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Comfort and joy


Grace Chapel's Joy Drive collects, delivers coats and warm clothing to Wilsonville schoolchildren

Christmas carols filled the air as a dozen church employees and volunteers gathered outside Wilsonville’s Grace Chapel at 9600 SW Boeckman Road. They had made their list, checked it twice, and now they were loading up their minivans to make deliveries of seasonal necessities.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Jake Schwein leads a procession of church workers and volunteers. They are carrying gifts that were delivered to children in need in Wilsonville.Their planned route included the offices of several counselors in Wilsonville schools. The stops were part of the church’s annual Joy Drive — a seasonal event that benefits Wilsonville schoolchildren in need.

The Joy Drive started in 2005, according to Jake Schwein, a Grace Chapel pastor who focuses on both worship and justice.

“It all came out of the need for helping those that get forgotten at Christmas time in our public schools,” Schwein said.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Josh Weaver and Milo Curtis lead the way for Bernadette Tatlock and Mat VonEhrenkrook.Each year, Schwein and others at Grace Chapel receive information from the counselors at Wilsonville’s primary, middle and high schools. The counselors identify students that need assistance, using only a number or letter to describe a child’s needs in general terms. For example, Schwein might have been told that ‘Student 1 wears size 10-12 and needs a coat.’

“They know what the kids need,” Schwein said. “School counselors and administrators are really great about knowing kids’ needs, and we get to partner with them.”

All identifying information is kept confidential.

“We get those tags, and our church (members) then buy those items, whether it’s clothes, jackets, pants,” he said.

This year, 77 children in the community received gifts through the Joy Drive. Two tags were made for each child, listing the needed items. A total of 154 tags were displayed at the church.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Jake Schwein shows the jacket that filled one gift bag. A gift certificate to a shoe store was also tucked into the bag.“All but 17 tags went on the first Sunday,” Schwein said.

The unwrapped gifts were placed into festive gift bags, and church workers and volunteers met at the church Dec. 17 to load and deliver them to schools.

“We got a fabulous group of deliveries — 35,” Boones Ferry Primary School counselor Katie Flaker said. That number is about the same each year, she added.

“We probably serve about 10 percent of our population through the Joy Drive,” she said.

Counselors in the West Linn-Wilsonville school district work with various groups, including churches, to provide aid to families needing assistance. Flaker has worked with Grace Chapel for eight years, she said.

“I’m notorious for bringing out big lists,” she said. “If we have kids who need it, I’d rather put it out there. They are just an amazing group of people. Every year they respond with such enthusiasm. (Grace Chapel Missional Event Coordinator) Lauren Pickthorn said, ‘We just so appreciate your big list. Bring it on.’ They take it as a challenge of love. They say, ‘This is the community; let’s just wrap them in arms of love.’ ”

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Mat VonEhrenkrook and Stacy Carter load packages into a car for delivery to Wilsonville schools.Flaker said that the children who benefit from the Joy Drive come from a wide range of need.

“There’s definitely kiddos who we recognize are children of need, just visibly,” she said. “There are other kids that the family is doing every single thing they possibly can right now, but they just can’t afford to get them the new pair of shoes.”

Schwein said that the Joy Drive was a perfect example of the way churches and schools can work together to benefit children.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Mike Tatlock, lead pastor at Grace Chapel, loads packages into the back of his wife Bernadettes car.“The partnership happens best when we can see the things we agree on and come together,” he said. “We’ve been a resource for school counselors to call. We want to position ourselves in a place where we’re the first call.”

The message to the children was a simple one.

“They get to know that some people care about (them) in the community,” Schwein said. “It’s not just us. It’s a community thing.”

That message rang loud and clear at the schools. Though students’ parents know where the gifts come from, when children ask Flaker about it, she does not identify Grace Chapel by name.

“Usually my response is, ‘This gift is from people who love you. And isn’t it amazing? You don’t even know how many people love you in this community,’” she said. “I just keep

it that it’s a connection of

love, and you are so loved in Wilsonville.”

“We meet the need when it comes up,” Schwein said. “It’s truly a community effort. There’s a great thing that happens.”

“Every year, I just cannot encapsulate how grateful our school is,” Flaker said. “They are here to support kids and families.”by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - From left, Mike Tatlock, Jake Schwein and Lauren Pickthorn worked together on Grace Chapels Joy Drive to benefit Wilsonville schoolchildren.