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The Villebois resident participates in the Porch Project and is heartened by the community's response.

COURTESY PHOTO: VANESSA ZINKE - The family of Dave and Maegan Brooks poses for a photo through porch project conducted by Villebois resident Vanessa Zinke.

Vanessa Zinke would feel content living on an expansive property with grass fields as her only neighbor.

Yet, while restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have left many in the Wilsonville community and beyond relatively isolated, the self-described introvert has met over 100 new neighbors in the Villebois community recently through the art of photography.

"I've learned so many faces and names. I would see these people at the pool or school pickup, but now I feel like I have 100 new friends," Zinke said.

Zinke has started her own version of the Porch Project, a nationwide activity during the pandemic where photographers take pictures of people sitting or standing on their porches.

Zinke, who considers photography a hobby but hadn't taken many photos since she had children, drew inspiration from a friend in Virginia who was participating in the project. The Villebois resident thought it would be a great way to strengthen community bonds during this isolating time.

"I liked the idea that even though we've been instructed to stay home and stay in, I wanted to be able to bring people out," Zinke said.

She posts the photos on the Villebois community Facebook page and has been shocked by the positive response and the number of people who have requested photoshoots.

"I think when I extended the invitation I was expecting 15 to 20 families, and I would nail it out in a weekend and be done," she said. "I've been out three-and-a-half weeks every weekend to keep up with the demand."

Zinke added: "People comment that (they) love seeing these images. It's encouraging for them (and shows) we're in this together."

Zinke has taken many posed photos but also tries to capture some families acting naturally. Her favorites have been of elderly citizens and families with dogs.

"There's so much wisdom in their (the elderly) eyes and they seem really relaxed," she said.

Zinke does not accept money for her efforts, but encourages people to instead support Heart of the City, a local nonprofit organization that serves the underprivileged.

Though she's a bit burned out from the work, the project has brought Zinke closer to her neighbors and strengthened her sense of community.

"I have felt more connection to this neighborhood through this project than I ever anticipated," she said.


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