By Mikael Krummel

Wet and wild

Two Willamette High School athletic teams would like the world to know that their chosen sport has nothing to do with horses, croquet mallets, or wet balls being bumped over a net. In fact, the Willamette water polo players are on a mission to prove that their sport is hardly a game played by sissies.

Wolverine boys and girls water polo coach Matt Hauge sometimes compares his favorite sport to a combination of swimming, wrestling, basketball, soccer, and baseball. One of Hauge’s ambitions is to resurrect the 1990s powerhouse era of Eugene water polo, when Sheldon dominated state high school championships and citywide instructional camps for 10-, 12-, and 14-year-old players produced local students competing on the Junior Olympics and USA National water polo teams.

“I’m an extreeeemly competitive guy,” says Hauge. “I hate losing. I love physical action. And I’ve always been a fish in water.” Hauge’s track record at Willamette speaks to his commitment and investment in water sports: After three years of his coaching, Willamette recently netted the first-year girls team a trip to the State Championships, and last year’s boys’ team competed at State after posting a 16-2 conference record.

Wolverine poolers say that physical conditioning is one key to winning. A sustained “egg beater” technique for treading water is a powerful asset, as is core strength, quick moves, and a stinging shot on goal. But the players and their coach also concur that the mental game is what truly separates the good from the great. “Quick twitch, quick mind, living in the moment,” advises Hauge. “You’ve got to be almost omniscient in the pool.”

To prove their point, the Wolverine boys will host a much-anticipated pool showdown versus Willamette football players this summer. The event will raise money for the polo teams, while demonstrating that the sport is hardly a refuge for wussies. Don’t be surprised if the bad boys of blue water prove every bit as tough as the guys of the gridiron. . . and likely far more omniscient.

The ToolBox Project

When the first generation of public tool libraries cropped up during the 1970s, a handful of Eugene neighborhood groups jumped on board with lending projects. But like similar efforts in many communities, the projects disappeared by the ’80s. Lately, however, there’s been momentum for a new generation of “libraries of things.”

Enter the ToolBox Project: a local model in the new era of community sharing libraries. ToolBox is a grassroots, nonprofit organization providing no-cost/low-cost building repair and garden tools for transforming Eugene homes, businesses, and neighborhoods.


Beth Sweeney and Anya Dobrowolski met in late 2013 while grad students at the University of Oregon. They were both searching for personal projects that would carry them beyond their degree studies. They both perceived that, although Eugene is very tightknit, it had no community-based lending libraries for items other than books. This realization inspired them to craft a shared vision for a series of modular tool libraries: multiple locations, multiple neighborhoods, many participants, and many tools.

“We are activists for our cause,” says Sweeney. “We wanted to create something.” According to Dobrowolski, the cause they embraced was about leading a charge to help make the planet a better place. “The idea of sharing,” says Dobrowolski, “is the core of what makes us human. And, perhaps, it’s the next step in building a more peaceful world.”

Optimism plus pragmatism: key elements in many formulas for success.

The ToolBox Project currently boasts more than 125 members. It has acquired over 200 tools ranging from tape measures to table saws. In a little over two years, the project has evolved past a pair of hopeful dreamers loaning hand tools from the back of a pickup to a cadre of volunteers dispensing dozens of hand and power tools weekly from a utility van. More recently, the ToolBox Project has settled into a tidy, newly constructed tool shed on a permanent site at the Friendly Street Church of God near downtown Eugene.

Celebrate the ToolBox Project’s recent grand opening by signing on as a member, volunteering time, or donating tools. Sharing can be its own reward.

Inspired sounds

The session begins with a group prayer that closes with murmurs of “Amen!” It’s one more of countless weekly rehearsals for the Inspirational Sounds Gospel Choir. The local musical group has been at it for more than 50 years. And clearly, the dozen-plus participants in tonight’s practice session have brought a certain spirit into the room.


A series of simple voice warm-ups segues into slow-simmering, gospel-flavored soul. Musical expressions start heating up. Maracas chatter, a tambourine snaps. Chris Stubbs, the music director, blurts out instructions and encouragement between organ flourishes. Drummer Kenny Reed sends beats crackling across the church hall. Front and center, choir director Kathy Vrzak’s cornrow beads dance like scaled notes as she leads singers through a series of call-and-response lyrics punctuating several choir favorites. By the time the group launches into “Army of the Lord,” bodies are swaying, feet are shuffling, and arms are waving to the rafters as moans, groans, and hallelujahs rain down hard.

Members of the Sounds tell varied stories about how they found their way into the congregation of black gospel music fans. Some were raised under the influence of churches in the Deep South, and most are old enough to have come through the civil rights movement of the 1960s—some of them participated in it. But the fact is, the majority of the choir’s singers are white, and many hail from Oregon. They do, however, have strong beliefs about God, the costs of racism, and the rewards of participating in a choir that generously shares race-influenced cultural riches with the community.

If you ask members of Inspirational Sounds what most appeals to them about the group’s musical repertoire, you’ll elicit a variety of responses. “It’s infectious,” says one. “It’s alive!” enthuses another. “It’s pure joy,” adds a third, “but you don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy it.”

“And it’s the only place in America,” jokes one of the group elders, “where white people are able to keep time clapping their hands in rhythm.”