Sasha Lawless, 36, at her home. 

Garret Caster (previous post) recommended Sasha to me. They work together on the Community Assistance Program. While raising four children, Sasha, among other things, works in the taproom at Humm Kombucha, heads up their donations program, handles their sales in Central Oregon, and is their representative for Bend’s Makers District. When I first wrote to her, she responded by saying, "I don't know that I'm a great candidate." So, she's got humility on her side, too. We had a great time chatting at her house. She's exuberant and passionate and loves to laugh. I'm glad to introduce her to you. 

Who are you?

I'm a mom. I'm an active community member. I was involved in activism and I kind of found that the best way for me to be a solution with things is to be involved in community and network. And I'm really good at networking. I know a lot of people. I can get along with a lot of different people. Something that I've seen in Bend is that you have a ton of amazing groups, like over 400 non-profits, but not everyone's on the same page. Talking to each other, finding out what's going on. That's something that I like to do is find out who I can connect and network 'em and that's just a big part of who I am. That's also part of what kind of legacy I want to leave for my children - helping develop the community and make an impact that's positive. I did history and archeology, so I spend a lot of time doing that, too. 

Where do you come from? What brought you here? 

I grew up in Idaho in a town of a thousand people, super tiny. I moved to Bend about 12 years ago. I loved it over here because of the sunshine. There's no sunshine in the valley. I lived there for a while. Lived in Astoria, lived in Eugene, did the hippy thing for a little bit. I dug coming here, staying downtown and being able to walk to all the festivals. It was a lot smaller then, so it was doable. It's a little bit harder now. And the outdoors. I'm not a skier or anything. I don't like winter, which people give me crap about all the time, but where I grew up in Idaho, it snows all the time. Way more than it usually does here and that's just never been my thing. But I enjoy hiking and I spend a lot of time in the Ochocos and traveling around here. The sun here just makes it everything. There's so much you can do and see. And history-wise, there's still so much preserved here that is accessible. I think that's awesome. And there's still a community feel here. I like that, too. My ex-husband grew up here, so his family was here. I came over to finish college. I was raising four kids and had attended three different colleges and was trying to work and do all of that at the same time. Coming over here to have the family support that could get me to finish. COCC was great and I went to OSU Cascades as of U of O student, so I got my degree from the University of Oregon. It was better to have the support when I had kids. I was working always and a full-time student and... yeah. And the sun! The sun is a big deal! (Laughs)

What do you like about Bend?

I like that there's a vast variety of people here. I mean there's people here from everywhere because they've all settled. They came through hiking or camping or whatever and then decided that this is where they wanted to be. A lot of people are interested in the outdoors, so they spend a lot of time trying to preserve the outdoors. There are a lot of groups here. I dig that. I love the community scene. We have a little music scene. We have all of our fun festivals. The breweries are super fun to be involved with. There's definitely a camaraderie of people. It's small enough that you can still make an impact in the community. I've been involved with a lot of non-profits that have done great things. The Community Assistance Program to me is amazing because it's going to directly impact our citizens. It's not like it's going into some big pool that's going all over the state or whatever. It's going directly into the pockets of the firemen so that they can put a family up for the night or buy a coat or buy a meal. I dig that. I dig that you can make an impact still that's small enough, but it's also big enough that you have the resources, you know, to do it. It's a good thing that we have these folks that come in from everywhere else and these tourists, even if people complain about the tourism. It brings in the music, the festivals, all the fun stuff. The money that empowers us to do stuff in our community and build it and I like that. I like the surrounding area. We have the diversity as far as from other states, but we don't have it on other levels. It's as big as I would get. I'm much more a small-town person. I prefer to be in a tiny, little town. I love Prineville, but right now this is where the work is and this is where my kids are being raised and I think it's a good place. And the people here are great. A lot of people are really actively involved. 

How do you contribute to the community?

Networking. I've done a lot of fundraising and volunteering. I ran an activist club on the campus when I was in college here, which the whole goal was to network nonprofits with volunteers from the campus, get students involved, knowing about what was going on. Like Rise Up International and these different groups that were doing stuff and let those students know that this was a great way for them to be involved with the community, work towards their resumes and their scholarships and things like that. Since then, I've done fundraising. I have a lot of friends that are running non-profits. I think my best way is I try to be aware, try to stay on top of it, and just network people. I love talking to people. I love people. And so I'm always interested in what people have going on and what they're passionate about and then finding ways that I can turn that passion into something that's going to help out the rest of the community. 

Do you have a favorite memory from here?

We used to have this awesome punk-rock venue called The Horned Hand. It was so much fun (laughs). Those are my best memories because there's a small group of people in town that were always there and hung out and it was like hanging out in your friend's garage. And so we all kind of became friends. That's always a fun memory. My favorite activity is hiking and finding cultural spots. I go out with a buddy that re-documents them and let's the Warm Springs Tribe know if we find new stuff. I think that's super exciting. It's really cool to come across an arrowhead or a pictograph or something that is anywhere between hundreds to thousands of years old and just be in that presence. You know, that energy. It's just awesome. I think that's probably my favorite thing. The Ochocos is my favorite place in this area. It has it's own climate. It's beautiful. Going for drives is when I'm the most calm. I'm not a meditator. I don't like to sit down and have guided meditations and stuff like that. My mom calls me her hillbilly hippy. But I dig going for those drives because that's how I meditate. Like my time out hiking in the woods and going for long drives and listening to Patsy Cline with my kids is my chill time and when I feel focused and calm. I'm not into yoga and stuff. (Laughs) I hang out with these old hippies and these old-timers that can take me and tell me the history of this stuff. It makes you feel a part of the area, you know? When you get to learn about that stuff and the stories. It just gives you a whole different perspective of what's happening now with the growth. It makes you care when you know the stories and the background. It's how you make roots. We don't have roots anymore, right? Since the Industrial Age, we've been moving around and nobody lives in their hometown anymore. We've all been transported all over the place and it's hard. I think we lose a lot of respect for community and our neighbors and people because we feel like we're this new person here. That's where I think encouraging people to learn about the history and set their roots in and appreciate it makes them feel like they're a part of it. It's a big deal. 

What do you wish for the future? 

In this community, I would love for people to communicate better. And get a lot of groups pulling together for the community. There is that huge income gap of people that are here and that are servers and that are struggling and then you have the bigger money. And you have a lot of need in these other areas and so many little groups trying to do things, but they really need to connect and talk and communicate and make things happen together. It's getting bigger. For me, personally, I would like to move to the Prineville area. I'd love to have land and a little farm that my kids can grow up on and feel that appreciation to their land and being sustainable and being independent. That's my goal is to kind of get them in a smaller area. As much as I think about that all the time, I can also drop my kids off downtown and get a call or a text from every other business owner that I know down there saying, "Oh, I saw the kids and they're be good." What I like about Bend is that it's still small enough that that community is there to look after my kids, knowing that I'm a single mom, and that I'm doing this by myself. They're always offering to help and people are always there and looking after them. That's the same kind of feel that you'd get in a small town that I appreciate. That's cool. I would love for it to stay that way. I don't know if that's possible. I don't think it is possible. It's going to keep growing in. I don't want to see it turn into Tahoe or something where it's so expensive that all of the people who are trying to live here and raise their families and who've been here get pushed out. That's going to be a major bummer. I don't know what the answer to that is. I think maybe people being more involved in the city and planning would be a big deal. If we can just keep that little community feel and make sure that we're supporting the people that created Bend... There are roots of people that came here and created something super special and if it keeps growing too big and things are happening, those people are getting pushed out because they can't afford to live here. I see a lot of that. I see a lot of families I've know have had to move. And that's heartbreaking. They shouldn't have to, it's still their town. I'd like to see it keep that community feel. A lot of that is up to people, too, to make the choice to connect with people. To spend the time walking downtown or driving through the old streets rather than taking the parkway and going over everything and being in such a hurry. Slow back down, connect with someone. Ask them where they're from. Ask them their story. Spend the time. Add another 15 minutes to every time you go to the grocery store or gas station so you can chat with that person that's in the service industry doing that for you. Spend the time to connect with them and to know your neighbor and have that feeling of neighbor and community because that's the only way you're going to keep it. You know?

Do you have thoughts on Bend's growth?

I know specifically a couple, very good friends of mine, they have four kids. They've been here for 10 years or something. I sat at a bar one day and had another friend who is like 4th generation here, tear her apart because she is from California. "How dare you come here? We don't want you here, blah blah blah." My friend was just in tears. They have four kids and three grandkids, you know? They came here because they wanted to raise their family differently than where they were at in California. They loved this area and loved the community. They wanted to give their children the experience that is here. Not everybody's here from Napa Valley or whatever with a bunch of money, trying to just use it as a playground. You can't always judge. You don't know everybody's story. You don't know what they want. Until you ask them! You ask them. And then you can have your feelings. That's, again, where that connection is. Take the time to find out somebody's story and figure out why they wanted to be here. How they want to become involved with it. If you shut the door on them, Screw you, you're from California!, then they're not aiding our community either. They're not going to feel involved. They're not going to feel a part of it. They're not going to want to take care of our area. They're not going to want to make sure we have community services and environmental protection on our areas and stuff like that. There's no point. We can all have our opinions on people traveling, but again, since the Industrial Age, that's what we do. That's what Americans do. That's what everybody does, right, is look for something better. You can spin your wheels on it, but it's not going to help anything. It's going to happen no matter what, so I think it's a lot better if we spend our time connecting with those people, finding out why they're here, having empathy, having compassion. Right? There's your difference, too. The empathy is you're going to feel it, but the compassion is that you're going to offer a solution, too, to making them feel a part of the community. And empowering them to aid the community and to be a solution in the community, to be active in the community. If you don't let them in, then you are just adding to the problems. And to the hostility. And to the shit that's happening that we don't like. Everything that's wrong in the world today is because of lack of connection. We don't take the time anymore to connect with people and relate and have empathy and have compassion. Everybody has to remember that, no matter what, if they want to actually do anything. To fix anything. To be a solution. It is what it is. You can bitch or you can try to make it better. (Laughs)

Anything else for the record? 

I wish I could be more involved in stuff. I used to be pretty active in things, but I guess there's always chapters of your life where you go from being the person that's out there on the front lines to the person that's just trying to support everybody. And as a mom right now, I've got a lot of different places that I gotta be and support. It's hard to let go of that. When you're someone who's always been involved, it's hard to say I'm going to step back. But, in the bigger picture, I'm creating a legacy for them because I'm creating community every chance that I get. Maybe it's just helping gather raffle donations or maybe it's passing on somebody's new business to somebody else or introducing two people, at least that's something. I'm proud of that. It makes me feel a little bit better about not being able to be at rallies or be out volunteering my time. My children have respect for this area. They know the history. I'm definitely raising four children that are going to be impactful. Then maybe they'll be involved and they'll say this is something that I want to work on because it was something that my mom supported. There are just so many freaking phenomenal people in this community that have so much going on to help out and to be active. The bulk of Bend isn't that selfishness that people like to take onto it as the playground. The people that are real community members here have huge hearts and it doesn't take a lot for them to make stuff happen that's positive.