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SMILE's first Open House lures volunteers

DAVID F. ASHTON - New SWBA business association President Emily Pinkstaff, left, joins forces with SMILE President Corinne Stefanick, to round up door prizes for SMILES first Open House. Most Portland neighborhood Associations face the same challenge: Very few volunteers step up to help out on their many committees.

So, on Sunday, January 10, the “Sellwood Moreland Improvement League” (SMILE) held a “Volunteer Open House” at their SMILE Station.

“I got the inspiration for this, from the neighborhood survey designed and conducted by our former President, and current Vice President, Gail Hoffnagle,” explained SMILE President Corinne Stefanick.

“Out of 11,621 apparent residents of the Sellwood and Westmoreland area, 705 people responded to an extensive and detailed online survey,” Stefanick said. “We were very impressed the people took that much time to actually tell us what they thought, and to give us some direction as to how we can best represent them.”

Longtime resident and volunteer Hoffnagle compiled the survey results, parsing out people who said they would volunteer with the various committees.

But, instead of simply inviting potential volunteers to the monthly General Meeting on the first Wednesday night of each month at 7:30 pm, the SMILE Board decided to present the organization's first Open House, in which neighbors could drift in, learn more about the neighborhood, and also about the nonprofit organization that represents them to the city leadership.

In the process, Stefanick said she met the incoming Sellwood Westmoreland Business Alliance (SWBA) President Emily Pinkstaff, who is also the Community Coordinator at Sellwood New Seasons market.

With the blessing of the SWBA, Stefanick recruited about 25 businesses to supply door prizes for the Open House, including gift certificates, physical prizes such as dog treats, and a decorated cake.

Perhaps it was the promotion of the event that led to the surprisingly large attendance by members of the community, but the sunshine and blue skies on Sunday, January 10th, no doubt also helped boost the turnout.

“It's easy to check off a box on a form,” Stefanick said. “But by coming here, and meeting the leaders of our several committees who work to improve our community, it is our hope that many of those who came here today will actually volunteer some of their time for the neighborhood.

“At the same time, this Open House is our way to say ‘thank you’ for supporting us, for filling out the survey, and for patronizing the businesses in the area,” Stefanick added. “And. we're having some fun!”

As for those who didn't come, she said, “They can come, any month, to our General Meeting on the first Wednesday of each month at 7:30 pm at SMILE Station, S.E. 13th and Tenino Street. They can sign up at that time, if they choose to. That meeting is a good place to ask questions or get involved in any way that they wish. They can also visit www.SellwoodMore

land.org, and get involved with us in that way. By the way, we'd love to have some help in upgrading our website! — That's another volunteer opportunity.”