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Small company gives big

ACS Testing turns its business into KidFest every Christmas
by: Alana Kansaku-Sarmiento Bob Brown, president of ACS Testing in Tigard, will donate about $4,000 worth of toys and games to children at a 
special event called KidFest on Friday.

TIGARD - For most of the year, the employees at ACS Testing on Southwest Tech Center Drive spend their days testing asphalt and concrete for construction firms, but once a year the company becomes a bonafide toy store, making sure that local children don't go without this holiday season.

On Friday, the company's three-dozen employees handed out about $4,000 worth of toys, games and other items to 12 families from across the city.

'This is my favorite time of year,' said Sue Adams, senior estimator at ACS. 'It's one of the favorite things that I do here. I love doing this.'

Known as KidFest, the families will receive dinner, a bag of toys, games and other items, as well as a turkey, a bicycle and $100.

It's what Bob Brown, ACS president calls 'my way of giving back.'

'We aren't giving $100,000 like some companies do, but the little bit that we do goes deep,' Brown said. 'Times are tough for a lot of folks out there.'

Brown knows a thing or two about tough times.

The now-successful businessman spent much of his childhood homeless, starting when he was 9 years old. He spent many nights sleeping under bridges and eating out of garbage cans, he said.

'I remember in winter time being on my own and I would go by a house and see a light on, and think about the glow of that light, and think that there was a lot of love in there.'

Today, Brown remembers vividly the people who influenced him, and wants to give back.

'I remember there was a bus driver who invited me over to watch 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' when I was little. His wife made me chocolate chip cookies and we watched this movie and I never forgot that,' he said. 'If I can give a kid a memory that he can have, that would be a great thing.'

Walking through the ACS building a few days before the event, it's clear how seriously the employees take KidFest.

A large pile of toys and games sit waiting for Friday's event. More games are packed in the trunk of Adams' car.

Signed cards and letters from thankful children are framed on the walls.

Many of the stuffed animals, dolls and robots were donated from the company's employees, clients and the Tigard Police Department.

KidFest began in 2005, when Brown and ACS teamed up with the Tigard Police Department to deliver bicycles to children.

Today, school resource officers at each of the schools pick students who demonstrate 'good citizenship,' Adams said. Those students and their families will be recognized at the event on Friday.

'Giving out the bikes doesn't have the impact that this does now,' Adams said. 'This is a totally different approach. The kids are reached, but now it reaches into the family and into the siblings.

'It goes beyond the kid getting something,' Adams said. 'It's not about getting something, it's about children rising above their circumstances. They have gone above and beyond and they've made it work and are not letting anything get them down. Other kids will look up to them and hopefully learn from them.'

The event also helps to teach kids a valuable lesson, Brown said.

'When I was on the streets, I would see a cop and I would always be running away from them and afraid of them. I wanted to try and let children know that police aren't your enemy. We wanted to build relationships between the community and the police officers.'

ACS is accepting donations of gifts or cash to help pay for some of the more expensive items.

'We'd love for people to get involved. If people want to help serve food or give out gifts or just want to be a part of it, that's great,' Brown said.

'The thing I like about it is that it's not just kids whisking by and grabbing a toy and saying 'see ya later.' We get to interact with them, and they get to interact with us. They can see that people do care. They sit down and talk and have dinner,' he said.