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by: ELLEN SPITALERI - Melissa Erlbaum, executive director of Clackamas Women's Services, thanks the group for the $3,150 check, presented by North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce CEO David Kelly.Santa handed out door prizes and business leaders came together to support each other at the North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce’s annual Christmas Giving Breakfast, hosted by Willamette View on Friday, Dec. 14.

But one person held the audience spellbound, as she recounted her story as a rape victim.

“Three years ago, I had no hope, as my abuser took what wasn’t his. But today I stand here a woman of hope,” Dixielynn Johnson said.

She has made the transition from victim to strong woman, she said, because the counselors and case workers at Clackamas Women’s Services “tenderly guided” her through her time of crisis. Now, Johnson is a graduate student at George Fox University, earning her degree in clinical and mental health counseling.

“I was encouraged, believed and supported as never before. Clackamas Women’s Services provides services, at no cost, to any woman who has experienced sexual violence; it is an agency of dedication,” Johnson said.

After she spoke, Andrew Nordby, the master of ceremonies for the event, presented a check for $3,150 to Melissa Erlbaum, the executive director of Clackamas Women’s Services. Sales of raffle tickets during the breakfast netted the organization $2,000 more.

Erlbaum thanked the organization, noting that there were too many supporters in the room to name. CWS provides so many services to women in the county, she noted, including an emergency shelter, a 24-hour crisis line and counseling and support groups.

“Because we work together with law enforcement agencies, first responders and county services, we can create hope; we can create change and change awareness,” she said. “Breaking the silence is what it is going to take to end domestic violence.”

To learn more about Clackamas Women’s Services, visit cwsor.org, or call 503-212-2897.

As part of the program, Brandon Paxton, the public information officer for Clackamas Fire District No. 1, told the audience that Operation Santa Claus is passing through local neighborhoods collecting food and unwrapped toys to give to needy families in the county.

This year’s figures are not in yet, but last year, he told the group, Operation Santa Claus provided 487 food boxes and made sure 1,109 children had “a proper Christmas.”

Volunteers are always needed this time of the year, he noted, to sort food and wrap toys and more. He encouraged people to visit clackamasfire.com for more information.

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