PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For more than 4 years, Ragan VanSise has run her Ragan’s Boutique in Portland’s Hollywood District. But you can guess how the last 2 years have gone.

“I’m still here barely hanging on by my fingernails,” she said.

Her favorite part of the job is the hunt.

“I’m really good at finding things that other stores don’t have,” she told KOIN 6 News. But since the pandemic began, she said things have been very slow. She also said the deterioration of the surrounding neighborhood, especially trash, has not helped.

Near her store, there is graffiti. At her store, people — “rebels,” she called them — etched her windows.

“It’s irritating,” VanSise said.

Graffiti is very visible in Portland’s Hollywood District, March 2022 (KOIN)

To make her business neighborhood more inviting, VanSise recently joined the business arm of a non-profit called Adopt One Block.

In the middle of the pandemic, during Portland’s darkest hours, Adopt One Block emerged giving homeowners a way to reclaim and improve their neighborhood. Thousands joined the Adopt One Block program — and have cleaned up 6800 square blocks of the city.

The non-profit is taking its next step to help businesses help themselves through the Adopt One Block Business effort, aimed at empowering business owners to take care of their store fronts.

“They’ve given me garbage bags, a picker,” VanSise said. She added they also gave her a graffiti removal kit and paint to cover up what was necessary.

Ragan VanSise stands outside her store, Ragan’s Boutique, in Portland’s Hollywood District with her supplies from Adopt One Block, March 2022 (KOIN)

Frank Moscow, a self-described “retired high tech guy,” founded Adopt One Block.

“Underlying our solution is a lot of technology under the hood that makes scaling to many thousands or tens of thousands of volunteers possible,” Moscow told KOIN 6 News. “Our biggest challenge is to get the word out.”

Both Adopt One Block and Adopt One Block Business are free, supported by donations and grants. Over the past 18 months, about 5700 people have signed up.

“I love this city and I think that it’s really sad what’s happening,” VanSise said. “I want to help and be a part of the cleanup and changing what is happening to the city.”