Meet Your Neighbors

Ian Tooth

Immigrant, Great Australian Meat Pie Company 

Where are you from, and how long have you lived in Corvallis? 

I’m from Australia, I’ve been in the States for 25 years, I’ve lived in Corvallis for eight years. 

How did you come to settle in Corvallis? 

I was a long-haul trucker, and I made a delivery to Franklin Press, and met Tammy, who ran it.  We got together around the time I was wanting to do something different. 

Does being an immigrant cause you any difficulty, living here?  Have you noticed any special benefits of being an immigrant in Corvallis? 

People are all nice to me – no negative comments that. I can recall.  They all want to know where I’m from and what I’ve done. 

How do you feel about life in Corvallis, compared with where you used to live? 

I like it, it’s a good place, lots of good people.  People have their place in life and they stick to it.  The police are good here, and they take care of what trouble there is. 

What’s the biggest difference between Corvallis and Australia? 

A lot of access – a lot of 24-hour stores.  It’s more Mom & Pop stores in Australia.  If you go for a drive, you’d better get to a garage before six or you won’t get fuel.  Once you get outside Sydney or Melbourne, it’s a lot like Highway 99 in the ‘60s. 

Is there something you wish you could bring here from Australia? 

Meat pies!  And I did!  One of the main reasons Tammy and I started the pie wagon is because I missed meat pies.  You know how it is, the kind of food you had when you were a teenager, you like to be able to get it.

By John M. Burt

 

Caroline Moses

Artist

When did you first move to Corvallis, and why?

I moved to Corvallis ten years ago after my sweetheart and I got married. He was already living here going to school, and I followed a year later after the wedding. I was living in Hillsboro before Corvallis.

How do you feel about the art community here? Does Corvallis specifically offer something to you as an artist?

I am so thrilled to be part of the thriving art community in Corvallis. There’s a real collaborative community of artists here. After completing my Bachelor of Fine Arts at OSU, I had the opportunity to complete a mural for Monroe Avenue Salon and Spa, titled Bessie’s Blue. Around that same time, I met my neighbor Marnie Zoa who runs Voices Gallery and she invited me to join the collective. I get to show my work monthly there with a group of talented artists. I have been able to return to OSU for a few teaching jobs. I led a painting course during the Totality exhibit, as well as returned for two years as a teaching assistant for the college prep camp Jump StART where I instructed high school students primarily in the sculpture studio, which was my focus at OSU. Currently I’m working with children of the community teaching summer-themed art classes. The goal of the class is allowing kids to enjoy their work after the making is complete, so we focus on process and art exploration while creating functional artwork. I also participate in the South Town Art Walk, I’m creating work already for the show, which takes place in artists’ homes (in Southtown) the first Sunday in December.

Having settled here in town, what will keep you here?

The thriving art community is part of it, but there are more things to Corvallis that make it so unique and the place I want to be. My husband is involved in Science earning his Master’s Degree at OSU in the Marine Resources Management Department. We’re an Art and Science family, ha ha. But genuinely, I feel this is the perfect place for those interests. I also have two boys, and I feel Corvallis is a good place for young families. The community focused vibe of this town offers such a positive example for my boys, and I haven’t experienced this elsewhere.

What does being a good neighbor mean in Corvallis?

Corvallis is so community focused, that it’s easy to be a good neighbor. I have some great ones. We share vegetables from our gardens, or swap building materials for art. I’m currently making a piece for a neighbor as a thank you for all the wood they’ve given me. We make cookies or cakes for no reason and bring them over to each others’ homes. Have you ever seen The Truman Show movie? That’s what it’s like in Corvallis, except real life.

By Johnny Beaver

 

Bashayr A. 

International Mom & Graduate

Now in her late 20’s, Bashayr A. arrived in Corvallis 6 years ago. She was nervous about the change.

“I was thinking, how will people look at me? Because I am wearing a scarf on my head,” she says. Bashayr is Muslim and wears the hijab. But when she arrived in town, she was relieved. “Everybody was friendly, nice, smiling, saying hello everywhere. I’m feeling freedom here.”

Bashayr and her husband both won scholarships from the Saudi Arabian government to pursue educational opportunities abroad. Bashayr graduated with her undergraduate degree in Radiation Health Physics in 2016; her husband earned his Master’s and PhD in Computer Science, and graduated in Summer 2017.

Bashayr immediately made close friends through her studies and activities at OSU. “I have so many friends, they are like sisters,” she says. “My daughter, she calls them Auntie!”

Last summer, after five years of living in Corvallis, she was introduced to the International Mom’s Group (IMG). “When I go there, I feel it’s a family,” says Bashayr. “So many sisters, uncles and kids. And my big sister is Sandy. I’m very thankful that I found this group.”

Sandy Wong Goeke founded the group – which can be found at http://internationalmoms.net/ – to help mothers and children from outside the U.S. acclimate to the culture and share their own customs and culture. They organize weekly get-togethers, cultural exchange opportunities and special activities. For a recent exchange, Bashayr created a Ramadan booth with Arabic coffee and Arabic tea, Ramadan lights, a Saudi Arabian flag and dressed her six-year-old daughter in a Ramadan dress. It gave her a chance to share a piece of home.

The group also offers so much more.

“We share American culture, parenting issues, kids issues, solving problems with each other, we celebrate holidays,” says Bashayr. “We celebrate Ramadan!”

For Bashayr, being a good neighbor means showing each other basic kindness.

“Saying hello, smiling to each other,” she says. “When we go out, all our neighbors say hello.” Coming to the U.S. was an opportunity for Bashayr and her husband further their educations; her life here has expanded to include a new sense of community.

By Alisha Wang Saville

 

Starena Sparktacular

Burlesque Dancer

Local burlesque artist Starena Sparktacular is the proud founder of Tart of the Valley Burlesque, a troupe of performers and dancers from the Willamette Valley.

Based out of Corvallis, Tart of the Valley originally started in 2015 as a joint enterprise with the Majestic Theatre, but due to the Tarts’ wildly entertaining performances, the group soon took on a life of its own. Members regularly work at venues like the Bombs Away Café, as well as perform alongside various bands, local Drag artists, or for private house parties. As for big shows, the Tarts put on about six each year.

Starena, a Corvallis native and lifelong dancer, fell in love with burlesque performance many years ago and was trained at Portland’s Rose City School of Burlesque. 34 years of age, she says the rest of the 10 or so troupe members range in ages from 30 to 60, and adds that one of her favorite parts of being in Tart of the Valley is how inclusive a group it is. 

“I love that it’s an entertainment form that celebrates the human body, no matter what gender you are,” she explains. “And [burlesque] acknowledges that sexy isn’t limited to just one body type or age. It’s an empowering experience to see a show and to be in the shows.” 

Other members of Tart of the Valley use their performances — which can consist of unexpected skits like comedy, jokes, tap dancing, acting and singing — as a vehicle to bring up topics like sexual consent, gender awareness, sexual freedom and political discourse. Their biggest passion is helping others learn to be themselves: Whether it’s a new mother trying to get her confidence back, or a man delving into Drag for the first time, every single performer learns more about themselves while teaching others about accepting those different from them.

“It’s not just about the stripping aspect, it has sustenance to dig deeper in,” Starena says. “From the silly and funny to very serious subjects, burlesque can be full of fantasy or heavy with reality. Or anything and everything in between.”

By Kiki Genoa

 

Peter Cooke

School Teacher & Fitness Extraordinaire

Peter Cooke has lived in Corvallis since he was 4 months old. He teaches middle school and owns a fitness studio, Rise Up Fitness, in Albany. The studio offers a wide range of fitness classes, from yoga to judo.  The studio is invested in its community and strives to make fitness classes affordable and accessible to everyone.

A long-time resident of Corvallis, Cooke notes the size of the town as one of its best physical features. He muses, “Corvallis is big enough that there’s stuff to do…but you don’t have the issues [such as excessive traffic] that you have in larger cities.” Additionally, he loves that we are close to different geographical features within a two-hour drive.  

When asked what it means to be a good neighbor, Cooke tells a story of how he recently started gardening. While he was outside watering flowers in his newly built flowerbed, a kind neighbor took notice. The neighbor saw that Cooke’s watering could be made easier and more efficient by using a special gardening attachment on his hose. She went and obtained said hose attachment for Cooke, gave it to him, and explained in a friendly, non-condescending way that his gardening experience would be greatly improved with the right tools.  

This gesture of kindness struck Cooke and he encourages us all to “‘leave our own house…in a physical and symbolic sense. If you can help somebody out, teach them something, and just approach them as a person… [and] the world at large would be a better place.”  

Like Cooke’s good neighbor, getting out there and interacting with our neighbors in a genuine way can help us forge stronger relationships and create communities where members are enriched. 

By Erica Johnson

 

Dennis Stillwaggon

Veteran

Which branch of the military did you serve in, and what was your job?  When was that?

Navy, Electrician’s Mate (Reactor), 1972-1974.

Did you live in Corvallis before you went into the Navy?

I visited a few times – my grandmother was a Housemother at OSU and I stayed with her as a child sometimes.  My Dad was Navy so we traveled all around.  I arrived here in 1976 to go to school.  I wanted to study alternative energy.

Can you think of a way that your status as a veteran affects the way you think about being a neighbor?

It’s part of my public service motives, it’s why I volunteer for various community organizations.  There’s a sense of duty that you carry with you no matter where you serve or what you do as a civilian.

Are there ways that your neighbors treat you differently when they know you’re a veteran?

Some people attach their patriotic feelings to you because you give a tangible character to them.  Some people – very few – are disdainful.  Mostly people are appreciative of public service, much as with my relatives who are in the Fire Department. I’ve been present at the peace vigil at the Courthouse – about half the people who stand out there are veterans, and I also work the Veterans for Peace booth at the Benton County Fair.  Sometimes I get negative reactions to that.  But I think most people are just appreciative of what you’ve done.

By John M. Burt

 

Dharma Ahmed Mirza

Drag Artist

Miss Dharma, also known by her real name, Dharma Ahmed Mirza, is a 25-year-old Pakistani-American who grew up in Northern Utah with 12 nieces and nephews. Participating in performing arts throughout her life, Mirza began performing Drag in Corvallis in 2014, regularly showing up for the OSU Drag Show. She now regularly travels and performs around the Pacific Northwest.

Founded by Miss Dharma Prada MacPherson and Sativa De Lux in 2014, The Haus of Dharma — a family of 25 Oregonian Drag performers based in the Corvallis-Albany-Monmouth area — are a collective of artists and activists who have performed in Drag and Pride events since the summer of 2017, while developing social service programming and resources for marginalized groups, particularly LGBTQ+ locals. The Haus is wholly inclusive to Drag performers of all ages, genders and sexual orientations, regardless of experience, aesthetics, or performance styles.

“We felt that Drag is an important catalyst and platform to engage in social justice and community activism,” says Mirza. 

“It’s not all about ‘cross-dressing’ or looking like a woman/man,” she explains. “It’s about breaking down boundaries that condition our expression, exploring hyper-aesthetics and radical self-expression through our looks and performances.”

One of Mirza’s favorite parts of being in charge at the Haus of Dharma is the way in which she and her fellow performers are able to help other members of the community feel like they can be themselves. 

“Our performances have touched the lives of our community,” she says. “Creating fun, meaningful art for our community,” Mirza feels “is part of being a good neighbor…building systems of opportunity and empowerment for marginalized communities, and keeping the community accountable for oppression and discrimination.”

By Kiki Genoa

 

Rachel Peck

Volunteer, Homeless & Jewish Communities

In 2005, Rachel Peck and her husband moved to Corvallis from Washington, D.C. She immediately involved herself in the Jewish community and in serving the homeless. Soon they became members of Beit Am, the local synagogue that serves the entire mid-valley and central coast’s Jewish population. 

“Judaism is important to me; I would not live in a place where there was no place to worship and associate with other Jews,” Peck says, “Beit Am members were so immediately warm and welcoming, that there wasn’t even a question about joining.” 

To deepen roots, Peck volunteered alongside other Beit Am members at monthly meals they provide through Stone Soup. She was moved to do so because in Judaism, “we’re supposed to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and protect the orphan and the widow, it says that right in our scriptures, in our Tanach.” 

She explains: “We’re supposed to partner with G-d, it’s not like we’re just going to sit here and G-d’s going to make the world a better place, we’re here to help in that mission, that’s how I see it anyway.” 

Before long, Peck moved up the ranks from food server to coordinator with fellow Beit Am member, Ken Winograd. They make sure there are enough volunteers each month to keep things running smoothly. 

“We get to make important decisions like when we’ll start serving seconds, depending on how big the crowd is and how many people got there earlier,” Peck says, “we always want to have something left for latecomers.” 

Her role as a coordinator puts her in the position of mediating conflict if it should arise. “If there’s a problem, which there rarely is, it’s up to us to make a decision — do we try to talk the person down or call the police?”, Peck adds thankfully, “I’ve never had to.”

Through her volunteering, Peck has learned about human resilience: “Some people — given their life circumstance — you wouldn’t expect them to be cheerful and positive, but a lot of them are.” 

Peck recommends non-homeless people interact more with the currently homeless, whether it’s acknowledging their presence in passing, or through volunteering with Stone Soup. 

When asked how to be a good neighbor in Corvallis, she reflects, “Give people the benefit of the doubt.”

By Ari Blatt

Johannah Hamilton

Sustainability Advocate & Academic

For Johannah Hamilton, deciding to focus her work on environmental issues came early on. The African American, Louisville, KY native started her academic career as an accounting major. When she studied abroad in Panama, she was exposed to issues around sustainable farming practices, GMOs, and the link between environmental issues and the health disparities of rural and urban populations.

“I was exposed to real rural poverty for the first time,” says Johannah. “Garbage everywhere, kids [who] were 9 years old, never been to school.” When she returned home, she changed her undergrad major to Agricultural Economics. After eventually completing her masters, Johannah wasn’t sure which step to take next.

“I knew I wanted to do something in [agriculture] and sustainability, promoting growth and development in Latin American communities,” she says. That’s when she met Wanda Crannell, the BioResource Research Academic Program Coordinator and Advisor at OSU, at a conference. The two discussed Johannah’s interests and, by the next week, “Wanda recruited me!”, says Johannah.

Now, she is pursuing her PhD in Public Policy at OSU with a focus on community development, community service and agriculture. She is starting her research this summer.

“I’m doing a case study on 11 rural communities that received funds from [a] state agency to promote entrepreneurship in rural communities. I’m trying to see how these funds integrate equity efforts in local development practice.”

As for her community in town, Johannah says, “I have a lot of different groups. My MANRRS (Minorities in Ag, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences) family. With Annette and Dave and the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition (CSC). I’ve met friends in that. The whole city of Corvallis — when I moved here everyone was so nice and so friendly.”

“That really makes a difference in how you feel, when people stop you [to talk] and smile at you.”

What makes a good neighbor in her eyes?

“You have to respect one another. Even if you don’t agree with someone you have to respect them and be open to having a conversation.”

by Alisha Wang Saville

 

Nikki Kelley

Student & Bartender

Nikki Kelley is a bartender at the Angry Beaver Sports Bar on 4th Street who will also be attending Oregon State University this winter term. Although she hasn’t been in Corvallis very long, Kelley has made many astute observations about the town’s residents through her work. Kelley has worked in the restaurant business since she was 14 and seen it all, but noticed something special about Corvallis residents very quickly.

“I had no idea how crazy loyal Beavers fans are,” Kelley said.

Kelley was a lifelong Boise, Idaho resident before moving to Portland in 2009 and later settling here in Corvallis three months ago. “I picked a town on the map, packed up my car and moved to Portland,” said Kelley.

What does she think of Corvallis so far? “I love Corvallis, it’s nice and quiet. I haven’t found anything about Corvallis I don’t like,” said Kelley.

She also enjoys the pedestrian accessibility of the town. “We can walk after work to other bars and have drinks with co-workers,” she said.

She also enjoys the free in-town bus service of Corvallis, especially if she is having car troubles, as well as the small-town vibe radiating from Corvallis.

“I run into regulars at a lot of other places around town. They are always friendly, saying hi to one another…people are just friendly here,” said Kelley.

She says Corvallis is a very neighborly city. “Especially coming from Portland, which is such a big city, it’s cool how everyone is connected in some way here. Everyone always knows somebody, or knows someone who knows someone,” she said.

By Jonah Anderson

Peter Adler

Seasonal Biologist

In a college town like Corvallis you can almost set your watch to the moment that the students leave for the summer.  The streets are less crowded, the line at the grocery store is faster, and it’s just you and the townies for the next few months.  However, did you know that there’s an ephemeral population of people just in our town for the summer?  

Since our city is smack-dab in the middle of several eco-regions there are many people here for summer employment assisting with biological research.  They can be pretty elusive since they’re often out in the field, but they’re sometimes here on their off day, usually at Squirrel’s Tavern.

One visiting seasonal biologist is Peter Adler.  Adler has been here for two and a half months and comes to us by way of Dunedin, New Zealand, which is a city on the southeast shore of the southern island of New Zealand. While he’s spent most of his time in the Pacific Northwest in less populated areas, his first impression of Corvallis was its size.  

“I guess I didn’t realize how big it was… it was a lot nicer than I expected,” he notices, comparing it to other very small towns he’s seen out west.  Adler also described the vibe of Corvallis as “happy and accepting.”  We’ll take it!  

When asked what it means to be a good neighbor he confesses, “I spend most of my time sleeping in a tent,” but continues on to mention that “people who are social and outgoing…hanging out at campfires, sharing stories and experiences.” For him these folks make the best neighbors.  Once Adler’s time in Corvallis is over he says he will look for employment in the western US or go back to working on a boat in Alaska.  

By Erica Johnson

 

Carrie

Homeless Neighbor

Originally from Illinois, Carrie has lived in Corvallis since 1992, after her family first moved to Klamath Falls when she was 15. Between then and now, she has been homeless multiple times. 

She has lived on the eastern bank of the Willamette River for five years now. The site where she and her partner, Jeff, have pitched their tent for the last four months is one she takes some pride in, as she worked hard to clean it up completely from the people that lived there before, removing trash that had long since been buried in the ground.  

Keeping the camp clean is important to Carrie, “I don’t like to be dirty if I can help it,” she says. 

In addition, knowing the other people living in the camp is of value to her. “We have one set of neighbors, they’re friends of mine, I’ve known them for a long time and they don’t bother us and we don’t bother them as much as possible. It’s peaceful over here for the most part,” Carrie explains with a caveat: “unless people start stealing our stuff, which they have. But it’s pretty peaceful over here.” 

While Carrie appreciates her neighbors, she does not feel a sense of community in Corvallis as a whole. “We are our own entity,” she says, then looks across the river, “and they are theirs.”

Prior to becoming homeless, Carrie worked as a cab driver in town for almost a decade. She lost her job due to medical reasons, which pinched her finances to the point that she lost her home as well. “I don’t choose to be out here,” Carrie says, “I can’t speak for anyone else, but it’s situational for me. I’ve been out here a long time; it sucks. It’s not as easy to get off the street as it is to get on the street.”

To be a better neighbor in Corvallis, Carrie suggests that non-homeless residents should “try judging yourself before judging us… a lot of times when you see the paper on the front page it says all homeless are criminals, and it’s hard to look past that. Well, not all of us are…the only illegal activity I do is camp.”

Carrie is grateful to those who go beyond, “there are people in the community who do help us… [they] bring down the suicide rate, really. Being out here isn’t easy, that’s why you see a lot of people not making it.”

By Ari Blatt

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