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With Love and an open heart

Allie Roth creates a nonprofit to help foster families


by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Allie Roth's home has been a hub of collecting crucial items for foster children. Fortunately, the crowding has been eased by finding a warehouse in Tigard.For Allie Roth, the innovative program “With Love” started with the desire to make a difference in the life of one child.

Her name was Autumn, and she was a student in Roth’s class at a Beaverton elementary school. Autumn was a foster child, and Roth wanted to help her.

“This girl was in three foster homes in three months,” Roth said. “I tutored her every Wednesday after school, and I got an inside look at the foster care system. I saw this perpetual cycle she was in. I didn’t want to be one more person walking out of her life.”

Roth kept faith with little Autumn, but when she sought out resources for foster children in Oregon, she inevitably came away disappointed.

“I had the feeling we could do something to care for these most vulnerable kids in our own backyard,” Roth said. “But the reality was that we had to do this on our own. We thought, ‘People aren’t doing this. Why not us?’”

A year and a half ago, she founded With Love.

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Allie Roth of Lake Oswego originally wanted to help only one foster child. Now she is helping hundreds through her nonprofit With Love.

“We have 75 volunteers, and they know something is not right when kids are in such need,” Roth said. “I call it the social justice piece.”

The ground rules for With Love were set early. Although Roth and her volunteers are people of strong religious faith, With Love would be a non-denominational orgranization open to all foster families. Families would not be required to prove financial need. And donated items had to be in excellent shape, if not new.

“We met some families that had things like crusty jeans that had been in their attic for 15 years,” Roth said, “and they said, ‘We want to bless you with them.’”

Still, the disappointments were few, and Roth’s Lake Oswego home soon began to fill up with toys, clothing, bedding, bottles, cups and endless baby gear like strollers, swings, baby bathtubs, pack-and-plays and high chairs. The Roth home became the scene of seven sorting parties a month, and there were “ tubs and tubs” of laundry.

“It was like a three-ring circus,” Roth said.

At the urging of Roth’s husband Scott, the group sought out larger quarters. They settled on a warehouse in Tigard, which volunteers turned into a boutique. And they began the process of seeking nonprofit status — a key step that would allow them to seek cash donations and reach more families.

The experience was exasperating.

“The IRS took nine and a half months to get back with us,” Roth said. “We couldn’t ask for a dollar.”

But that’s all in the past, and things have been going extremely well for With Love. The organization helped more than 120 children in its first six months, and a lot of hearts were warmed along the way.

“We had one foster family show up that had 10 kids,” Roth said. “We never encountered people who were greedy. They were just grateful. Every story is heartwarming. We meet families who had never planned on having anyone walk this journey with them.”

That journey has been “a wild ride,” Roth said, but she and her volunteers have accomplished the three-pronged goal they established at the start: get great volunteers, get lots of stuff, and gain financing.

Roth plans to play an even bigger role in helping foster children in the future, when she and her husband are able to take in foster children of their own.

“We’ll have foster children some day,” said Roth. “But right now, we can still have an impact on the heroes who open up their homes and lives.”

Truth is, Roth is a hero, too, because she’s opened up her heart.

“Once you’ve met these kids, walking away isn’t an option,” Roth said. “They’re pretty spectacular.”

For more information about With Love, go to withloveoregon.com.

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