FreeDictionary.com describes “community center” as “a meeting place used by members of a community for social, cultural or recreational purposes.”
Members of the Leaven Community describe their brick and mortar center as a place to deepen relationships, cultivate community agency and capacity, and act together.
Leaven’s Ali Ippolito pointed to the organization’s mission on its website, Leaven.org: “to provide a space for igniting the power of relationships to create more equitable, diverse, thriving neighborhoods.”
The partnerships there focus on social, racial and environmental justice. “This is a building where that can thrive,” she explained.
The building at 5431 N.E. 20th Ave. was previously home to Redeemer Lutheran Church. Beginning in 2010, leaders sought change to nurture the changing community around the church building. (See ConcordiaPDX. org/2019/12/leaven-embraces-changingthe-community for details about that effort and the results.)
Now the sanctuary offers Salt & Light Church Sunday services. Other days it is the venue for concerts, music recitals, sound healing events, benefit shows/ events, meditation groups, and more.
Only a handful of pews are still bolted to the floor. Stackable, comfortable chairs are set up, most often in circular form. “We wanted to make the use of the space flexible,” Ali said.
A variety of uses fill the building. Most uncommon? “EPA had a meeting in the sanctuary once, and the kitchen in the basement was used for a goat meat processing class.”
Several rooms in the building are available for short-term rental. Visit the website for what’s available and the rental prices.
As the world climbs out of COVID-19 restrictions, Ali expects use of those facilities to again be on the increase. That includes the Buddhist meditation group that met regularly prior to March 2020.
“We kind of softly re-opened to the public in ways that made sense over the summer – a few concerts and meetings,” she said.
Then there are the 12 full-time tenants whose organizations are housed in the building. “These are our community partners, and they consist of social, racial, environmental and food justiceoriented nonprofits.”
Ali continues to value her work in the building, which began 20 years ago as a church musician. She continues to provide the music on Sundays.
“It’s spiritually fulfilling to me to provide music for others’ spiritual grounding.” The rest of each week, she serves as community center space coordinator.
It’s a job Ali said she loves. “This is one way I can be a part of social movements that are happening. My entire adult life, this place has sustained me.”
Nancy Varekamp is semiretired from her career in journalism, public relations and – her favorite work engagement – writing and editing targeted newsletters.