Mother-daughter team, volunteers key to annual event that aids homeless families

{img:12749}Tim Collier has mothers on his mind right now — and he has three reasons.

The first is the 21st Annual Annie Ross Plant Sale, taking place the day before Mother’s Day in Milwaukie. The second is the Mother’s Day donation campaign set up by Northwest Housing Alternatives, and the third is a volunteer mother-daughter team making a huge difference in helping out with the plant sale.

Collier is the resource development director for Northwest Housing Alternatives, the organization that operates the Annie Ross House, so that explains his mind-set in May.

Annual sale tied to holiday

The annual plant sale is something of a Milwaukie institution. Volunteers set up a colorful display of hanging baskets, annuals, trees, perennials and more. Proceeds from the sale go to the Annie Ross House, an emergency shelter that provides services to families to help them overcome homelessness.

The Annie Ross House, across the street from Milwaukie High School, is the only emergency family shelter in Clackamas County. It has a main shelter that houses five families, with six transitional units nearby.

For those who can’t come to the plant sale, the Mother’s Day donation campaign is an option. Visit to find out how to make a one-time or sustaining gift.

The idea to tie the campaign to Mother’s Day came about since single moms with children make up 75 percent of the households helped by NWHA, Collier said.

Mother-daughter advocates

As for the volunteer mother-daughter team of Joy and Maddie Moxness, Collier said their efforts not only contribute to the success of the plant sale, but also benefit the whole organization in many ways.

For the last couple of years, Joy Moxness and her daughter, Maddie, 16, a junior at Lakeridge High School, have worked in the garden behind the Annie Ross House at least once or twice a month, nurturing the donated plants earmarked for the plant sale.

“They are out there weeding and watering to make sure the plants are as good as they can possibly be. And because they are here, the staff is freed up to write more grants,” Collier said.

“Maddie and Joy committed to this, and they add to the exposure of our organization. They advocate for us so that our volunteer pool is growing. The more volunteers we have, the more folks who are invested, then we can serve more people,” he said.

“We have 10 families here, and when they see people coming here to work, donating their time and talents, a moment happens when they see people coming out to help them succeed. They know the community is with them, and that generates positive energy,” Collier said.

National Charity League

Joy and Maddie Moxness came to the Annie Ross House through a mother-daughter program they belong to called the National Charity League. They are members of the Lake Oswego chapter.

The NCL is a national organization serving mothers and their daughters in grades seven through 12, through philanthropy and leadership training.

Part of the mission of the NCL is “to focus on giving back to the community doing community service,” Maddie Moxness said.

She first came to the Annie Ross House with a friend, and when she saw the families there and realized how the plant sale benefited them, she wanted to return.

“I enjoy gardening. It's fun and rewarding,” she said.

The organization has a program called Share Your Passion, with the idea that “when you love to do something, do it and share it with others,” Joy Moxness said.

Each chapter of the NCL “takes on about 10 to 15 charities, and the members commit to those charities only. That way we can really make an impact,” she said, noting that there are plenty of other mother-daughter teams doing volunteer work all over the metro area.

The organization shows the value of volunteering, Collier said. "The NCL focuses on giving back generation to generation. It is a great partner for us.”

Parting with the plants

“I treasure this time with my daughter, and I just love it that we can come here as a mother and daughter and give back to the community,” Joy Moxness said.

“It is a special thing and it strengthens our relationship. We work together a lot,” Maddie Moxness said.

And how do they feel about selling all those plants they have nurtured throughout the year?

“When you've put all this effort into those little plants, you have a personal interest in them,” Joy Moxness said. “One or two plants may not seem like much, but when you sell them, the money goes back into the community.”

Maddie Moxness said it is exciting to see people enjoy buying plants that she and her mother have worked on.

Once, the pair took a sad-looking curry plant and babied it all year to get it ready for the plant sale.

“It didn’t sell, and I couldn’t bear to let it go, so now we have it in our garden,” Maddie Moxness said.

“Now it's huge and smells so good. It's a fun little plant,” her mom added.

Volunteers at heart of NWA

Collier welcomes volunteers who are willing to spend time working for the organization — even a few hours can have an impact, he said.

He emphasized that the NWA program depends on community support.

“We can provide the right service at the right time. We can help the single mom fleeing domestic violence and get her into a shelter, and then into permanent housing. We are the only shelter in Clackamas County that can take in kids so they don’t have to go through the trauma of homelessness,” Collier said.

“We have the infrastructure and can grow the program to meet the need, and when the need starts to diminish, we can scale it back. We are very flexible, and it works,” he said, noting that as of 2011, 92 percent of the families that graduated from the shelter are stable and healthy a year after leaving.

“This shows that the program works. We can create long-term change. Poverty and homelessness are complex problems. This program shows that the investments people make get used effectively,” Collier said.

Fast Facts

What: 21st Annual Annie Ross Plant Sale

When: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11

Where: McLoughlin Boulevard and Southeast Harrison Street, at the Milwaukie Farmers Market site in downtown Milwaukie

More: A large variety of perennials, annuals and hanging baskets will be available. The plant sale helps the Annie Ross House and Northwest Housing Alternatives raise money and awareness for the shelter and programs.

Info: For more information about Northwest Housing Alternatives, call Tim Collier, resource development director, at 503-654-1007, ext. 113.

Send cash donations to: The Annie Ross House, 2316 S.E. Willard St., Milwaukie, OR 97222-7740.

Donations to the Mother’s Day fund may be made online at

For more information about the National Charity League and to find a local chapter, visit

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