Photo contest benefits East County nonprofits SnowCap and My Father's House at a time of great need

COURTESY PHOTO: CLACKAMAS COUNTY BANK  - And the winner was... Clackamas County Bank. Their photo raised $3,496 of the $12,571 total collected by the Bess Christmas Picture Pageant Ever benefiting SnowCap Community Charities and My Fathers House.

A radically reworked holiday fundraiser for My Father's House and SnowCap Community Charities, caught the fancy of donors and doubled the amount of money usually raised in pre-pandemic days.

"I'm just floored at how well this did," said Cathe Wiese, executive director of My Father's House.

Countering a year of mostly depressing news, the two nonprofits will split $12,571 raised by the "The Bess Christmas Picture Pageant Ever," organized by the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce and the brainchild of Bess Wills, co-owner and general manager of Gresham Ford.

The campaign kicked off with a charming video featuring Wills, who has a history of being a strong supporter of East Multnomah County nonprofits.

"She's very creative and fun. She takes having fun while doing good very seriously," said Kirsten Wageman, executive director of SnowCap.

The Picture Pageant fundraiser had businesses enter holiday photos and folks voted for the best picture ever.

Local firms paid $25 to enter a photo in the contest. People paid $1 per vote to select the best holiday picture. The winner received $500 in gift cards to shop locally.

That winner was Clackamas County Bank, which grabbed 3,496 votes, raising that many dollars for the two nonprofit organizations. The bank had set a goal of $500, but raised nearly seven times that amount for local families in need.

Second place went to Weston Kia Buick GMC, which earned $2,803 in votes, almost triple their goal of $1,000.

"It really shocked us," Wageman said of the holiday generosity.

"It is so good to know people really care. And, they were a little competitive," she said.

Normally, members of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce have a festive lunch with a competition for who can create the most stunning table centerpiece. Last year, participants raised $7,400 for My Father's House and SnowCap during the annual holiday event. But this year, that plan had to be scrapped because of COVD-19 restrictions on gatherings.

Thus the Picture Pageant was born.

Wiese said the photo contest was "really fun, you could go back and look at the photos" and said the group is considering looking at repeating it.

Wiese will put My Father's House share of funds toward paying utility bills for the 40 families living in the shelter.

She admits paying the heat bill isn't very exciting, "but these are things that keep people warm and safe. $6,000 is huge for our utility bills," she said.

Meeting the higher demand for help during the pandemic-induced economic slump, SnowCap plans to continue allowing people to come for food twice a month instead of the usual once.

"The need is greater," said Wageman, "the need is a little bit deeper. People who were barely hanging on are having a much harder time."


Meet the nonprofits

My Father's House is a non-government funded shelter for unhoused families in Gresham. The residents of My Father's House attend educational classes, seek jobs and meet with a case manager to set realistic goals for themselves. The 40 residents also are required to save money towards future housing.

SnowCap Community Charities is a nonprofit organization that provides food, clothing, advocacy and other services to struggling people in East Multnomah County. It is the largest provider of food assistance in Oregon, helping nearly 10,000 people in need each month. Since 1967, SnowCap has helped children, the elderly, disabled and other folks who struggle to make ends meet. 

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