Rummage sale rallies community to support Winchester sons
The murder of Heidi Anne Winchester earlier this year sent a wave of grief and anguish throughout the Lake Oswego community.
The 50-year-old mother of two was killed, allegedly, by her husband Michael David Winchester in the couple's River Run home on Jan. 30.
According to the Lake Oswego Police Department, Winchester reportedly confessed to officers at the scene to killing his wife. He's currently lodged at the Clackamas County jail where he's being charged with murder.
It's not often that the county's major crimes unit is called to Lake Oswego, so the events of Jan. 30 and subsequent days brought an unfamiliar tone this small, suburban town.
Those who knew Heidi, whom many affectionately referred to as Annie, say she was a source of positivity and joy, so it's understandable that many of her friends and acquaintances within the community were left in a state of shock and confusion.
Two of those people are Jennifer Whitley and Kerri Markley, fellow mothers of Lakeridge graduates who went to school with the Winchester's two sons, Michael Jr. and Blake.
Both Markley and Whitley didn't know what to make of Heidi Winchester's death, but the more they thought about the boys — Blake had participated in soccer with their sons from a young age — they knew they had to do something to support them.
That's why the two mothers and friends of the Winchester family will be hosting a fundraiser garage sale in the upper gym of Lakeridge High School from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday, April 6. All proceeds will go toward helping Michael Jr. and Blake.
"I just wanted to use my time and talents to put on a fundraiser and try to bring these boys some relief," Whitley told The Review. "This is a smaller community. Annie grew up here, so many people have known her her whole life. We met the boys through soccer, and because they've been such a part of Lake Oswego for so long, everyone wants to come together to help them."
According to Whitley and Markley, the pair have put on a few fundraiser events in the past, and figured this would be the best way they could provide some support to the Winchester sons. When they began announcing calls for items to be donated for the sale and reached out to local businesses to see if they'd be willing to donate gift cards for a raffle, they saw an incredible outpouring of support and grief for Heidi Winchester and her sons. Even those who didn't necessarily know the boys still felt compelled to try and help in their mother's memory.
"Our first donation drop off day, people were bringing stuff and were wanting to talk about Annie and what she meant to them," Markley said. "A lot of people who she was special to didn't get the opportunity to say goodbye, so people got to talk about how they knew her and how she was important to them."
It's been an emotional ride for Markley and Whitley, but they couldn't be happier to help. They both describe themselves as the type that feels the need to do something rather than sit back and offer condolences. They just hope the fundraiser this weekend is able to drum up significant support — in conjunction with the GoFundMe account which has raised a little more than $56,000 toward a goal of $100,000 — for the two sons as they navigate their way forward without either of their parents.
"They're young adults, and their whole lives have been turned upside down. This is a way that we can come together and do more for them than just the GoFundMe," Whitley said. "It's spring cleaning time, and people have a lot of stuff they'd normally take to Goodwill that they're donating to the sale, so it gives them a reason or motivation to go through their stuff and donate it to a good cause."
Over the course of two weekends, Markley and Whitley saw hundreds of people donate their gently used items toward the cause, and they've been spending their spare time going through it all and pricing things. A neighbor of Markley's was kind enough to let them store a massive amount of items, filling an entire garage and about a third of a large workshop.
Items donated for the sale include good quality used clothing, new clothing with tags still attached, toys, housewares, furniture, sporting goods, books, bicycles, artwork, antiques, tools and much more.
The Winchester sons released a statement this past weekend responding to the outpouring of support for them and their mother.
"Words cannot accurately express how overwhelmed with gratitude we are for all the support we have received from our community over these past two months," they said. "Your generoisty is truly helping us get through this difficult time, and your support is so greatly apprecaited."
Markley said she's also happy to report that the Lake Oswego School District is allowing them to use facilities at Lakeridge free of charge considering the circumstances.
"That was incredible of them to do that," Markley said.
The two Lake Oswego women also enlisted the support of several local and regional businesses including Babica Hen, Oswego Grill, the Play Boutique, PF Changs, Can Font and Trader Joe's, all of which donated gift cards or items for the raffle. They'll also be raffling off a custom piece of art made by a local teenage artist.
It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks for Whitley and Markley, but both women say they're happiest when they're helping people. They're excited to see a large turnout Saturday not only to bring in funds to help the Winchester sons, but also to simply bring the community a bit closer in support of two of their own.
"I want (Michael and Blake) to know that this community is here for them, and they're not alone," Whitley said. "They're going to make it."
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