By Marsha Sandman | CNA Media Team
When Annette Pronk arrived in Portland from the upper Midwest in 1997, she spread her wings and planted her roots.
She was no stranger to the housing pressures many Portlanders experience. In fact, she moved between three Concordia properties – while she strived to find affordable housing – before she discovered housing stability in Cully.
With this burden lifted, Annette began to explore her new community.
She connected with her new neighbors, attended meetings in people’s homes and listened to stories of others facing housing insecurity as she once had.
“Sharing our stories and our lived experiences opens us up to take the next step, together,” Annette explained.
“I’m a big believer in creating space for community conversation, whether it be about racial justice, community resiliency, housing stability or root causes to houselessness.”
In an effort to pay it forward, she developed her skills as a community leader with the Cully Housing Action Team (CHAT). “This grassroots community-led group became a source of inspiration to me,” she said. “It lifts up the collective power to improve the common good through campaigns such as ‘Save the Oak Leaf.’” That mobile home park preservation effort prevented several families’ displacement at the hands of developers.
CHAT also campaigned to bring funding to the 141-unit Las Adelitas housing project underway at the former Sugar Shack property.
Resilient and resourceful, Annette also serves on the boards of the Cully Association of Neighbors and Verde. The latter is a Cully-based nonprofit that serves low-income communities of color by building environmental wealth and assets such as the Thomas Cully Park.
She is a lover of nature, holds a platinum level Backyard Habitat certification and is a Master Recycler.
As a solo parent and cancer survivor, Annette is quick to identify with the silver lining in any situation. That skill serves her well while she leans into building community resiliency against pending disasters. One effort is advocating for the Cully Neighborhood Emergency Team to broaden its capacity to work alongside the Latinx community.
“I see myself as a conduit of resources and information,” she noted. “How can I remove barriers to help folks feel prepared, feel connected?
“You do not have to sit on a panel or be an expert. All you have to do is be yourself. Try to offer a kind hello to someone,” Annette added.
“Be willing to listen with an open heart and mind. Be willing to share resources – one day at a time.”
After living east, south, north and west, Marsha Sandman is home at last. And she wants to hear your story. Contact her at MarshaJSandman@gmail.com.