From a glimmer of an idea to a celebration

By Karen Hery

“You have to see this school and this neighborhood.  You and the girls are going to love it!”

Swap Shop Co-op founder Karen Hery

The voice on the phone was coming from the corner of SE Salmon and 35th to a cell phone ringing in the master bedroom of a Silicon Valley ranch house. It was 2005. Most college campuses and city governments hadn’t even thought about starting a Department or Bureau of Sustainability.

One more Californian was about to move to Portland with dreams of a more sustainable life and a lower cost of living. Seven years later, with a more sustainable life and a lower cost of living for hundreds of inner Southeast families, that one phone call, along with many other little steps along the way will be remembered  at the Sunnyside Swap Shop Co-op’s Community Celebration 3 – 8 pm, Saturday, June 8 inside the Sunnyside Methodist Church building.

The dream, just beginning to take shape in 2005, was about creating a swap and play space – a place for families to drop off outgrown toys and books and clothing and pick up toys and books and clothes while using the swapping space as a play space too; an indoor and outdoor place for kids to play while parents talk and laugh about the ups and downs of raising a family.

In 2006, the real estate market was still climbing well out of reach of most investors. The best place to start an affordable family co-operative looked to be in one of the many community church buildings that almost every Portland neighborhood has in abundance.

Everyone who steps through the doors of the Sunnyside Swap Shop will be adding one more part to a 6-year revival of community space and place.

As for sale signs go up for other church buildings, Sunnyside Methodist, once down to less money in the bank than could fund just a few more years of operation, is more financially sound again and teaming with activity.

The Methodist congregation meets at 11 on Sunday mornings, and Portland Church of Christ at 2:30 pm, Sundays. Children’s Club provides sliding scale daycare for three year olds and older in the building year round. Camp Fire’s Camp Namanu in the City takes day camp registrations for kindergarteners – 5th graders for their second summer,  and middle schoolers from all over inner SE Portland fill The Roost, a popular after school program going into its 5th year.

Since the Swap Shop Co-op first opened indoor play space in the fall of 2007, three other swap and play communities for young families sharing space and resources have started across the Portland Metro area in St. John’s, Woodlawn and Gresham. The co-op’s story is featured in OMSI’s Local Voices/Clever Choices sustainability showcase.

The Celebration marks the start of the 6th year of the Sunnyside Swap Shop Co-op, the passing on of the co-op’s  leadership from its founder, Karen Hery, to the new director, Ellen Zientek, and the passing on of the Roost afterschool program fully into Camp Fire Columbia’s hands.

You don’t have to be part of the Swap Shop or a Sunnyside resident to enjoy the day. Open to everyone who enjoys community, it’s a great way to support one of our most precious resources: common gathering space. Proceeds from the event will pay back loans that started The Roost and help fund much needed building roof renovations.

At 3 pm, Shine Chorus (a Glee style youth choir) takes the stage in the main sanctuary for an hour of inspiring entertainment as community members are celebrated.  A sing-a-long and live music takes everyone through until a stir fry dinner is served up in the large dining hall that has provided so many meals over the years.

The young and young at heart will keep right on celebrating in the Roost and open gym space roller skating, hula hooping and other fun open gym activities until 8 pm.

Tickets are $20 each for one adult or a parent and child or $40 for a family available at the door or through the Sunnyside Swap Shop website:

“I’m excited to be there and be part of the celebration,” says Ellen Zientek, the swap shop’s new director. “There really is a limitless potential to the co-op.  It’s all about families coming together building a positive, awesome community that shares and cares together.”

To be a part of the ongoing community of the Sunnyside Swap Shop Co-op or to sponsor a ticket for a family who could otherwise not afford to attend, contact Karen Hery at or 503.407.2667.



From a glimmer of an idea to a celebration

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