Neighborhood Volunteer Gift Guide
The holidays are upon us and finding thoughtful gifts can be stressful. So we’ve taken some of the hassle and guesswork out of it for you. Find the perfect present for all the neighborhood association volunteers in your life, from the lovable curmudgeon to the super-cycler.
The Urbanist / City Planning Wonk / City Nerd
Up first, what to get for the urban planning enthusiast in your life who knows the difference between CS and R5 zoning? This lover of all things planning may leave you befuddled with their jargon-laden speak (phrases like FAR ratios, non-conforming uses and overlay districts), however without them the planning of your neighborhood would be left up to a handful of city employees who’ve never even been to your part of town. This person knows all of the gossip related to the new building going in down the street and has more information than a crystal ball about the future of the City. Show them your love with these special gifts:
- Splurge: 3D printed miniature replica of Portland ($$$$) – We don’t know how much this would cost or even how to go about purchasing it but we know it would totally be worth it! A real estate developer recently made one of downtown San Francisco and each city block can be detached and swapped out for a new one as the city changes.
- Save: Portlandness: A Cultural Atlas of Portland (24.95) – Maps are powerful in that they help us conceptualize and understand the world around us. The City Planning Wonk likely already has the traditional map of Portland memorized, but this book of 150 infographic maps will allow them to see Stumptown like never before.
The Community Organizer / Builder
This bright eyed and bushy tailed volunteer doesn’t let the minutiae of neighborhood meetings hold them back. In fact, they thrive on facilitation and understand that timekeeping is as important a duty as any. They convene, delegate, and make good things happen. Not to mention, they could probably organize a block party in their sleep!
- Splurge: Sticky Wall ($60) – What we really wanted to put here was the gift of an empty email inbox. Since we don’t know if that’s possible, we’re including something a little more flashy: a Sticky Wall! 5’x12’ in size, walls are stickier than sticky notes, as well as durable, lightweight and reusable. Available in five different shades ranging from electric blue to kelly green, the sticky wall enables organizers to lead brainstorming and strategic planning sessions that are at once: kinetic, participatory, collaborative, colorful and fun!
- Save: Herding Cats Merit Badge ($1.90) – You’ve heard the phrase, now wear the badge with pride! Organizing volunteers to work towards common goals is no small task. It takes strong facilitation skills and more than a wee bit of patience.
The Active Transportation Enthusiast / Super-Cycler
This individual may show up to your neighborhood meetings out of breath and soaking wet, but the fierce look in his or her eyes reveals a commitment to a carbon free, walkable future. They are the faces behind the thoughtful (and very, very thorough) discussions about greenways and traffic diverters in the comments section of Bikeportland.com and the leaders of that awesome Pedalpalooza ride you took last summer. They might begin to glow when talking about the new future of parking and verge on evangelical when riffing on a carbon-free future.
- Splurge: Vanilla Bicycle ($5,000 – $12,000) – These luxury bikes are legendary in the cycling world. With a waitlist of a few years, fans love them for their smooth ride, sleek look, and craftsman details.
- Save: Microcosm Publishing Bicycle! Bicycle! Super Pack ($20) – Sometimes pushing for transportation system change feels like an unending uphill slog. With titles on DIY bike maintenance and a history of bike activism, plus some great stickers, your tired transportation champion will be ready to put the fun back between their legs. (Fun as in Bicycle, people!)
The Parks Volunteer / Tree Lovering Naturists
These outdoor-loving caretakers can be found coordinating their neighborhood tree planting, saving the elms, creating pocket parks, or pulling invasive species out of the community garden. They aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and prefer activities over meetings. Help them…
- Splurge: Insect Hotel ($145.59)- This handmade insect house is designed to provide wonderful winter habitat for beneficial bugs like solitary bees, ladybugs and lacewings. It also can double as a unique piece of garden art.
- Save: Backyard Habitat Certification Program ($35): This great gift from the Portland Audubon Nature Store will let them set up a one hour backyard visit with a local habitat expert and develop a plan to make their yard wildlife friendly.
The Historian / Preservationist
This volunteer bemoans the loss of our city’s historic charm and character. They rally to protect old homes and can tell you that East Burnside’s Music Millennium was once a Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Since you can’t yet purchase a time machine (or can you?), take them on a walk down memory lane or help them start their own historical archive.
- Splurge: Heritage Time Capsule ($2,878) – There’s nothing worse than digging up the time capsule you buried 20 years ago and finding a soggy mess. Don’t insult history by pinching pennies. Purchase a top of the line container guaranteed to keep treasures safe and sound.
- Save: Oregon History Comics Box Set ($45) – This 10-piece set of small graphic books packs a lot of punch and should be boldly displayed on any self-respecting Portland history aficionado’s bookshelf.
The Art Activist, DIY Maker or Placemaker
This neighborhood volunteer thrives in the poetic, musical and colorful pulse of the city. They seek out hidden treasurers and dream of future possibilities for connection through creative expression. They reinvent street corners with found and repurposed objects (you never know what you’ll find in a free pile) and are likely scheming about their community’s next placemaking project. Their indelible marks pique the curiosity of Portlanders and connect us all to the place we call home.
- Splurge: Sidewalk Swings ($370.88 per swing) – This temporary swing can easily be attached to existing city infrastructure like light poles and trees and transform a previously drab urban environment into a exciting and stimulating public space. Everyone enjoys swings.
- Save: Rainworks Invisible Spray ($29) – Rainworks spray can be used to create temporary invisible street art that only appears when it rains. The art lasts roughly 4 months and brings unexpected mirth to an otherwise gray and wet landscape.
The curmudgeon / nay-sayer
These lovable nay-sayers take issue with everything. Their favorite word is “no” and they tend to sigh heavily and roll their eyes at anyone who dare suggest a solution or project idea. Despite their jaded, grumpy and ranting ways, you steadfastly believe a fluffy teddy bear hides somewhere inside. So what do you buy for the curmudgeonly volunteer who seems to hate everything?
- Splurge: Anti-Everything Gift Set (~$66) – put together this curated gift box with everything they could ever need to show their opposition, including a disapproval stamp set, bull horn, pre-made protest signs, and a passive aggressive notepad.
- Save: Grump Notebooks ($6.95) – This set of three notebooks labelled Daily Disappointments, Things That Annoy Me and Fresh Rants, are perfect for keeping track of all of life’s miseries. Now instead of venting to you, your favorite grump can jot down all their pent up negative energy.
The Emergency Preparedness Guru / Doomsday Prepper
When the Big One hits you are definitely going to want to be in good graces with this volunteer. We recommend dropping a little extra cash on their gift. But what do you get the person who literally has several months’ worth of life’s necessities stacked high in their garage? Consider giving them the gift of new skills!
- Splurge: Intershelter Dome (~$7,000) – Made of a high-tech aerospace composite material and built to withstand a variety of assaults by Mother Nature, the Intershelter They are mildew and fire resistant and can be set up on almost any terrain in any climate. Plus, they look super space-age!
- Save: Lifestraw ($19.95) – Compact, lightweight, and efficient, this miraculous little water purifier can filter up to 264 gallons of water and removes 99.999 percent of waterborne bacteria. The Lifestraw is more effective than boiling water and can make even the dirtiest water potable – even the Willamette River.
The Burned Out Volunteer
Volunteers are no strangers to exhaustion and loss of enthusiasm – mythical creatures that they are. Consider the somewhat abrasive and indignant attitude your volunteer embodies as a sign that they’ve run smack into a wall. Sure they led the neighborhood cleanup for 10 years and helped out here and there with every other project for at least twice as long (or so you’re told), but now you’d be shocked to see their face outside of a meeting. While you can’t snap your fingers and make all the problems go away, you can show them some TLC. A little love can go a long way to make someone feel reinvigorated and ready to step back into the fray.
- Splurge: Sensory Deprivation Tank Float ($65) – Just like what it sounds like, these large enclosed tubs filled with highly salinated water help block out noise, light and even the pull of gravity. Bring your volunteer to a place of complete relaxation so they can finally unwind.
- Save: Hang In There Cat Poster ($18) – A perfect gift for anyone feeling blue, this poster is sure to lift their spirits. How could a person not be inspired by the strength in those teeny tiny paws. Are they more of a dog lover? That’s fine too! A version with a pug puppy is also available.
By: Katy Asher, Kelly Fedderson, & Ashe Urban