Three Words: Know Your Neighbors

Best practices (always) for emergency preparedness in three words are … know your neighbors.

Here are two stories to illustrate this:

1) A few weeks ago, about 3,000 homes around me lost their power for more than an hour. This is not unusual for our block, so we were prepared. We calmly got out our flashlights and placed them in strategic places on the three floors of our home. My husband got out our Coleman lantern, noticed that we had no more mantles so he went over to Freddy’s and replenished our supply. Done.

I texted a few neighbors (texting is the best way during a power outage) and asked them about their power. I could see across SE Yamhill that my neighbors still had power and knew we could tap into their power (we did this once before when the power was out for about 25 hours) to keep our refrigerator running and power up our cell phones and computers. I could do all these things because I have phone numbers for most of my neighbors and we know each other well.

2) I chatted recently with a friend who lives in Ladd’s Addition. She told me about a new neighbor, whose name she didn’t know, who had recently moved across the street. These new neighbors had gone away for a few days and contracted with a pet service to take care of their dog. The only way she and some of her neighbors knew about any of this was when some other neighbors heard a dog howling inside the new neighbor’s house and wondered what was going on. So, someone knew someone, etc until eventually the issue was resolved. But it took awhile. So, imagine if these new neighbors knew their neighbors and were able to share contact info in the event that something like this might happen. It would have saved a lot of time and energy.

3) What is your KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOR’S story?

Want to share a story or need some help getting prepared? Email me at [email protected]. I am always happy to meet my Sunnyside neighbors.

Sunnyside Neighborhood Community Cares (SNACC) Committee Updates

In our March meeting the SNACC Committee discussed the Sunnyside Shower Project (SSP) Needs Assessment which was conducted to shine a light on barriers to the service, unmet needs, core strengths, as well as finding paths to move the project forward. We learned that time stood as a barrier for SSP guests with seven requesting more available days and times to shower, three mentioning the difficulty of scheduling appointments, two asking for everyday availability, and many admitting that a time limit of more than the current 30 minutes would be more welcome. Many strengths were accounted for by all participants, including 12 who declared the SSP as their sole support in maintaining their hygiene and personal care needs. Findings are available online HERE. We will be sharing a full report with the community soon, as well as discussing next steps for implementing changes based on these findings.

We also discussed additional projects that the SNACC Committee might consider taking on to provide further aid to the houseless community, such as administrative and paperwork assistance. We plan to continue this conversation in our next meeting on Thursday, April 21st from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at The Formation Lab (838 SE 37th St.). We hope you’ll join us.

Act Now for Climate Emergency on April 6th

Two years ago, the Portland City Council declared a climate emergency, but has little concrete to show yet in terms of either actual reductions or policies to reduce carbon emissions. Extinction Rebellion PDX and others will hold an action in the late afternoon of April 6th to demand that the City enact a plan for annual concrete steps towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5-10% annually given the dire nature of the most recent International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.  

This action will take place in conjunction with the global Scientists’ Rebellion. We are calling on local scientists to both join us and speak out, so please help us spread the word! This action will involve scientists and climate activists outside both Portland City Hall and the Portland Business Alliance office with a short march in between the two buildings. We will be stressing that the City needs to take stronger substantive actions and that the Portland Business Alliance needs to stop blocking City efforts to reduce emissions and stop attacking the Portland Clean Energy Fund, the Portland Clean Air Protection Program, and other climate initiatives. This action on April 6th is in conjunction with organizing testimony to the City on their budget priorities for the next two years in terms of climate resiliency and emissions reductions. If you are interested in joining, helping or learning more, please email info@xrpdx.

Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Q&A with our outstanding and outgoing SNA President Ash Hester

As 2020 in Portland began to take shape, with a pandemic just beginning and a city righteously upset with systemic racism, Ash Hester wanted to make a positive difference. But how? She decided to direct her energies about as local as you can get—into the Neighborhood Association.

“I attended a couple anti-racism marches, and while the impact was incredible, I wanted to serve in a role to create justice and equity through other avenues,” Ash told me on a chilly but sunny Sunday morning in early March over breakfast at Cricket Cafe (3159 SE Belmont St.).

Originally from Arizona, Ash moved to Portland in 2016. With a background in business development, operational processes, and strategy-building, she’s also worked in fashion and at creative agencies. When she moved to the Sunnyside neighborhood she became an avid reader of the neighborhood newsletter. Around the time of the anti-racism marches she read that elections were coming up. “So I reached out to the association and went on a walk with our previous Board President, Matt Lembo,” Ash says. Inspired by what he told her, she showed up the next day at the Sunnyside elections, gave a speech, and got voted in.

Two years later, Ash is not only President of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association, she is a board member and Co-Chair for SE Uplift. To continue putting in effort when the going gets tough requires a deep level of commitment. In her words, “I’m working hard for equity and inclusion, for all within Portland, and applying my professional skill set to help restore broken systems and provide lasting solutions that benefit the community at large.” 

Nate: This work—which really is politics on the most local level—is really hard. How do you keep the peace?

Ash: Everyone is entitled to their own personal experience. It’s about trying to find bipartisan neutrality and letting people know that we hear them, while also making it clear what the organization—what our neighborhood and neighbors—need. There will be contention about certain issues, but it is essential to create solutions that will help everyone out in the long run.

Nate: A lot of people who get involved for the same reasons you do give up when they experience just how challenging and toxic this work can be. 

Ash: That’s true, it can be a rotating door. Progress can be stagnant, but really good work is happening and we don’t celebrate that, and the people doing the good work, nearly enough. We could be doing even more if we focus on solutions for our communities instead of infighting.

Nate: How have you kept at it while remaining so positive?

Ash: I grabbed a virtual coffee with our State Representative Rob Nosse in 2020 and he said, “Look, if you want to get involved you need to find your passion, because you’re going to get burnt out and you’ll need to keep going. You need to narrow in on your thing. You can’t be everything for everyone—all things to all causes.”

Nate: Do you rent or own?

Ash: I rent off 31st and Yahmill, but I’m looking to buy. Sadly, it won’t be in Sunnyside since the market is very high for a first-time homeowner. 

Nate: What has brought you the most joy during your tenure on the SNA Board?

Ash: The opportunity to connect with people—to literally know my neighbors. I know that’s a mentality of the past, like the 50s, but we often live in such an isolated bubble. But now I know everyone on my block and that’s expanded across all of Sunnyside.

Nate: I love that.

Ash: Yeah, I think it’s important to know your community. I will always get involved in my Neighborhood Association so that I can meet my community. Of course there’s other rewarding things that have brought me joy: doing awesome things that are positively impacting lives is icing on the cake. Not only do I get to make new friends but I get to help improve people’s lives.

Nate: What do you love most about Sunnyside?

Ash: The people that care and show up and are selflessly doing the work. Just the dedication of folks like Hannah Wallace and all she does (including running the Sunnyside Shower Program), Vincent Dawans and his litter pick-up, coordinating with the Business Associations, and all the work he and others do to keep our neighborhood clean and safe. That’s what I love most about Sunnyside—people show up, caring, and doing the work.

Nate: Where’s your go-to restaurant?

Ash: I dig the Gold Dust Meridian (3267 SE Hawthorne Blvd). It’s got chill vibes. I’m also a fan of Ardor Natural Wines (4243 SE Belmont St #400). I’m a wine club member there. Their new wine bar, Nil, is a nice addition to the neighborhood. 

Nate: As your time on the Board comes to an end, what do you hope continues in the organization and neighborhood that you’ve been such a big part of?

Ash: That the momentum of impactful work continues. I can totally see myself popping into a Thursday night meeting and being there to hang out and brainstorm ideas.

Nate: You are such a nerd.

Ash: I care about these people. While I might not be picking up trash around the neighborhood or volunteering for a shower shift, it’s still my community wherever I end up. 

Nate: What’s one thing you’d like to see improved in the Sunnyside neighborhood?

Ash:  I’m excited to see more people get involved in this organization. There’s a low barrier to getting involved and it provides such rich substance. We’re starting to see more people reaching out and popping into meetings just out of curiosity, and then they come to another meeting. Some of these people don’t even live in the neighborhood but they felt welcomed and say it’s a warm environment. Seeing stuff like that makes me excited that Sunnyside will continue to do capacity-building work, applying a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens. I hope that the work we’re doing—advocating for those in need and public safety—grows to become the leadership example for other neighborhoods and the City. This stuff doesn’t just happen—we all have to put in effort and show up for each other.

Sunnyside Neighborhood Community Cares (SNACC) Committee Updates

The SNACC committee began our February meeting picking up where the SNA Board meeting left off – with community agreements. We generated a list of community needs for increased engagement, as well as our own list of agreements to consider adopting in addition to the ones shared at the last meeting (which were adapted from Southeast Uplift). The notes from that activity are available in the SNACC February Update ( We then shared updates for the shower, outreach, and trash programs. In our March meeting we will continue conversations about budgeting, as we recently received generous donations that will allow us to be more responsive to the needs of the community that we serve. Our first priority is investigating a hot water heater for the shower that is within our budget. We will also look at the results of the community needs assessment to decide how to use funds after we have stocked the shower project with plenty of the high-demand supplies.

We encourage anyone who is interested in these efforts to attend our next SNACC meeting on Thursday, March 17th at 6:30 p.m. Meeting details will be posted on the SNA website Monday, March 14th.