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'Tis the season and the reason for kids to give in East Multnomah County

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: BARLOW YEARBOOK STAFF - Stuffed animals rain down on the Barlow High gym floor during its annual toy toss. Dressed in black and white, 20 middle school singers stand in three rows at the front of the gritty community room of the Portland homeless camp.

The Corbett Middle School Choir breaks into a rollicking rendition of Jingle Bells and, after a little urging, a few of the Dignity Village residents join in.

This concert is just one of many efforts by East Multnomah County school children to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

And in doing so the students are learning a bit more about their community that can’t be taught in a classroom.

“I thought they were great” Sonja, a Dignity Village resident said after the concert. “They brought tears to my eyes.”

Despite the chilly mid-November wind, choir members had a good time too.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - The Corbett Middle School Choir, under the direction of Linda Fast, gives it their all at a holdiay concert at the Dignity Village homeless camp in Portland. “I thought it was really fun to get to meet these people’” said sixth-grader Jesa VanHorn. “I hope we can come back here.”

The concert was the brainchild of eighth-grader Kaya Gross, who did most of the organizing.

“I wanted to bring people to somewhere they have not been before,” Kaya said. “To a place that may push some out of our comfort zones, to see another side of things.”

Local students are heading up food drives, gathering supplies for the homeless and picking out toys for children who might not have anything under the tree.

“Kids love to help other kids,” said Kristen Wageman, program and development director at the nonprofit SnowCap, which will receive the largess from several schools.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Residents of Dignity Village and a few parents listen to the Corbett Middle School choir perform holiday songs. The efforts can be especially meaningful because many of the students come from families who are struggling financially.

“Instilling that idea of sharing is so important,” Wageman said.

That is a theme touched on by the adults helping students with their projects.

“When I’m in the classrooms, we focus on the joy of giving this time of the year,” said Nelia Collins, counselor at East Orient and Powell Valley elementary schools. “We talk about how you don’t have to have a lot to give, we ask ‘What can you do to give to others.’ They (they students) have some great ideas about giving.”

The giving can also hit pretty close to home for some. The fifth-grade leadership class at East Orient Elementary School uses some of the money it raises throughout the year to shop for and assemble three Thanksgiving food baskets for families in their school.

At Pleasant Valley Elementary School, where half the students get free or reduced price lunches, the students are running a food drive that will wrap up Friday, Dec. 4. The school will have a holiday breakfast on Saturday, Dec. 5 and give collected food to Centennial High School for the district’s Food for Families program.

Business students at the high school created Food for Families, an old school bus converted into a food pantry which parks at different spots in the district to give hungry people a place to “shop” for food. Centennial High students had several food raisers to fill the bus with extra supplies so local families would not go hungry during the holidays. A talent show also raised $2,000 for Food For Families.

“They can buy more food with the cash we raise than if we just give food,” said Courtney Perry, senior class representative to the student body government. “Donating to people who are less fortunate than us sends a powerful message to send to students that giving in general is important, but giving to their direct community can make an impact that they can see first-hand.”

Leadership students at Walt Morey Middle School were anxious to do a community service project directed at helping the homeless. Teacher Barbara Lim encouraged them to research the community’s needs.

The students decided to make comfort kits for the Portland Rescue Mission to be distributed to people living outdoors. The Walt Morey students started a drive at school with a goal of gathering 2,000 items and ended up with 3,419, including bottled water, socks, toiletries and snacks. They packed the items in food storage bags and delivered them to the mission.

“A lot of the students in our school don’t have a lot, so we were overwhelmed by the result,” Lim said.

Deep Creek-Damascus K-8 School organized both a food drive and giving tree.

“Last year we gathered over 2,500 cans and boxes of food,” said Rose Joncus, the school’s leadership teacher. All the food goes to the Boring and Clackamas fire districts. Deep Creek students sorted the food, checked expiration dates, and packed the boxes with a balanced variety of food.

For the giving tree, students will bring unwrapped toys to school through Dec. 11.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Leadership students at Sam Barlow High School show off some of the food they collected to help SnowCap feed hungry families. At Sam Barlow High, students organized two holiday programs. Students held an assembly, and at the end tossed hundreds of stuffed animals onto the gym floor to contribute to a local toy drive.

Leadership students also organized a school-wide drive before Thanksgiving for SnowCap’s food pantry. Student body president Reevkah Christiansen said leadership students came up with a Dr. Seuss theme and plastered the halls with Seuss-inspired posters, “1 can, 2 can, who can, you can!”

OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Sam Barlow High School student body president Reevkah Christiansen poses by one of the many food drive posters that were all over the walls at the high school. Organizers pitted first-period classes against each other; the classes which brought the most food got prizes.

“All the kids here like to give back to the community,” Christiansen said. “Everyone deserves to have food. Most of us here at Barlow are all privileged. We want to give back to people who are not as privileged. And we know this food will stay in Gresham, in our community.”


Local Weather





Humidity: 70%

Wind: 14 mph

  • 30 Nov 2015

    Clouds Early/Clearing Late 40°F 37°F

  • 1 Dec 2015

    PM Showers/Wind 43°F 40°F