Benjamin Reflects on the Community Resource Fair

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By Benjamin Johnson

Hi Folks! This is Benjamin, one of the 2023 Summer Interns here at Lloyd Ecodistrict.

When I think of the work of community outreach, it’s often a very abstract idea. As someone looking around for potential careers, I’ve been extremely grateful to get a more clear picture of what outreach actually means. Over the past five weeks as an intern here, I’ve spent many hours getting the word out, handing out flyers, and generally trying to build relationships with community members for this event, and others. So, to have it all come together was extremely rewarding.

When I first got to the Resource Fair, we were still in the process of setting up. The venue in the Lloyd Center was once an Ulta, but more recently has been used as a mural gallery and spot for special events. It felt a bit like being in an empty school at night – especially when I got a chance to go to the behind-the-scenes corridors meant for businesses. Over the course of about two hours, we assembled tables, set up flyers, witnessed a giant inflatable colon be blown up, and prepared for the community to arrive. And they showed up strong.

At least an hour before we opened our doors there was already a line. By the time we opened, the community began pouring in. I was later told our goal for attendance was around 150 people, which we doubled – reaching a total of around 300 visitors. The energy in the room was flurried and welcoming, with tables immediately beginning to serve people. I noticed by the time that community members reached the Lloyd EcoDistrict table some people had gathered arms full of  items, pamphlets, snacks, and other resources. Being at the end of the loop, the bags we were handing out provided a welcome relief.

I spent almost all of my time working on the Emergency Preparedness and Lloyd Community Trivia Game, as I call it. This has been one of my primary duties as an intern so far, so I thought I had it down. What I wasn’t prepared for was the number of people who came to our table. At one point, we had attracted enough visitors that the table next to us couldn’t serve the people they were hoping to! Apologies to them. In total, we handed out at least 75 pieces of emergency preparedness equipment and even more candy. Across the three hours I spoke with nearly 124 people – mainly about the heatwave occurring the following week. I had quite a few conversations with our guests using Spanish, something I wasn’t entirely expecting to do as there were interpreters there, but I inferred that they were already quite busy. So, I stepped up, which I think helped to reach more people, especially given the urgency of being prepared for extreme heat.

By the end of the fair, I was worn out and drained. On top of the labor of doing general crowd management at community engagement, it took a lot of brain power to generate what I wanted to say in Spanish. But, that exhaustion was worth it because as I was walking away to catch the train, I felt that I had done a public good, something that at the very least makes one other person’s life easier. The joy of public service rests with that feeling. It’s a bit cliche, but it’s true. As I’m learning, there’s entire worlds of people working to support autonomy and dignity, but there exists a need to get people tapped into those networks.

Looking forward to the next event cycle, we hope to provide more interpreting and translation services in more languages to ensure even more universal access. Although I’m unsure of what my future next year looks like, I offer my sincerest hopes that it is an even bigger success than this year.

As someone who hasn’t steered an event before, the amount of coordination needed was clear from the moment I got there. Special shoutout to our co-organizers, the Community Services Network for their role in making sure this event was as successful as it was. We’d also like to thank all the participating organizations for their teamwork, including 211 Info, Comcast Internet Essentials, Community Alliance of Tenants, Community for Positive Aging – Hollywood Senior Center, Department of Justice Civil Rights Unit, Early Learning Multnomah, East County Community Health, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Futurity First Insurance Group, Lutheran Community Services NW, Milk Crate Kitchen, Multnomah County Health Department Oregon Citizens Utility Board, PCC Clear Clinic, Portland Public Schools Head Start, Project Access NOW, SE Works, Sexual Assault Resource Center, Store to Door, Sunshine Division, Trillium Community Health Plan, and more! Also, special shoutout to sponsors Lloyd Center, Trimet, The DPI Group, Comcast Internet Essentials, Dave’s Killer Bread, CareOregon, Energy Trust of Oregon, and DPI Security, without whom this event would not have been such a success.