Volunteers plan to partner with DHS in the future

More than 300 volunteers representing eight churches and 12 businesses in East Multnomah County have poured tender loving care into the Gresham Child Welfare office.

After three months of planning, the volunteers collectively logged 4,000 hours between Feb. 16-18 by renovating and decorating the Department of Human Services lobby and 25 rooms, mainly visitation rooms for children.

The group also spread bark dust, pressure washed pavement and pruned bushes.

“It was definitely an extreme makeover project,” said Marc Estes, an organizer and executive pastor of City Bible Church.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Volunteers paint the interior of the Department of Human Services building on Friday, Feb. 15.

Among the volunteers was Lenny Langley, 60, of Troutdale. The First Baptist Church of Gresham member grew up in a foster home from age 8 to 21 and remembers all too well how scared he was while waiting for a foster placement.

He spent all of his foster care years with the same family — a wonderful religious family who deeply influenced his future.

“This weekend is a little piece of what I can give back to the program that helped me so much,” Langley said. “It’s amazing to see the transformation of these rooms. (The kids) are going to know somewhere out there someone loves them.”

The weekend work also was touching for Jason Patton, a volunteer with Clear Creek Community Church of Gresham.

Generations of Patton’s family have taken in foster children, with his aunt and uncle reaching 300 children.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Volunteer Dorcas Mason works on a piece of artwork that will utilize old records for a music-themed room at the remodeled DHS building in Gresham on Monday, Feb. 18. The remodel included paint, wall art, murals and new furniture.

Three years ago, Patton’s children were taken out of their mother’s custody in southern Oregon. It took six days before Patton could bring them home and gain full custody.

“I don’t mind that we’re going 1,000 miles an hour,” Patton said during the work weekend. “I like to see people smile.”

The visitation rooms have themes — The Portland Timbers, Winnie the Pooh, and a circus room — and include new furniture, toys and art.

“We wanted to create a very cool atmosphere for kids,” Estes said. “A happier environment. This is an opportunity for them to hope and believe — to know someone cares for them.”

While many hands made the beautification of DHS possible, the interior decorating was led by Estes’ wife, Susan, and Kelly Brandoll, a foster parent and liaison between the project and the DHS office.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Volunteer Ron Kampe paints walls at the Department of Human Services building on Friday, Feb. 15.

The project was paid for through a combination of $25,000 in cash donations from churches and businesses and $25,000 in donated resources.

Estes said the project was one of the beginning steps in developing a stronger partnership among faith-based communities, businesses and child welfare.

In the future, volunteers hope to help with cleaning toys, tutoring students and finding potential foster parents.

“There’s something unique going on in the Portland metro area,” Estes said. “There’s a huge collaborative effort among the government, businesses and the faith-based community. It is a new model and paradigm we should pay close attention to. None of these three sectors can tackle significant issues alone.”

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