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Sweeping company spreads holiday cheer

Gresham firm benefits families at Lynch View
by: Rob Cullivan, Allie Mae Moist demonstrates how Crazy Man Blue, a Road Rage doll, operates.

Diona Wagoner and her daughter, Tracy Lawrence, take a break the night of Dec. 18 from organizing food, clothing and toy packages for needy families at Lynch View Elementary School, where Lawrence is an English language learner specialist.

As they try to talk seriously about their project, however, it's hard to suppress laughter as all present hear somebody going 'WeeeeEEEEE! WeeeeEEEEE!' in the adjacent room.

The source of distraction is a talking doll called Crazy Man Blue, one of two Road Rage Driver dolls currently on the market. Making the doll talk is Allie Mae Moist, 4-year-old daughter of Gloria Moist, secretary at Cantel Sweeping, a parking lot sweeping company in Gresham. Wagoner and her husband, Michael, own the company.

When Allie isn't busy revving up the bug-eyed doll, however, she's seriously helping the grown-ups organize Christmas packages. Allie and her adult friends are performing an important service, Lawrence notes, because Lynch View in the Centennial School District is home to a large number of low-income families.

Indeed, the upcoming two-week winter break can mean stress rather than relaxation for such families, she says. Because of its high poverty rate, Lynch View provides free breakfasts to all students, and a large number receive free or reduced-price lunches as well, she says.

'During the two weeks of break, a lot of our families have a hard time feeding their kids because they're used to them getting free breakfast at school,' she says.

The packages also contain such items as gloves and mittens, Lawrence says.

Janine Estell-Steppe, school counselor, says 46 school families received the packages, which also contained donations from Evangelical Baptist Church of Portland; some current and retired Lynch View staff members; various individuals and church groups; the Christmas for Kids Foundation, along with co-sponsors Fred Meyer, Columbia Sportswear, United Healthcare, ING Financial advisers, LLC., the Portland Trail Blazers and many other corporate donors; Human Solutions; and the Centennial High School junior class.

'The sponsors say that they find so much joy in giving to children and families during Christmas, that they consider it a blessing,' Estell-Steppe says.

And many families at Lynch View could use a blessing, she adds.

'Some of the families, maybe a parent lost a job or maybe they're a seasonal worker,' Estell-Steppe says. 'For some of them, maybe they wouldn't have enough to eat without this.'

Lawrence and her brother, Travis Wagoner, are both products of the Centennial schools and their parents are longtime supporters of the district. Travis says he's excited to be lending a hand.

'It's a good way to help families that aren't as fortunate as others and spread the Christmas spirit.

'It's just a nice outreach to the community,' Diona Wagoner adds. 'We've been really blessed, so we just share it with the community.'

'Besides,' she adds, as Allie revs up Crazy Man Blue again, 'it's fun! And teaches the kids that giving is more important than receiving.'