This article is the fifteenth in a series profiling the varied and amazing nominees for the 2009 Alice B. Toeclips Awards, which will be presented to five winners at the Alice Awards & Auction on March 7th. We won’t be able to profile everyone, so read the nominees’ descriptions online. This profile was written by BTA correspondent Stephanie Chase.
Alice nominee Stephanie Routh is dedicated to bikes; so dedicated that while living in Brooklyn she kept commuting even when that meant defying buses and taxis on the busy New York streets. Back in Portland, Routh became involved with Shift when she noticed volunteers handing out coffee to commuters along the Hawthorne Bridge. Routh stopped to ask if there was any way she could help – she has been involved in Portland street advocacy programs ever since.
In 2008 she started Umbrella, a non-profit support organization for community-based street culture. The name says it all: Umbrella works with organizations like Shift to handle the “wonkish” side of activism and events, helping groups with liability insurance, book-keeping, liquor licenses and permits. Recognizing that there is an administrative side to help ground a cause, Routh’s group allows other groups to help focus on their programs while Umbrella handles the back office workings.
Looking ahead to the upcoming year, Routh hopes that Umbrella will continue to develop in ways to better serve their clients. Umbrella is looking for a shared space to hold meetings for members and also hopes to improve their website, making it more interactive for members. In keeping with some of the sustainability themes from last summer’s 2008 Carfree Cities Conference in Portland, the group is looking to support projects that create and support streets as artistic spaces, and change the way that people view the grids of concrete that connect our neighborhoods.
As Routh sits on the nomination selection committee for Alice, this unfortunately removes her from contention for an Alice B. Toeclips Award. However, Routh’s work and dedication still merit notice, and her endless energy will keep propelling her work forward for the betterment of Portland’s streets and the people who love them.