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In our private property culture, community property is considered un-American and is akin to socialsm or communism. But despite the national rhetoric of every man for himself and pulling yourself up from the bootstraps, the reality is, we all need each other at the end of the day and we can’t go far without the help of our community.

We all need a helping hand sometimes, whether that be because we’re just starting a baking business and we can’t afford our own commercial kitchen, or because we simply can’t afford to buy our toddler the latest toys, just to have her outgrow it in a few months. There are a lot of situations in life where it is better to share resources rather than each and every person buying or paying to use a resource by themselves.

Sharing resources is not only helpful to people, it helps the planet too! Not having to buy your own lawnmower or Vitamix saves on the “things” that are produced, hence saves on virgin materials, transportation, energy and a host of other limited resources that we deplete on a daily basis.

Portland has done a really great job in cultivating community resources to help people in need while at the same time helping the planet. Here are 13 of my favorite. This is by no means a complete list.

1. PDX Toy Library – Toys can be expensive, especially considering kids outgrow them so quickly. Enter the PDX Toy Library. This wonderful little gem is located in Southeast Portland. They provide toys for borrowing for newborns all the way to age 8. If your kids have outgrown their toys, consider donating them to the library for others to enjoy.

2. Kitchen ShareKitchen Share empowers folks to process, cook and preserve food by providing a kitchen tool library and having skillshare classes on everything from canning to making soups. Not everyone can afford to buy a dehydrator, but with Kitchen Share, you don’t need to. You can borrow one for free and give it back. With this resource at hand, you don’t have to get discouraged from becoming a food preserver. There are two locations, one in the Southeast and one in the Northeast. Consider volunteering at or donating to Kitchen Share if you no longer have use for your kitchen tool.

3. Tool Libraries – There are four in the Portland metropolitan area, the Southeast Portland Tool Library, the Northeast Portland Tool Library, the Green Lents Community Tool Library and the North Portland Tool Library. These membership-based libraries have an extensive list of tools to help you do everything from installing a raised bed garden in your back yard, putting up shelves in your apartment, to fixing your car. Instead of a trip to Home Depot or NAPA Autoparts, you may consider finding your local tool library instead and participate in the sharing economy.

4. Free Book libraries – There are so many tiny free libraries sprinkled throughout Portland neighborhoods. They consist of some sort of outdoor apparatus to store books out of the rain near the sidewalk that are free to borrow. You can also put books to donate at these free libraries too. This free exchange of books and knowledge shows us that some of the best things in life can be free, if we all work together. Thanks to the advocacy of Mark Lakeman and The City Repair Project, free libraries can be built without a permit now if they are under 6 feet and meet setback requirements.

5. Poetry stands – In the same spirit as free libraries, poetry stands consist of some kind of apparatus to keep a piece of paper away from the rain that shares a bit of poetry with passersby. Running into a poem on your way to the grocery store brings delight and inspiration to your daily life and like a beautiful flower, pulls you out of your drudgery and into a transcendent space – all free of charge. Many poetry stands are well maintained and fresh poems appear on a regular basis.

6. Free boxes – In your travels in Portland, you may see boxes at intersections filled with random stuff. This isn’t city mess, it’s generosity. When cleaning out your closet or garage and you find things you no longer use or need, you can put it in a free box on the corner of a street for people who may find use in those items to pick up. It’s not a regulated or organized effort, but it works really well nonetheless. The range of things you find in free boxes is as wide as the range of things you can buy. You can find very high quality furniture that is discarded for whatever reason, or you’ll find a dress with a hole in it. It is always worth a gander though. Free boxes are the embodiment of  the saying “one man’s trash may be another man’s treasure”.

7. Portland Community Media (PCM) – Located in Northeast Portland, PCM helps individuals and organizations that want to produce non-commercial media. It provides training, tools and support to produce and broadcast programs. This resource is great for novices and veterans alike and it encourages community media projects by providing equipment and training and makes this kind of media production less of a mystery and more doable. PCM also broadcasts community-produced content on six of its own channels. This community support for media creatives is invaluable. Consider donating to PCM.

8. Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) – The IPRC is a lot like PCM, except for publishing. The IPRC is located in Southeast Portland and it provides tools and resources for folks to produce written and graphic publications. A lot of great zines, books, and other publications have been created that otherwise wouldn’t have been thanks to the help of the IPRC. Resources at the IPRC include a letter press studio, a screen printing studio, and a computer lab among other things. Consider volunteering or donating to the IPRC. Organizations like PCM and the IPRC eliminate the gatekeepers that prevent the community from creating media and publications and empowers the everyday person with free or affordable resources to tell their stories.

9. Kitchen CommonsKitchen Commons works to make commercial kitchens available for community use to help people cook and eat together, and provides a resource for budding food entrepreneurs. Commercial kitchens are a valuable resource and are required by code when feeding the public. They can be very expensive to rent and the Kitchen Commons works with existing commercial kitchen spaces to make them a free community resource. If you have a kitchen that could be utilized for community use, consider registering it with Kitchen Commons. Find current Kitchen Commons partner kitchens here.

10.ADX – ADX is a maker space in Southeast Portland that provides equipment and education for people who want to make things. It has a wood shop, metal shop and a digital design lab that are open to the public. ADX also provides classes on various subjects for makers ranging from woodworking, welding, laser cutting and illustration. And lastly ADX provides creative coworking space for start up creative and maker businesses. Become a member to enjoy and partake in this amazing resource!

11. The Rebuilding CenterThe Rebuilding Center provides building supplies at a very affordable price and at the same time keeps used building materials out of the waste stream. The center is based on the idea of people donating used building materials or overstock items for other people to buy and use on their projects. It is a great way to recycle, once again proving the maxim that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Visit the Rebuilding Center store in North Portland and make it your first stop before starting a building project.

12. KBOOKBOO is a listener-supported, volunteer run, non-commercial radio station in Portland. KBOO strives to be an alternative to mainstream radio and its mission is to provide air time to underserved groups. It broadcasts new and public affairs programming as well as arts, cultural and music programming. Tune in at 90.7 fm in Portland, 104.3 fm in Corvallis and 91.9 fm in Hood River. Consider volunteering or donating to KBOO.

13. Community Cycling Center – The Community Cycling Center’s mission is to broaden access to bicycling in Portland and the region. The center has a bike shop in Northeast Portland where you can get your bike repaired, purchase a bike or bike parts, or take maintenance classes. It also puts on a bike camp, provides ways for folks to earn a bike by taking a bike safety and maintenance course, ad runs a Holiday Bike Drive among other programs. Consider volunteering and donating to the Community Cycling Center.

Photo Credit: Photo by Phoebe (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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