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Community rallies back-to-school giveaway

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jacob Ulrich waits to collect school supplies during CPAH's annual backpack giveaway.After picking out a brand-new Hello Kitty backpack, Justice Montell is all set for the new school year.

“It was a hard choice because I loved all of them,” said Justice, who will be a fifth-grader at Charles F. Tigard Elementary School this year.

On Tuesday, she lined up in the community room of the Greenburg Oaks apartment complex in Tigard, owned by Community Partners for Affordable Housing. Volunteers handed out backpacks, binders, notebooks, pencils and more.

CPAH, a nonprofit community development corporation, organizes the annual giveaway to support low-income families who live in the organization’s housing properties across Tigard, Tualatin, Beaverton and Southwest Portland.

Around 175 students ranging from kindergartners to high school seniors were signed up to choose backpacks and school supplies during two events in Tigard and Beaverton this week.

“I like that they have a choice in picking out their supplies,” said Lisa Lesko, resident services manager. “It gets them excited to start school, and that stays with them on the first day and beyond.”

With all her school supplies chosen, Justice walked outside to the apartment complex play structure to meet with friends and neighbors, including Cassie Ortiz. Cassie and Justice both live at Greenburg Oaks.

“I got a backpack that has Snoopy on it,” said Cassie, who is going into fourth grade at Charles F. Tigard.

Backpacks and school supplies are available for students thanks to donations from local businesses, churches and individuals, as well as the city of Tigard.

“The event is honestly so great,” said Jessica Ortiz, Cassie’s older sister. “It takes stress off a lot of the parents.”

Ortiz, who will be a senior at Tigard High School, brought her two younger sisters to the event while her parents were at work. Her family has been attending CPAH’s events for six years now.

“Back-to-school is a huge expense and it comes by so fast,” said Doshaa White, a Greenburg Oaks resident who brought her two kids to the event.

As a single mom, she’s grateful for any assistance she can get to help her kids get ready for the school year.

“Kids get so excited to come out and do this each year,” said White.

For White, living in Greenburg Oaks has been the first time an apartment complex has felt like a community.

“My son was really, really shy,” said White. “To have other kids in the complex he could spend time with helped him out a lot.”

“Everyone here gets along so well,” added Ortiz.

CPAH aims to provide safe and affordable housing for families who make 60 percent or less of the Portland metropolitan area median income. They offer skill-building programming for children and teens throughout the summer and school year.

During the summer youth program, kids made crafts, played sports, attended nutrition classes, and took field trips. For some of them, a trip to the beach was their first time seeing the ocean.

“It gives them a lot of opportunities to have experiences they wouldn’t otherwise have access to,” said Lesko.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Gabbi Hernandez, with her daughter Riley and son Miguel, gather free school supplies at CPAH's annual giveaway.