Of a certain age – Why I love Sisters
Last updated 4/11/2023 at 10:56am
It was a gray day in February 2004, and it started to rain as I was meandering around town during a visit to Sisters to look for a house.
I ducked under cover in front of Leavitt’s front door (now Dixie’s). The owner — and a true cowboy — John Leavitt, came out, introduced himself, and asked if I needed anything. I told him I was moving to Sisters and needed to find a house. He welcomed me to Sisters, we briefly talked, and he wished me luck in my search. It was a brief but warm welcome to town that is still in my memory 19 years later.
I found my house and moved in May 2004. For six months prior to moving, I subscribed to The Nugget so I would be familiar with the activities and opportunities in town. Little did I expect to be writing for the paper in later years.
I expected that perhaps the locals wouldn’t be happy with a transplant from Seattle moving to town (although I am a native Oregonian and always intended to return). Instead, I received a warm welcome everywhere I went from my neighbors, at the grocery store, and around town. I have come to love Sisters because I love her people, and we all love the local beauty.
Being a lifelong gardener, one of the first things I did after arriving was to join the Sisters Garden Club, and I also volunteered to run the after-school gardening program at the elementary school. What impressed me about Sisters was the warmth of the residents and their can-do attitudes. Most everyone had the best of intentions for our little town at the foot of the Three Sisters.
In my 19 years here, I have been involved in numerous community-building projects, like establishing the Community Garden, an all-volunteer effort with materials and labor donated by local businesses and citizens. We established the Three Sisters Historical Society to preserve the rich history of Sisters through the decades so visitors and newcomers could learn about how we started and evolved to where we are today.
To learn more, I participated in the Leadership Sisters program and spent two years in the Ford Family Foundation cohort focused on community vitality. In all the endeavors, I met more and more wonderful people.
Before I came to Sisters, the community needed to increase the size of the elementary school. State funds weren’t available, so the residents took it upon themselves to build the addition. The names of some of those who were involved can be seen on bricks on the building. The establishment of Sisters Park & Recreation District (SPRD) was a community-driven effort, as were the Sisters Rodeo, Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, and the Sisters Folk Festival. Our most successful ventures have been the result of community-wide support and effort.
A difficult time in our history about a decade ago involved the community being split by controversy, negative viewpoints, and accusations. People stopped running for public office and volunteering for City committees and boards. Hopefully, we will not experience a repeat of that difficult time period. The people of Sisters can do what we’ve always done. Pull together around common goals that will result in a healthier, more resilient community.
How do we do that? I have an idea. Let’s find a project we can all support and work on together. It is a recognized fact that Sisters needs workforce housing. We have Northwest Housing Alternatives on the brink of securing several acres next to the Wellhouse Church on which they want to build a 40-unit apartment complex specifically to house people in our workforce. The City has paid for, and Council has approved, the changes to the Development Code that allow the building to occur. The City has received $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to put toward the project.
How can we, as citizens of Sisters, get involved in the establishment of that community? Can we assist with the landscaping, perhaps creating a community garden for those who will live in the apartments? Or maybe a playground for children who will be living there with their families? Could local artisans provide some handcrafted signs, murals, statues, or metal work that would add unique Sisters touches to the project? Imagine how welcoming and special that would feel for the new residents.
If we are going to have affordable housing, let’s do it the Sisters way, and welcome the residents who will call it home.
I encourage us all to think about it, talk with our neighbors and friends. What can we all do to enhance Sisters while building community for ourselves and newcomers who choose to live in Sisters? And while we’re at it, let’s have a spirit of civility in our communication, including curiosity for another’s viewpoint.