Meet Our Volunteers
Chris Kochiss – Crew Leader / 5th Beatle
I was looking for an opportunity
Jeremy Maxwell – Crew Leader
I started volunteering with Depave after a decade of traveling for business left me without a community to call my own. New to the Portland Metro area, I found that the beautiful but besieged natural environment, from the Gorge all the way to the ocean, was also incredibly delicate. Volunteering with Depave, I enjoy playing a small role in improving the local watershed by replacing suffocating asphalt with appropriate greenery. But more importantly, as a Depave Crew Leader, I get to spread the concept of improving one’s community. Through Depave’s unique model of volunteerism, I work with neighbors, friends, and strangers to envision a better neighborhood and teach about the exponentially increasing value of small, local projects. A Depave crew with hand tools can make an industrial lot into something vibrant and alive, worth pausing to enjoy. More green and less black. Healthy soil instead of manmade runoff. Local plant life instead of stunted weeds poking through cracked concrete. The overall betterment of community through the sweat of shared labor is very rewarding. That’s what Depave offers to all involved.
The overall betterment of community through the sweat of shared labor is very rewarding.
Melissa Bockwinkel – 2015 Outstanding Crew Leader
I got involved with Depave while searching for a similar organization to work with during the Friends of Trees off season. With Friends of Trees, I volunteered as a Neighborhood Coordinator and currently as one of their Green Space Crew Leaders. I love being involved with an organization that is creating more green spaces in our city while building community, not just during the event day, but in the future by giving residents a place to enjoy that they would have previously overlooked.
As someone who grew up playing on asphalt parking lots in the Midwest and eventually moving to the Pacific Northwest to be closer to nature, it’s a joy to be able to watch school parking lots transform to outdoor classrooms and learning gardens for future generations. My day job keeps me pretty tied to a desk and Depave gives me the opportunity to give back to my community with good ol’ fashioned labor. It really makes you appreciate the projects when you put your back into it (but not too hard, remember to use those legs!) and be more mindful of the harmful impact we have had on this planet by making short-sighted planning decisions. It is empowering to learn how to use the tools and see that this work can be accomplished by anyone, as long as you work together.
You feel like a rock star when you look back and see how many dumpster bins your team filled with asphalt that day and a sense of community pride when you see the greenscape planted in the now free earth.
I enjoy working with everyone on the Depave crew and all the site organizers we’ve partnered with have been absolutely amazing – they all deserve a medal for their community contributions. I also sit on the board of directors for Profile Theater and participate in the finance committee for Girls on the Run of Portland Metro. I am also an Official for Rose City Rollers, roller derby world champions!
Kyle Eilenfeldt – 2015 Volunteer of the Year
In October 2013, a few months after moving to Portland, I was invited to the King Elementary Depave Phase I as part of the Former Jesuit Volunteer Portland group. Having written my Master’s Thesis on Ecological Theology when at Boston College, Depave’s philosophy of place reminded me of theologian Sallie McFague’s view that the norms of one’s surroundings are what me make of it, it is not simply abstract and unchanging.
Since that time, I have been at the forefront of the behind the scenes work with the Projects and Fundraising committees. Talking with my fellow committee members and host sites, I am incredibly impressed with the grassroots nature of the work. People from all walks of life, whether teen service groups, corporate groups or neighborhood associations, really make the Depave events their own. By bringing it upon themselves to improve their community, they improve their spaces while recognizing the significant improvements to the environment so that it can be enjoyed by future generations.
People from all walks of life are able to make a depaving their own, and build a positive collective energy around a site.
It is this positive collective energy that makes me excited for future of Depave and know that our efforts are creating a sustainable impact.
Rosa Lehman – Crew Leader
The physical act of depaving a parking lot is (and this is a word I normally role my eyeballs at) incredibly empowering. Depave is radical restoration. It restores community connections and a sense of collective ownership of our city. Depave also restores natural cycles to the most urban corners of our neighborhoods bringing the water, plants, bugs, and birds back to the land.
So, take it from a millennial, put the smart phone down and join us for a little manual labor! There is a job for everyone, young or old, brawny or brainy.
Svetlana & Dave Pell – Crew Leaders
We feel Depave is doing something truly meaningful. They remove asphalt, a lovely blend of toxic substances, to create greenspaces. It’s depressing to think about each generation leaving the planet more polluted. Depave gives us the chance to take direct action with other motivated individuals in removing a layer of toxic and impermeable material so trees and gardens can be planted instead. It makes us feel great.
We also get a chance to work with different tools that not everyone has a chance to. Svetlana really likes to cut concrete and asphalt with a concrete saw. It makes her feel that she can do anything. We’d like to thank Depave, all their volunteers, and the community partners who offer support and places to depave. Hopefully, the Depave model will continue to be emulated in cities and towns all over.
Depave gives us the chance to take direct action with other motivated community members. It makes us feel that we can do anything.
Ray Lipin – 2014 Volunteer of the Year
In my initial search for volunteer work I was intrigued by Depave from a stormwater management point of view. I am an environmental engineering master’s student at Portland State and am studying water resource management/design. Thus, Depave’s asphalt to greenspace conversion motto really struck a chord with me.
But after getting super dirty and having fun with a bunch of enthusiastic folks over and over again, I realized that Depave is also a community builder. Depave is unique because it synergizes stormwater management and community development in about the funnest, filthiest way possible. And in the end, locals get a sweet new greenspace that they WORKED for.
Depave synergizes stormwater management and community development in about the funnest way possible to give others a sweet new greenspace that they worked for.
I have to say, it’s also exhilarating working with such a rad group of passionate and devoted core volunteers. And for a nonprofit group, Depave is superbly organized. Projects are well planned and always come off without a hitch. It’s been a privilege working with such awesome volunteers. I’ve never met such a selfless, energetic, devoted, dependable team of people. Everyone is RAD with no exceptions!
Nick LaRue – 2014 Volunteer of the Year
I first got involved with Depave after meeting Diego from Green King at the King School Depave. I was looking for a volunteer opportunity, but didn’t have a specific activity in mind. After checking out the volunteer page I saw they were looking for GIS and mapping assistance. I started attending the Project Planning meetings in early 2014. While the mission is straight forward, I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy the teamwork of the events until I participated in the Opal School project.
My professional days are spent downtown, perched on the 17th floor of an office building, clicking and typing. While my index finger and wrist have grown strong from the 40 hour week regiment of mouse jockeying, catharsis via copy and paste is rarely achieved. Prying and lugging asphalt on the other hand is such a physical release. It triggers a joy that infects the whole project site with enthusiasm, spirit and the desire to do more. Conflict, exertion, unity, triumph, resolution, satisfaction and sometimes exhaustion, it’s all there and it’s exhilarating. Much of the work could be done faster by more mechanized means, but laboring together allows all of us to be mindful of how much effort is needed to undo myopic planning. Forethought towards creating and integrating green space into our urban designs will become more crucial as our city’s population grows.
Conflict, exertion, unity, triumph, resolution, satisfaction and sometimes exhaustion, it’s all there and it’s exhilarating.
Though the preceding prose would lead you to believe otherwise, Nick is quite satisfied providing GIS, GPS, Cartography and other Geospatial services at HDR Engineering. He’s used these skills to lend a hand to Depave’s Site Planning Committees in addition to leading crews and wraslin’ asphalt on project days.
Brynn Eiffler – Education, Outreach, All Time Rock Star
While searching for a place to volunteer, Depave caught my eye because of its integration of environmental sustainability and community engagement. I have a passion for improving society and have come to understand that living harmoniously with the environment is a huge factor in creating healthy communities. One of my passions is environmental education, so I began working on a few community surveys for Depave. I was instantly in love with the work done in this organization and could see the value of their work. My love was solidified when I came to a few working parties at the Word and Spirit Church. It was amazing to see this parking lot go from emptiness and pavement to green, functional and beautiful. Community engagement was another wonderful thing I observed. So many congregation members and members of the Portland community came out and made the work smooth and enjoyable. Neighbors walking by our work party could not help but stop and inquire as to what we were up to. I realized that through more of these projects, our society could really be transformed.
Depave not only rips up pavement and replaces it with life, it also connects and engages people.
All of the projects I have worked on so far, from outreach to fundraising, have showed me how important Depave is and how much it contributes to the health and vitality of wildlife, water, humans and the planet at large. I have seen that when asphalt is replaced with gardens, native plants, rain gardens, pathways and play areas, whole communities can be transformed. Depave not only rips up pavement and replaces it with life, it also connects and engages people. Everyone can benefit from the work Depave does whether it be schools, neighborhoods, businesses, churches, parks or residential homes. I am honored to be a part of this team and am excited to see what the future holds for Depave!
Dan Zinder – 2013 Volunteer of the Year
When I moved to Portland I was looking for an “on the ground” outlet for my passions for city planning, green space creation, community development, and breaking things with large, sharp tools for community purposes. Depave was a perfect fit and in February, 2013 I started attending site planning meetings. With Depave I took on roles with the Site Planning Team including project management, site design, and developing new partnerships. As summer arrived and the Depaving events began, the joy only increased and I began teaching others to break pavement with large, sharp tools for community purposes and learning to break pavement with bigger tools. The community experience allows a safe environment for everyone to participate and elevate their own skill level and there is a tangible, positive, and immediate impact that each of these projects has.
The community experience allows a safe environment for everyone to participate and elevate their own skill level and there is a tangible, positive, and immediate impact.
In addition to destroying pavement, Dan holds a Masters of Urban Planning from Tufts University and works for the City of Molalla as a GIS Analyst. He plays guitar and enjoys the solitude of green spaces, both manicured and wild.
Corbin Gentzler – 2012 Volunteer of the Year
I first heard about Depave while doing research on storm water mitigation for a Portland Community College class. I was impressed by the way Depave combined restoration work with community building and was immediately moved to be a part of it. I began volunteering at the tail end of the Escuela Viva project, helping install a bioswale and bring in soil and plants to what had been an asphalt playground. After that, I was hooked, and went on to help coordinate phase two of the James John Elementary project, where I coordinated a lot of the behind the scenes work as well as helping with the sawing and removal of asphalt and the pickup and installation of plants. I also assisted with the project to restore Baltimore Woods – a 30-acre historic Oregon white oak savannah along the Willamette River (in St. Johns) that had been turned into an industrial area.
What’s most fulfilling is … a finished project, witnessing the transformation, and knowing that we not only contributed to the repair of the environment, but also created a community space where people can connect and engage.
Working with Depave has been a great learning opportunity, not only because of the technical skills I’ve learned, but because of the opportunity to pick the brains of a diverse group of volunteers including landscape architects, general contractors, biologists, and community organizers. What’s most fulfilling is walking away from a finished project, witnessing the transformation, and knowing that we not only contributed to the repair of the environment, but also created a community space where people can connect and engage.
Josh Cabot – Project Committee Co-chair
I first volunteered at a depave of Mosi Architecture’s parking lot back in 2009 and haven’t looked back since. From the very beginning, I have been struck by the way total strangers come together at the events, united by a common cause to better our community spaces. Forget an ice-breaker, pavement smashing allows people to quickly begin interacting with each other, at first pragmatically and soon thereafter more warmly, humorously and compassionately. Despite the physicality of depaving, I believe every single person can directly contribute to a depave event, whether it is through direct smashing, presenting a paired art piece or performance, helping to support the many other moving parts of the event, or simply building community resilience by coming out to witness the spectacle and chatting up your fellow citizens. Direct action is one of the most courageous gestures we can make toward bettering our community. Depave makes it really easy (and fun!) to plug-in and come away feeling energized about our capacity to improve our urban spaces.”
Depave makes it really easy (and fun!) to plug-in and come away feeling energized about our capacity to improve our urban spaces.
Josh has led depaving at Chief Joseph Elementary School and PCC Sylvania in addition to assisting at over 15 other Depave events. As co-leader of Depave’s Site Planning Committee, Josh relies on the experience he has developed at his day job as an architectural project manager for the local Portland firm, Livermore Architecture & Engineering. In addition, Josh also has years of experience in construction management, which definitely comes in handy when coordinating Depave’s direct actions around the Portland area. Whether working with prospective site hosts, developing site designs or coordinating construction (and destruction!) logistics, Josh is committed to tactically empowering our community in order to enrich our urban environment. ~ Contact Josh