The following is by Shawn Levy, Timbers Army elder, capo emeritus, and board member of Operation Pitch Invasion
About three years ago, when it became evident that MLS2PDX was likely and that the Timbers Army would become a much bigger entity than any of us imagined, those of us who worked on the day-to-day business of the TA got together to ponder the question of what we might do with all the positive power, energy, communitarianism and goodwill that a massive Timbers Army would comprise.
Suppose we could bottle the spirit of the TA — the team/town/TA triangle, OUR THING — and do something with it, we asked ourselves. What would it look like, how would it work, what would we do?
What followed was a good 15-18 months of careful building of what became 107ist — the most non-hierarchical, non-structured entity that we could establish under Oregon law, and a vehicle for all of our creativity, passion, entrepreneurialism, desire to work with management and the community, and so forth.
But at that very first meeting, our very own future billboard model Nando Machicado volunteered the first suggestion of what to do with all that energy that we were hoping and preparing to marshal: restore and maintain soccer fields in the Portland Public Parks and Schools.
That inspiration was greeted with unanimous acceptance, and even through the various spasms and backslides that characterized the creation of 107ist, that inspiration remained our guiding star. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that 107ist was created in order to realize that vision.
Well, Operation Pitch Invasion is the fruition of that vision: the use of Timbers Army fundraising, sweat equity and deal-making to give back to the community in the form of quality places to play the game. And it is about to launch. And we want you involved.
Operation Pitch Invasion (OPI) is a separate entity from 107ist for legal, financial, taxation and management purposes. It has a different board, different bylaws, different tax status with the IRS. But it is exactly what Nando proposed on that day: a means for the Timbers Army to give back to the community about which it sings so ardently by building and caring for soccer fields where the Timbers Army and its children and grandchildren can play the game we love, and where, we hope, future Timbers will learn the game — from current and past Timbers and members of the Timbers Army.
OPI is a project of 107ist, which has given it seed money and will be one of its principle funders over time. This year, OPI will be small because it only just got its tax certification (and thus missed out on a lot of 2011 charitable giving opportunities), because there have been so many other things to take care of with the arrival of MLS, and because the founders wanted to make sure that it was ready for its close-up before unveiling it to the larger group. Now we’re ready, and we’ve got plans.
On July 16, we will be doing our first project — a dry-run of sorts: restoration and maintenance of existing fields at Ed Benedict Park (SE 100th Ave & Powell Blvd.). The following week, OPI will be part of 107ist’s contribution to the labor at James John Elementary School, one of the AC Portland sites. In August, OPI will do another care-and-maintenance-type project with the Portland Parks. And in the fall, we will build our first fields at a park in SE Portland. In coming years, with fuller budgets and more experience, we may do as many as 15-20 projects per year; the region isn’t running out of parks or schools with crappy fields, after all.
I tell you all this because OPI is a project very dear to me and to others in the TA. We have received much from the community and from the organization and from the team, and while we have never been less than vocal about our passion, and while we have done and continue to do MANY good works, we haven’t realized the fullest possible manifestation of our civic pride in the community. OPI is the means to achieve this, and it needs the same sort of human effort that we put into our epic gameday support of the team.
Currently, we are taking names of volunteers for the July 16 project. But there is one important caveat: right now, OPI activities are only open to members of 107ist. There are various reasons for this which I’m too tired right now to go into. But it was a measured decision, and as there are more or less 1700 people in 107ist, it’s hardly a means of keeping people out: more a strategic means of being able to keep track of who’s doing/done what.
So: visit the 107ist member forums and sign up for OPI — if not the July 16 event, then for one of the events later in the year. And if you have experience in any field that might be of use — grant writing, project management, landscaping — please identify yourself to the board (which is Nando, Michael Pearson, Josh Barrett and myself) by writing to email@example.com.
You say you want to help keep the energy flowing in the Eternal Golden Triangle of Team/Town/TA?
You say you want to be buried in Timbers green, that you know you are and are sure you are Rose City till you die, that you’re a true supporter for ever more?
Well, this is your chance to show it in a way that all of Portland can see and respect and acknowledge and enjoy. Join, if you haven’t already, 107ist, and throw your name, your heart and your muscle into Operation Pitch Invasion.