In an abandoned department store nestled in downtown Portland, about 20 freshmen from Lake Oswego helped donate toys that will soon be under the Christmas trees of 5,000 children.
Since 2015, the Lake Oswego chapter of the National League of Young Men has provided opportunities for male high schoolers to learn about leadership and philanthropy. The league intends to provide a program for mothers and their sons to develop young men into community leaders.
In 2021, the branch completed community service work ranging from making care packages for the homeless to volunteering at the Oregon Humane Society. On Saturday, Dec. 11, the league met in the Lloyd Center in Portland to complete one of these latest charitable efforts.
At the Lloyd Center, the group met in a former Marshalls and sorted thousands of toys, games and clothing. The gifts will later be donated by the Salvation Army to about 2,000 families in the Portland metro area, said Jan Pempton, captain of Christmas coordination for the Salvation Army. She said the toys and clothes were donated by different companies and organizations in the Portland area.
"When we have groups (like the league) come out and help, it's great. It's also great when they're nice, respectful young people," said Pempton.
Among a sea of red sacks overfilled with toys, Lake Oswego High School freshman Blake Mehrabi clutched a board game in one hand and a bag in the other.
Beside the community aspect, Mehrabi said he enjoys how the league allows him opportunities to give back to his community.
"My favorite part about the league is definitely the volunteer work; it's fun and you also get to do something good." Mehrabi said, "I'm able to afford the things that I like to have, and these kids can't. So, it's nice to be able to help them out."
Irene Olivieri-Harris, a mother who was the lead organizer for this event, said she loved seeing the boys have a good time while also being part of something impactful.
"Just knowing that on Christmas day, kids are going to be opening the presents, and knowing that somebody cared for them, I think it's great for (the group) to see that this type of stuff doesn't just happen — you have to be a community and try to make these things happen together," Olivieri-Harris said.
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