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New Action Center director is a HOMETOWN GIRL

Annalisa Peterson comes to the Sandy Community Action Center with a heart for service


by: POST PHOTO: JIM HART - Rearranging clothing by size and style inside the Sandy Community Action Centers thrift store is its executive director, Annalisa Peterson. The facility recently was stripped, cleaned, repainted and equipped with new shelves and clothing racks.While growing up in Sandy and attending all the schools in her hometown, Annalisa Peterson didn’t have a good idea of her career path.

There was no way for her to guess that in a few years she would return to Sandy and lead a community service organization.

After leaving Sandy High School, she attended Lewis and Clark College, majoring in biology.

The most important lesson she learned there, she said, was critical thinking: linking symptom with cause and projecting a solution.

Leaving her parents Claudia and Erik behind in Sandy, Peterson studied and worked for a year in Indonesia on a Fulbright Scholarship. Peterson then returned to Sandy and noticed an opportunity at the Sandy Community Action Center (SCAC).

“When I looked at the (executive director’s) job description,” she said, “I thought these are all the things I would like to be doing, using skills I would like to exercise — serving people who are underserved.”

SCAC is the area’s official food-bank outlet designated by the Oregon Food Bank. It also has a thrift shop connected to the nonprofit organization.

Recently, the facility was completely remodeled inside through a Ford Family Foundation grant and the services of local volunteers.

Peterson has been interested in community service, including while she was attending Sandy High School as well as in Indonesia and again when she returned to her former hometown.

Assisting SCAC clients each day is at the top of Peterson’s priority list in the job she has had for a couple of months. In fact, the opportunity to assist people in need is what brings her back to her post each day.

“There’s always at least one solid interaction I have with a client (each day), where I feel like I have genuinely helped them and eased their situation,” she said. “That’s when I feel the gratitude for the service we provide.”

Peterson admits there’s a lot of administrative work behind the scene, but she also has client interaction.

On the administrative side, she looks forward to continuing, with direction from the board, to improve the structure of the nonprofit organization.

“It feels good,” she said, “to help this place, that is serving so many people, get running more efficiently.”

To get the ball rolling in her new job, Peterson has been visiting other similar nonprofits and taking advice from experienced executive directors.

Outside of her job, Peterson is an outdoors person who enjoys bike riding, hiking, camping and snowboarding.

Her reading interests include a variety of novels as well as science nonfiction. Her leisure time also includes sewing and ceramics.

Looking ahead to the next few years for SCAC, Peterson sees more community outreach to what she calls “pockets of the community that have yet to be reached by the center.”

She also believes there are organizations and people in the community who are not yet involved with SCAC, but might want to become involved.

She also wants to make the food bank and thrift shop a welcoming place, where people come to shop or volunteer or receive food baskets.

“I enjoy meeting new people,” she said. “So, if anyone wants to come in and have a conversation, I hope they feel welcome.”

For more information, call the center at 503-668-4746.