Building on the Power of Connection

Annette is a community member who believes in the power of connection; that for every bond made between individuals a movement is born. Whether it’s advocating for local housing stability in support of her neighbors or revamping emergency preparedness manuals to be more inclusive and diverse, the core of her efforts derives from a desire to grow everyday relationships and connect people to the resources they need.   
When Annette needed to remove thick layers of moss off her roof, she reached out to Habitat as a home repair client during the early years of our Home Repair program. Years later, she has built a life creating access to grassroots systems all around Portland in partnership with Living Cully, Cully Housing Action Team (CHAT), and Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) – just to name a few.  
“There’s nothing extraordinary about me,” she says, “I’m just a resource person and so when I see nonprofit work in the community, I see them as a resource.” 
As a Cully resident, she’s amplified the need for community investment in her neighborhood by rallying with Living Cully partners for Las Adelitas, a community-driven initiative to build 141 new, affordable homes in what was once the Sugar Shack. She saw first-hand what a small group of dedicated community members could accomplish together by raising a substantial sum of money to ultimately purchase the abandoned strip mall of strip clubs in just 35 days of canvassing.  
“I look forward to coming together with people who initiate action to create positive change in the community,” she says,” It’s nourishing for me; I’m receiving just as much as I’m giving.” 
What sparked Annette’s passion for community engagement is her own journey toward housing stability. She moved five times before her son began kindergarten; continuously chasing more affordable rent as she was pushed out further and further east. It wasn’t until a friend recommended an affordable homeownership opportunity that Annette’s life began to take root in NE Portland’s Cully neighborhood.  
“I felt a tremendous sense of relief,” she says. “And with a feeling of security and stability, there’s a renewed sense of community commitment that comes with being a homeowner.”   
Nearly a decade later, Annette would travel to a Habitat for Humanity International conference in Atlanta to learn about Habitat’s tactics for Neighborhood Revitalization and emergency preparedness. She spoke about her efforts in Portland, which are now, for her, a way of life.
“You don’t have to sit on a panel or be an expert,” she said. “You can make valuable contributions with your own lived experience as a member of the community.” 
To those wanting to make a difference in their city, but don’t know where to begin, she offers this advice:   
“Start with the people that you see day to day; start with your neighbor. The smallest gesture, a smile, can be what the action is. It’s enough to just ask what someone’s name is, share your name, saying hi to the kids on your block—it’s enough.  That’s a start.” 

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