Community Leader Profile: Egbevado

Egbevado, a 22 year old native of Togo, is a highly motivated, young community leader. Currently, he is the assistant manager at Village Market, but has been involved with Village Gardens for about seven years. Egbevado is the only person to have directly participated in all three of Village Gardens’ programs: Food Works, Community Programs, and Village Market.

Egbevado’s involvement with Village Gardens began in 2005, when at the age of 15 years old he started volunteering at the Seeds of Harmony garden in New Columbia. From there, Egbevado was hired with Food Works as a crew member. After a full season of working with Food Works, Egbevado became involved with Community Programs, writing a proposal for the Children’s Garden Program at the Seeds of Harmony Garden. Then, during his senior year of high school, Egbevado wrote a job proposal to work again with Food Works. He had an idea to create a partnership between Open Meadows High School and the Food Works summer program.  Egbevado made this vision become a reality, starting and teaching a garden class at Open Meadows with the use of his skills and knowledge acquired at Food Works. After graduating high school, Egbevado starting working with the Children’s Garden Program again, first as a volunteer and then in a grant-funded position. During these years with the kids’ program, Egbevado was also heavily engaged in the planning process for Village Market. He eventually transitioned into working full-time with Village Market, where he is now the assistant manager and a strong leader in the store.

Egbevado describes that his involvement with Village Market was really inspired through his work with the kids program. Working with children is one of his greatest passions, and his work with the Children’s Garden Program was crucial to its existence. Egbevado wrote curriculum for the kids’ program so that it could be an official after school program in conjunction with Portland Public Schools. Although this is still a work in progress, Egbevado’s work has laid the stepping stones for the project to go further. Egbevado says the kids need a program like this, to learn how to grow and cook their own food at a young age. “I think it’s really important nutritional education,” he says. “Thats pretty huge.”

Egbevado became involved with the Village Market as an advocate for the young children in the community. His desire to ensure that the kids had something of their own at the market pushed him to become deeply involved with the forming of the store. “We were creating a pretty nice store,” he explains, “but what’s the point of having a pretty nice store without having kids that will come?” With the Boys and Girls club down the road, and multiple schools nearby, Egbevado says “we have to think about the kids as an essential key to our community.” Egbevado started going to Village Market planning meetings, inventory meetings, and business meetings. Throughout these meetings, he was very influentialin ensuring that the Kids’ Snack Corner would be an important part of the store. “The kids wanted to have something at the market, so I was a voice for the garden club,” says Egbevado. “I am someone who is close to them and I hear them every day. So I spoke up for their needs.”

Egbevado says that Village Market is really important to his community in major ways. “This community is 82 acres– its like a small town. Before Village Market, when you looked at this small little town, you didn’t see any store around close enough for people to walk to. Especially for our senior citizens, they just didn’t have a close enough place to walk to. Fred Meyer is two miles away, Safeway and Grocery Outlet are three miles away. Now, you see the foot traffic. You see the people who come here. Its a huge benefit. People come in here and say ‘Hey, I don’t know what I’d do if this store wasn’t here.’ We have to look at the community and the demographics here. We are serving the community in a big way.”

In addition, Egbevado says that the Village Market is a place where people can find delicious soul food. “Here at the Village Market, Charles makes curry with vegetables and rice. It is one of the best foods I’ve ever had. Everything comes from the store–all the veggies, all the ingredients. It’s perfect, more than perfect. It’s soul food.” But what is soul food? “Food is also ‘soul,’ ” explains Egbevado. “You always hear this phrase ‘you are what you eat.’ So if you are eating something that is soul food, your soul becomes grounded to the earth.”

Egbevado is uniquely passionate and motivated, and is above all dedicated to his community and Village Gardens. He is constantly thinking of ways to improve the health of the community and to give back. But he says that Village Gardens has given him a lot, too: “Village Gardens made me partially who I am today. Being Egbevado, being a community leader, being deeply involved in the community…its because of Village Gardens and the people who came around here. Being able to see great leaders and be around them has made me who I am, and has made me really appreciate Village Gardens a lot. Tremendously! At first, I looked at the program like ‘oh its just a job.’ But then when you dig deeper, and especially living in this community, its becomes part of your life, its not just a job anymore. Its part of your daily living. It’s what brought me all the way where I’m at today with Village Market.” Egbevado has influenced all three programs of Village Gardens, and through this process has become a strong community leader. By using his creativity, critical thinking, passion for children, and desire to share and teach skills, Egbevado has contributed to Food Works, the Children’s Garden Program, and Village Market. His work reveals how the various programs of Village Gardens work inter-connectedly to offer a holistic, inclusive resource for the community. At Village Gardens, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In the same vein, Egbevado’s ability to contribute to a wide range of unique programs has helped shape him into a dynamic, well-rounded, enthusiastic community leader.