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Sellwood Middle School parade raises funds and celebrates the business community

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - For the first time, the Sellwood Middle School Appreciation Parade also marches through the streets of Westmoreland.The Sellwood Middle School (SMS) Appreciation Parade in May has become a happy sign that the school year is about to conclude for its students.

But this year, months in advance, while SMS Board Co-Vice President Dawn Johnston coordinated the parade, she said that business owner Maria Raleigh. owner of “Collage” in Sellwood, had set about turning it into a fundraiser.

Raleigh, a Woodstock resident who recently moved her store to S.E. 13th Avenue, said that even though her kids attend Winterhaven School in Brooklyn, she decided to pitch in.

“I coordinated a fundraiser to coincide with the parade,” Raleigh told THE BEE. “Last year, we had just three businesses involved. So, I put together the letter promoting a business-based donation campaign to support the Sellwood Middle School Foundation.”

She and the school presented the idea to the Sellwood Westmoreland Business Alliance business association. “The response we received was phenomenal.”

Meanwhile, Johnston, organizing the parade this year for the first time, said she learned how involved this kind of public event can be. “You’d think marching through the neighborhood would be no big deal. But, it requires that we coordinate with the Portland Police Bureau to provide our escort, and with TriMet for the affected bus routes.”

By the time the parade stepped off on the morning of May 21, with the school’s award-winning marching band leading the way, 57 businesses, of all types, had joined the fundraising effort.

“Our support ranged from dental offices to restaurants,” Raleigh said. “Some donated a percentage of sales; others gave money. We thank them all, because the funds support the music and art program, and electives.”

Students held placards, each inscribed with a sponsor’s name, as they traveled north on S.E. 15th Avenue, east on Bybee Boulevard, looping through part of Westmoreland, before zig-zagging through part of Sellwood, and back to the school.

“This event is evolving,” Johnston said. “Next year, we hope to get approvals to march along all of S.E. 13th Avenue, and cover a little more of Milwaukie Avenue. We’d like to involve as much of the community as possible, as we publically say ‘thank you’ – and show off our great music program.”

The goal was to raise $5,000, Raleigh told THE BEE after the event. She added, “I think we’ll be very close to that.”