Annabel Robertson is a face of giving, a face of gratitude, and a believer in community. Vero Beach is “definitely home,” she said. Robertson moved to Vero Beach in 1994 after her graduation from law school.
Robertson is the Executive Director of United Against Poverty of Indian River County (UP-IRC), and has been with the organization since 2012. She is walking, living, breathing proof that when someone sets their mind to something, no matter how small or large their mission, with determination and help from the community, anything can be done.
A lawyer by license and trade, Annabel pushed her legal career aside eight years ago when she was given the opportunity to become a full-fledged part of United Against Poverty. She is the one behind development and implementation of UP’s STEP (Success Training for Employment Program), and is also responsible in part for the planning, fundraising, and oversight of construction for United Against Poverty’s new location, which will open on Jan. 25.
“It is a 46,000 square foot center that will support those in need in our community with food assistance, education, job training and crisis care including a medical clinic,” Robertson said. “Being part of this project has been transformational.”
Robertson is proud of her successes, is well-known in her community, and can humbly admit she feels a little “cool” these days. However, she hasn’t always embraced her coolness.
“I was a very insecure child,” Annabel admitted. “I was an immigrant, and I had a learning disability so I always felt like I was on the outside. This feeling has informed much of my life, and I have done a lot of work with therapists and others to overcome those feelings. I always wanted to fit in, but felt like I didn’t.” Robertson immigrated to Miami with her family from England in 1975.
After Robertson moved to Vero Beach and had children of her own, she became more confident and secure.
“Being able to create roots and make connections in the community have been critical in getting to a place in which I am comfortable with myself,” Robertson said. “Now I think I’m pretty cool.”
Robertson finds a great part of her strength and wisdom comes from her mother.
“Sandra Robertson is the strongest person I know,” Annabel began describing her mom. “She is my north star. Her influence has molded almost every aspect of my life. She is persistent, loyal, dedicated, artistic, detail-oriented, grounded, selfless, and loving – a true matriarche. I have had the honor of coming to know that she has had hardships and blessings in her life that have shaped her and how she has lived her life.”
Annabel humbly admitted that her mother’s experience and strength has an affect on how she, herself, makes decisions. Annabel’s parents moved to Vero Beach in 2000, and her mother is active with the Antique Club and Quilter’s Group at First Presbyterian Church, and is also an active volunteer at United Against Poverty.
“She has always been in my corner,” Annabel continued. “Not without counsel, she has shown me what unconditional love looks like.”
Aside from the strength and support gained from her mother, Annabel is also supported by her husband, Aric Attas, and her daughters, Sophie North and Olivia North, as well as her sons from her husband’s previous marriage, Meire Attas and Aaron Attas. Not surprisingly, her husband and their children are involved with organizations and causes. Aric is a photographer, artist, educator, and partner in Healing Arts, an organization that brings art and music to cancer patients going through chemotherapy. Sophie is a Community Development Officer with the American Cancer Society in Vero Beach, and Olivia is a Moral Captain with the Florida State University Dance Marathon. Meire is a Site Director for Girls & Boys Club of Fort Myers while he attends Florida Gulf Coast University. Finally, Aaron attends Indian River State College and works at the Vero Beach Country Club.
When Annabel isn’t dedicating her time and energy to United Against Poverty, she spends time with her husband and their dog, Mac, as well as her kids and mother. She does meetups with her girlfriends each Saturday morning, and another meetup once a month. And like most people, she enjoys staying physically and mentally active.
“I love yoga,” Robertson said. “I practice four evenings a week at Level Yoga on Royal Palm Pointe.” She also enjoys silversmithing and gardening, and recently started a container garden.
Being an intricate part of the community in Vero Beach has always inspired Robertson to appreciate the things and people in her life, and the area she lives in, including respect for it’s past.
“Vero Beach was founded by people who moved from other places to make a new home,” Robertson said. “Recognizing that there were native people who inhabited this community, Americans first came here en-masses in the early 1900s. For 100 years, our community has welcomed people from other places and made them feel at home. This is part of the DNA of Vero Beach and I believe one of the things that makes it truly special.”
As the original creator of UP’s STEP program, Robertson recently was privileged to listen in on their current STEP class provide their Vision Presentations – a presentation that is part of the curriculum with STEP.
“I was brought to tears when one of the participants said that before she joined the STEP program, she considered ‘not living anymore,’ and now she has a plan and motivation for a bright future,” Robertson said. “That is powerful. To know that we are helping people change their lives every day is the greatest gift I receive from this work. It’s more than work – it’s a calling.”