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People share ideas; discuss luck in having high school and community support

PMG PHOTO: CAROL ROSEN - Brunch attendees pose for a photo.

A small crowd of people met on the morning of Feb. 1 for brunch and to talk about Share the Love and its meaning to past and current recipients of the annual program.

Joe Zenisek, more commonly known as Dr. Z, was there to discuss the history of the three-year-old brunch and how it's planned to be a networking device for past and present recipients. Unfortunately, none of this year's three families were able to attend.

Another reason to get the alums and the new families together is to show that once the recipients get the money there's more to come in the way of support. And the third reason is to keep up with the alums and make sure they are doing okay, said Dr. Z.

"We hope to support the families even after the end of February," Dr. Z said. "We started the brunch to open up for them to see all the other aspects."

Molalla High Principal Brad Berzinski, who attended with his two young sons, told those attending how changes happen during STL, not just in the school but throughout the community.

"It used to be just a high school activity, but it's grown and now become part of the community. Business leaders, organizations and others in the community have become involved," he said.

But Berzinski also noted that if you just focus on the student perspective, you see that the kids are connecting with something outside themselves and "…it's a tremendous opportunity to practice."

Jake Burroughs, whose family was a recipient last year, added that it's the entire town, the entire community that supports Share the Love and brings so much good to the city.

"My wife spent 52 days in the hospital, and I wasn't working. The monetary support was good," he said. "But the empathy and compassion were out of this world. One student came up to me yesterday [at the assembly], gave me a big hug and shook my hand."

His wife Deanna added that "…the community support has been overwhelming. You go to the grocery store and people ask how you are; old friendships were rekindled and we're friends again."

PMG PHOTO: CAROL ROSEN - Past and current Share the Love recipients gather at the third annual Share the Love alumni brunch.

And, now other towns are looking to grow that community heart, said Dr. Z, by reaching out to do something to start up their own STL and help alleviate stress in their communities.

History of STL

Share the Love began in 2000 with a plastic jar and people dropping cash and change into it. That year, Zenisek, who'd been in the Peace Corps in the Philippines heard from the mayor of the village of Catigbi-an that they'd bought a container of donated medical supplies sitting in a shipping yard in Chicago, but needed $400 to pay for the shipping.

The Zeniseks had no money to spare so he reached out to Molalla High School students.

"I began going around at lunch with a jar asking for donations. It took six months to raise the $400, but we were successful. I enjoyed the process and saw some potential in the value of raising money for others in need, so I did it again the following year. I identified a charity in Portland that served homeless teens and raised $500," he said.

"I thought February with its focus on love would be the month to raise money. Share the Love came to me as a result of my summer work with at-risk students. I had a learner who would show up every day to work shouting Share the Love. It stuck with me and I adapted the name to the fundraising event," he told the Pioneer.

He spent a few more years with the jar and then thought it would be better as a student-led activity. In 2005, he reached out to Jennifer Brauckmiller, who was the leadership adviser. Zenisek said she "embraced the idea enthusiastically" and was interested in developing student's empathy and care for others. That began STL as a schoolwide event with kick off and closing assemblies. And that too focused on raising as much money as possible. While still at the school, Mackenzie Behrle, the next leadership adviser took over around 2010, also enthusiastically.

In the past 20 years, the event has raised $478,170, almost half a million dollars. In 2005, they broke out of the hundreds and started raising money in the thousands, going from $1,750 in 2005 to $5,300 in 2007, Then it really started growing from 2008 with 13,200 to 2010 when they raised $26,000 to 2015 when they raised $36,000. In 2016, they raised $ 51,000 moving to $63,000 in 2017, to $82,600 in 2018 and finally to $92,000 last year.

This year they hope to make at least $55,000 but won't be upset if they make a whole lot more, Natalee Litchfield, student body president, said at the kickoff assembly.

There is now a board of directors for the STL, and this year the Molalla River Education Foundation became a fiscal sponsor and the group's bankers. And, since 2015, graduating seniors can apply for STL scholarships. This year, the group hopes to separate from MREF and become a 501(C) 3 nonprofit.

One year, the students even surprised Dr. Z. He didn't know until the kickoff assembly in 2007 that his son was a recipient. During the summer after he'd graduated, Zenisek's son had suffered a brain aneurysm. Instead of going off to college, he had a year off. He's now graduated from college and teaching himself.


Carol Rosen
Reporter
503-263-7505
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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