‘Cursed community organizer’ still helping Everett neighborhood

Pat Anderson-Sifuentez still sweats the small stuff.

Long after organizing the Everett Neighborhood Association and helping restore the F Street Recreation Center, she still patrols the streets for trash or the rare stray mattress left on the curb.

“I’m a cursed community organizer,” she said, laughing.

Anderson-Sifuentez is a long-time volunteer within Everett who also works as a community builder for the nonprofit NeighborWorks Lincoln.

This story is part of a series about the people and issues in Lincoln’s six most diverse and economically challenged neighborhoods. Graphic by Tyler Loebig.

She moved into Everett as a renter in 1978, when the Hastings native was earning her bachelor’s degree in social psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In 1994, she bought a house in the neighborhood, solidifying her place in a largely transient community.

“I’ve always liked the eclectic feel of Everett,” she said. “There is a lot of diversity in all ways.”

As a community builder and volunteer, Anderson-Sifuentez works to better the neighborhood by giving residents a chance to voice their opinions on pertinent issues.

“I love getting people involved to raise their voice and have a voice of power over where they live,” she said.

Anderson-Sifuentez takes her role as Everett’s keeper in stride. Over the course of the nearly 40 years she has lived in the community, she has undertaken countless projects, perhaps none more important than organizing the Everett Neighborhood Association in the 1980s.

While Anderson-Sifuentez worked as an intern for the City of Lincoln, one of her bosses dared her to organize Everett’s homeowners and renters into a central organization. She took the dare, and began working on organizing Everett’s renter-heavy community.

It was no small task, especially for a single mother still working and going to school.

“People who said they had no time had no sympathy for me,” she said. “It’s not about time, it’s about priorities.”

Taking on projects like this have become routine work for Anderson-Sifuentez. She led the charge on the F Street Recreation Center’s revitalization and worked in tandem with the Lincoln Police Department to help stop the flow of drugs and prostitution in the neighborhood

She worked together with other homeowners to patrol Park Middle School using only walkie-talkies when local gangs became more prevalent in the early 1990s.

“It was scary,” she said. “Gangbangers would come to the school to recruit.”

For most people, such work would easily cause burn out, said Wynn Hjermstad, urban development manager for the City of Lincoln. But not Anderson-Sifuentez.

“She’s tireless, she just never stops,” Hjermstad said. “She doesn’t stop. She doesn’t give up.”

Hjermstad, who has known Anderson-Sifuentez for 25 years, said never seen Anderson-Sifuentez stand down on the issues facing her community.

“She’s awesome,” Hjermstad said. “She’s the epitome of what neighborhood activists and doers can accomplish.”

While Anderson-Sifuentez is always up for whatever task comes her way, she acknowledges that her job isn’t an easy one.

“It has really been a challenge and continues to be a challenge,” she said.

Despite this, Anderson-Sifuentez doesn’t plan on leaving Everett anytime soon.

“I love being close to downtown,” she said. “I’ve always biked, so I love hopping on my bike and going to the Haymarket.”

Everett’s caretaker said the neighborhood has always teetered on the precipice of either sinking or thriving. Right now, things seem to be looking up.

“I feel pretty good,” she said. “I think right now we’re going to be OK.”

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