by: Vern Uyetake, 
Cassidy Miller (left) and Lucy McMahon, both from the Drop and Go group at Play Boutique, make Valentines for their Evergreen neighbors.

Love comes in many forms, and for Valentine's Day in Lake Oswego, it comes in the form of pink hearts, paint and pennies, glitter, glue, poetry and a 96-ounce bag of pretzels, that last item fuel for busy hands.

Prompted by a project assembled by the Evergreen Neighborhood Association, those paint-splattered hands were at work at Play Boutique on A Avenue last Friday, spearheading a Valentine crusade on behalf of those who live and work there.

The mission?

To spread decorated hearts and poetry to dozens of doors in the Evergreen area, offering a little glue to a neighborhood with a few seams.

'We have a fairly diverse neighborhood, between the houses, the apartments and the businesses,' said Chris Brien, chair of the Evergreen Neighborhood Association.

'They don't always make a connection,' Brien said.

Through the project, now in its fifth year, Brien urges Evergreen interests - both residents of the neighborhood and business people - in a chain-letter Valentine exchange meant to spread a little love and foster meetings among those with a stake in the neighborhood.

'You just go and put a heart on someone's door,' she said.

The decorated heart comes with a bag of treats, a penny, a song and a poem. In the poem, recipients are asked to pass a similar package onto four of their own neighbors.

'We always try to make sure at least someone from the condos, apartments and businesses gets something,' Brien said.

So the first recipients included her sister-in-law, Kelley Peake, owner of Play Boutique, and her pint-sized charges.

Under Peake's direction, Valentine's activities surrounded the exchange, with kids learning the song, making their own hearts, and participating in a neighborhood stroll that distributed four to nearby businesses.

Peake is also sending the hearts home with Play Boutique children, many of whom live in other parts of Lake Oswego and Dunthorpe, spreading the message a little wider.

'Our hope is that we can take what the Evergreen neighborhood has done and extend that through the other parts of Lake Oswego,' Peake said.

Because Play Boutique is centered on allowing kids to learn through play, the activity fit in nicely with the business mission of 'providing them materials and activities that they learn … by using their imagination,' she said.

Children ages two to seven participated in the project.

For Brien, spurring the activity is one of the ways she keeps Evergreen residents connected to each other and to their business neighbors.

Most Evergreen residents reside in the area because they like its pedestrian atmosphere and its proximity to retail, she said.

'It's tough to watch businesses leave,' said Brien, because many retailers become part of the small community.

With changes pending at Wizer's and other businesses shifting out of Lake View Village, Brien said encouraging ties between retailers and residents makes for a more stable area and helps connect everyone with a stake in the Evergreen neighborhood.

She made her Valentine rounds with a 10-year-old neighbor, distributing paper hearts made by an 80-year-old resident as part of the exchange.

As the Evergreen area is steeped in a neighborhood plan that calls for careful input from all interests there, Brien said its important to keep upbeat activities in front of residents along with more serious issues.

'We have people living on the lake, we have us on the other side of the track, we have apartments and we have businesses,' she said.

'Everybody seems to have different needs and so we're trying to meet different needs … We try different events, whether they are seriously related or some that are lighthearted like this.'

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