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Sponsor a foster child in need by purchasing Christmas gifts listed on tree ornaments

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Andrea Kotkins and Melissa Scath, both with the Child Welfare division of the Department of Human Services, place ornaments on a giving tree at St. Helens Market Fresh. The giving tree lists children in foster care and their holiday wishlists. The tree will stay up through Dec. 11.

Columbia County residents can help brighten the holidays for children in foster care with help from a giving tree set up in the St. Helens Market Fresh store.

A Christmas tree set up Monday inside the grocery store is decorated only with paper ornaments that represent children in foster care available to sponsor for the holidays.

Each ornament provides a brief, but non-specific, description of a child and a handwritten list of items the child has asked for. A bright yellow paper ornament lists an 8-year-old girl asking for socks and underwear, a warm winter coat and a Barbie doll. Another ornament lists a 17-year-old looking for hygiene products, cosmetics and clothing.

Anyone interested in sponsoring that child for the holidays can take an ornament, purchase the items listed, and return the unwrapped items along with the ornament to the store or the Department of Human Services Office in St. Helens by Dec. 13.

"For children in foster care, the holidays can be tough, especially during Christmas," a news release from DHS states. "Sometimes a toy they really hope for, new clothing, or a gift card, can make the giving season a bit merrier for them."

Melissa Scath with the St. Helens DHS office says her office partnered with the SCOTTY Foundation to place a tree at the Gamepath arcade in St. Helens, but that tree didn't include children recently put in foster care, so her office added its own tree at Market Fresh.

DHS caseworkers talk to foster families of children in need, then generate sponsorship ornaments based on each child's needs.

Columbia County currently has 163 children in the foster care system, according to DHS records.

"The giving tree came about to help youth in foster care feel the magic of the holidays even though they are unable to be safely with their parents," Bruce Lofland, also of DHS, stated.

Most children in foster care end up being cared for by a guardian or family other than their own, due to "a history of abuse or neglect," according to DHS. Foster care arrangements are handled by the state.

The child welfare giving tree will remain up in the Market Fresh store at 1111 Columbia Blvd. in St. Helens until Dec. 11. Donations can also be dropped off directly to the DHS office in St. Helens at 500 N. Columbia River Highway, Suite 220.

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