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Front Step Project: Scott & Ann

Welcome to another #columbiaheights #frontstepproject brought to you by MarKei Photo & Video. I began this initiative to facilitate connecting the humans in my city, to celebrate our diversity, and share our challenges during this pandemic and beyond. If you’re enjoying this series, please share. To support my photography, like & follow MarKei (on FB, IG, Twitter, &/or YouTube). To be notified of new posts, subscribe at markeiphoto.com. We are still offering socially distant photography in MN, so feel free to reach out!


Say hello to Scott Skaja, Ann Skaja, and family.


Ann technically works part-time at Southern Anoka Community Assistance (SACA), coordinating volunteers and grocery deliveries for those who can’t come by to pick up their own. However, more recently, with the pandemic, SACA has been so busy that Ann has been working close to full-time hours. SACA is in need of volunteers and I will be writing a special article just on SACA in the future.


Scott is self-employed as a video editor and motion graphics artist. He has been doing this work for 35 years and has been self-employed for the last 15. Presently he has been working on a sports award show, one which has historically been held at an event center, but with COVID19, this event will be produced online. He proudly shares that his biggest career accomplishment is the Emmy he won for his editing on a children’s science educational program on PBS entitled “Dragon Fly TV”


For Scott, his work hasn’t changed a lot since he’s already been working from home. However, now both their daughters are studying from home, too. Ann worries for their daughters’ mental health. The girls are at an age where friends are the most important thing. Overall, though, the family says they’re doing okay enough during this time. Ann’s aunt passed away from COVID early on during the pandemic which was really tough for the family since they weren’t able to go pay their last respects. The Skajas acknowledge there’s things that are good and things that are bad that are coming from our present situation. On the brighter side, life for everyone has slowed down. They’re seeing a lot more families spending time with one another. There’s an increase in people going outside and exercising.

Speaking of exercise, Scott had gotten into a walking routine but quickly got bored of route. As someone who is motivated by making plans and making them fun, he made it a goal to walk down every street in Columbia Heights in the span of 1 month, walking 1 hour a day. He found there were a lot of unexpected surprises, like seeing first hand that the people of our town are proud of where they live and take care of their homes. Scott also got to meet a lot of people and chat, a benefit of a small town like ours. Another benefit, clearly, was that this walk got Scott out of the house every day for exercise. Outside of this walking project, he’s typically a biker. So once he completed his walking project, he decided to bike the outside 694/494 loop all in one day, which he completed on June 6th (100+ miles). Impressive, right? Well, before this ride, he did a ride across the US by himself. He would fly out somewhere for 8-12 days a year in the summer and bike a segment. It took him about 5 years to complete, starting in San Francisco and ending in Maine with his whole family there waiting for him. His journeys have reinstilled his faith in the goodness of humanity. His latest walking adventure also inspired him to file as a candidate for City Council! You can learn more about his candidacy here.


When reflecting on how the pandemic has impacted their family, they acknowledge that the protests and riots have impacted them more than the pandemic. Scott acknowledged several moments in the recent weeks of uncontrollable crying and grief. I reassured him that we’re in good company and that we’re all waking up.


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#FRONTSTEPPROJECT: If YOU want to be featured, message me! It is free for Columbia Heights residents. Donations to SACA Food Shelf & Thrift Store are encouraged. Special priority for residents who are members of a disenfranchised community, essential workers (particularly healthcare) or local businesses. Please share this opportunity with your neighbor who may not be on social media.

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¡Se habla español!

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