folks off into their next adventures!

Our year was full of joys and challenges, friendships and mentors, snow storms and donated pastries.

Through it all, our AmeriCorps Members and Fellows accomplished so many amazing things. Here are some numbers to give you a taste of what the fantastic work they did:

  • 135 relationships built do expand capacity
  • Engaged 3,532 adults in underserved communities
  • Engaged 4,687 youth in underserved schools and communities
  • Engaged 1,841 volunteers in 10,480 hours of volunteering
  • Planted 14,871 trees and shrubs
  • 86 environmental restorations in underserved communities
  • 41,346 hours served as an AmeriCorps cohort

We wrapped up our year with a back-yard celebration with a special keynote address from Confluence Alumni Xao Xiong who shared her story of vulnerability and her message of courage with all our newly graduated members.

Thank you for all of you hard work. Thank you to the supervisors and project sites for mentoring our members and giving them opportunities.

We wish you all the best of luck

Ross Island Adventure

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For our June team meeting, Mason and Molly put together a fantastic day of paddling and pulling.

We started by meeting up with Marci Krass (AmeriCorps Alum!) from Willamette Riverkeeper who took us out on canoes to Ross Island, a former gravel mining site in the middle of the Willamette River.

The island is now owned by the city and is undergoing restoration. Susan Hawes, from the City of Portland, joined us on our trip to the island where we pulled invasive Garlic Mustard plants.

After Lunch we were joined by Kurt Carpenter of the USGS whotalked with us about the cause and effect of harmful algae blooms.

We wrapped up our time on the island by conducting our own water quality tests to see the health of the river with our own eyes.

The team meeting was a really fantastic continuation of the learning with did on MLK day with the Portland Harbor Community Coalition about the health and history of the Willamette river and those who's lives it effects.

Alumni Spotlight: Natasha Lipai

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Natasha served with the Confluence AmeriCorps Program in 2013-14 as the Tree Plan Outreach Coordinator with Portland Parks and Recreation. We caught up with her over email to see what amazing things she's been up to since Serving.  

Why did you join Confluence?

I was fresh out of college and eager to find work experience that involved community involvement and GIS. I was thrilled to be accepted for such a meaningful role--not only for the outreach aspect, but also "for the trees." I had been volunteering on the Street Tree Inventory with Urban Forestry for a few years prior to being accepted as the Tree Plan Outreach Coordinator, and I was excited to help other tree stewards use the inventory data to improve their community forest. On a human-level, Confluence's message of social justice and inclusion within the environmental movement appealed to me. 

What were some of the most important things you learned during your term? 

I learned that environmental justice will not be solved within an 11-month AmeriCorps term, and that any environmental justice effort takes serious relationship-building with the communities that you want to serve. Being the first Confluence AmeriCorps member with Urban Forestry, my efforts were ultimately just laying a foundation for future AmeriCorps members to continue the good work. Event facilitation--especially being prepared for adverse weather--was one important skill that I picked up. I also learned the importance of tracking your work activities--such as the number of volunteers that show up to your events, or saving a template of something that you created--and, as a result, I realized that my personality lends well to swimming in details. The most important learning experience, though, was discovering "self-care" and discovering that it is OK to refill your figurative cup so that you can continue to give. 

What are you up to now?

I still work with Urban Forestry and have worked in a variety of field and administrative capacities since my AmeriCorps service. Though I no longer work in an education and outreach capacity, I am learning new skills related to regulation, communication, and field operations. Confluence and Urban Forestry have both been extremely supportive as I continue to "figure it out" as a twenty-something, and for that I am extremely grateful. I am still debating whether to take the grad school plunge. 

How did your time with Confluence prepare you for next steps in your career/life path?

As a result of my time with Confluence, I now better respect my inner urge to strike out and see new places, or take hikes, or try other intimidating activities. My sense of self has been enhanced in ways that I could not imagine. 

What's a really great song?

"Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" by Selena

"Africa" by Toto

"Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver

Any song with a dance beat, 80s sound, or nostalgic twang. It's too hard to pick just one. 

2016 Annual Report

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Our 2016 Annual Report is here!

We are so proud of all the amazing work that our Members, Fellows, and community partners have accomplished in the two program cycles that span 2016.

Download the PDF of our 2016 Annual Report for a letter from our Board President, stories of success and some impressive impact measurements.

Download the report

Congratulations to our 2016 Fellows and Green Lents

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Its hard to say goodbye to our 2016 Fellows and 2 year partnership with Green Lents.

Izzy championed a massive community survey with the help of interns to gather community input about the future of this rapidly changing neighborhood.

Adriana brought to life many new pollinator habitat sites and created a pollinator monitoring handbook now in use across the region through Metro.

Spencer sharpened the tool library by building protocol, leading workshops, recruiting volunteers and maintaining tools.

Michelle put on the finishing touches on the Malden Court Community Orchard by overseeing the implementation of infrastructure, construction of the gathering space and the grand opening ceremony.

Over the past 2 years Green Lents gathered threads of community involvement to weave a strategic plan that funds, supports and builds a strong neighborhood.

What were disparate programs and initiatives are now a stronger, unified organization that has the capacity to support and guide Lents to be a healthier and eco-friendly neighborhood as Lents continues to grow.

This capacity building effort successfully built systems and a strong volunteer base and culminated with the expansion of the board as well as the hiring of the first paid staff position at Green Lents.

These past two years have been a huge period of growth for the Fellows Program as we learned new and innovative ways to build capacity in emerging non profits with an environmental focus in underrepresented neighborhoods.

We look forward to the exciting changes as we welcome our new partnerships with Friends of Gateway Green and Green King. 

 

 

Welcome our 2016-17 AmeriCorps Members + Fellows

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On September 13th we proudly welcomed our 6th AmeriCorps Team and 3rd Fellows cohort, along with their supervisors, into the Confluence family. This is the first time we've started both programs at the same time. We're looking forward to an exciting year with many opportunities for collaboration and community building.

This year marks the Fellows program's transition from 2 years working with Green Lents to a new 2 year relationship with the Friends of Gateway Green and Green King.

You can learn more about what our Members and Fellows are up to by checking out their pages:

2016-17 AmeriCorps Members

2016-17 Fellows

2015-16 AmeriCorps Members wrap up an amazing year!

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 The 2015-16 AmeriCorps team, minus Meredith and Lindsay who weren't able to attend.

The 2015-16 AmeriCorps team, minus Meredith and Lindsay who weren't able to attend.

Our stellar 2015-16 AmeriCorps team wrapped up their year of Service on July 29th with a lunch and ceremony at Overlook Park in North Portland. Here is a snapshot of what they accomplished over 11 months of hard work:

  • 7,952 Adults educated
  • 4,536 Adults educated were in communities of color or low income
  • 10,549 Youth engaged
  • 5,890 Youth engaged were in communities of color or low income
  • 20,076 Volunteer hours
  • 30,300 Trees and shrubs planted
  • 54.53 Acres of invasive species removed
  • 231 Public lands and greenspaces managed.

 

 

Salmon in the Classroom; Kids in Nature

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 Photo by Michael O’Leary

Photo by Michael O’Leary

 

Originally published as "Raising Salmon in the Classroom: What the Association of Northwest Steelheaders is doing to inform and inspire future environmentalists."

“They’re here! They’re here!” twenty five 3rd graders shout as I step into their classroom holding a small, non-descript cooler. Inside are 500 pink spheres that are causing this classroom to descend into chaos. As we all gather around an aquarium tank, we talk about what I’m holding: salmon eggs.

Every fall and spring, Steelheaders pick up fish eggs from local hatcheries and deliver them to excited elementary students as part of the Fish Eggs to Fry program. The students get to see firsthand how a salmon wiggles out of the gravel when it hatches and slowly absorbs nutrients from their stomach yolk.  Students check the tank every day by taking temperature units, observing the fish, and monitoring the water quality. Many classrooms draw maps of the watershed they live in and learn about environmental conditions that effect salmon. Once the salmon have reached fry stage, or when their yolk sacs have been used up and they need to start feeding on tiny organisms, students release them into rivers. The Steelheaders work with educators to provide release day field trips to riverside parks to learn about macro-invertebrates, water quality testing, or a host of other topics, turning nature into their classroom. Allowing the students to release them into rivers creates a connection between student and watershed. When they see it, they daydream about where “their” salmon is, whether hiding in shady pools in a fast-moving river or cruising through the wide open ocean.

Classrooms who participate in the Fish Eggs to Fry program qualify to be in the Eco-Schools Network. Other teachers use their Schoolyard Habitat to talk about native plants in their local watershed. This program is just one way educators and non-profits like the National Wildlife Federation and affiliates are bringing nature and outdoor learning into regular class schedules.

This spring, the Northwest Steelheaders hosted the first annual Family Fish Camp.  Thirty dedicated volunteers gave up a weekend during the peak of the Steelhead run to teach about one hundred people to tie knots, the importance of rules and regulations, and how to cast a fishing rod. This fun weekend, aimed at beginners, allowed parents and their kids to learn together. Most had never even held a fishing rod before, let alone a wriggling, slippery rainbow trout! By the end of the weekend, even the most timid of anglers was casting with confidence.

The Association of Northwest Steelheaders has a long tradition of advocating for habitat conservation, fisheries protection, and anglers rights. With the age of technology upon us and more and more youth unfamiliar with nature, programs that connect kids to the great outdoors and demonstrate that nature is educational and fun are vital for future conservation efforts. As the Affiliate of the Year for National Wildlife Federation, the Association of Northwest Steelheaders is proud to provide new opportunities for our community members and youth to connect with nature and find an outdoor activity they love. These meaningful experiences help improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being, but they also inspire young people to become champions for environmental preservation.

-Molly Orr

Stacy's vision of the future

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Stacy visited with students at Alliance High School to talk about the future of renewable energy. She gave an informative talk about how energy gets used up in our current lifestyles. There are amazing energy efficiency technologies being developed and put into practice that will create many new jobs in the future. 

After a long conversation about our environment and the complications of managing our energy future it sounds like these students are ready to be the next leaders in combating climate change.

Spring planting at Trillium Charter

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 Trillium students planting along N Interstate Avenue

Trillium students planting along N Interstate Avenue

Rain or shine, middle school students at Trillium Charter School were outside planting.

On this overcast morning, students broke into groups to find the ideal planting location for their plant and got to work. The planting was the culmination of weeks of classroom learning lead by Nora, the School Garden Coordinator and two-term AmeriCorps Member. The over 15 native species represented include golden rod, aster, and meadowfoam.

 Nora distributing plants

Nora distributing plants

A partnership for a park planting

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Meredith with The Nature Conservancy and Emily with Portland Parks and Recreation partnered for a wildly successful volunteer planting event on Saturday morning.

An unexpectedly warm and sunny day welcomed dozens of volunteers of every age to plant natives at The Buttes Natural Area in SE Portland.

CALC students help plant for clean water

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On a sunny March afternoon while getting a preview of summer weather, CALC students joined Kellyn, the Water Resources Technician at Clean Water Services, for a day of planting and learning.

Half of the students planted native plugs along the Fernhill Wetlands while the other group planted in three different spots to test the success of varying planting techniques.

After all the plants were in the ground, students lead a plant identification walk around the wetlands culminating in a fast paced ID game which had competitors racing to correctly identify the leaf, twig or flower.

When the day was done, students were gifted a seed ball that they could throw into the wetland to help keep this special land healthy.

The 2015 Livable Lents Community Report

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In 2015, the Confluence Fellows helped to support a massive effort to survey the residents of Lents to learn what they community wanted their future to look like. From the report:  "...we share the many creative ideas, preferences and wisdom we heard from Lents community members about how we might work together toward a more livable Lents for all."

Download the PDF

Mushrooms are the fruit of fungi

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 Leah quizing the team about mushroom features

Leah quizing the team about mushroom features

Spring time is morel season!

Unfortunately, we didn't find any on Friday, but we did learn about them.

Marc and Patrick organized an extensive Team Meeting of fungi learning. For instance, did you know that mushrooms are the fruiting body of a fungus? Similar to the apple on a tree and its roots.

 Mushrooms growing in a plastic bag full of sawdust

Mushrooms growing in a plastic bag full of sawdust

Nik gave us a deep overview of fungus. Leah shared tons of information about classifying and identifying different mushroom species. Brad gave us some great pointers for mushroom foraging. Travis even taught us how to grow our own!

After enjoying a cup full of Patrick's mushroom soup, we tested our knowledge out on the trails of Tryon Creek State Park. A lucky few even found some slime molds and some edible puffballs.

Bonus knowledge: ALL mushrooms need to be cooked before they're eaten. Word on the street is to saute them with butter.

Half way there!

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February marks the halfway point for our AmeriCorps Members! Despite their busy schedules we still managed to convince them to dress fancy and join us for lunch.

We still have over five months with our team, but we're going to miss these goobers when their gone. At least we'll still have this picture to keep us company:


MLK Day of Service with Playworks NW

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Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. - Martin Luther King Jr.

On Monday January 18th Confluence AmeriCorps Members and staff joined up with folks from Playworks NW in the basement of the Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church to prepare for our day serving the community.

We started the day with a delicious breakfast spread and took some time getting to know each other. After an inspiring introduction from the planning committee, we divided into groups and headed off to four different senior living and memory care facilities. We made ourselves available to paint nails, make crafts, clean rooms, sing songs, play games and chat.

 The MLK day planning committee: Xao, Jacob and Meredith

The MLK day planning committee: Xao, Jacob and Meredith

The day meant so many things to each participant, but hearing stories and being connected to an older generation was a universally powerful experience.

Thank you to Providence Irvington Village, Emerson House, Courtyard at Mt. Tabor, and Friendship Health Center for welcoming us in to spend the day with your residents.

Thank you also to Grand Central Bakery, Stumptown Coffee, and Zupans Markets for your generous donations