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Local youth participants in new program receive cash prizes for entrepreneurial efforts

Some Molalla youth reaped the benefits of their labor at the Sept. 30 farmers market.

That's where participants of the Young Entrepreneurs program received cash prizes after several weeks' worth of work to achieve the program's simple goal: make, grow or harvest something and bring it to market.

PMG PHOTO: SANDY STOREY - Participants in Molalla's Young Entrepreneurs program receive cash prizes for their efforts.

According to program leaders Tom and Mariann Sawtell, 40 kids originally signed up for the program, and 23 fulfilled their obligation – most of them were 12 years old or younger.

"We absolutely could not believe what some of these kids pulled off," Tom Sawtell said. "We had a 10-year-old girl who ground the flour to make bread. … It wasn't flour they bought; she ground flour. She took that and made the best darn cheesy jalapeno bread you ever had. And she sold out, both times. … She is now a permanent vendor at the market.

"And then her brother, who I believe was 9, was getting up at 4:30 in the morning on market day to bake cinnamon rolls, sticky buns and lemon wedges so he would have enough to come to the market and present his stuff," Sawtell continued. "He sold out every time he came. And he is now a permanent vendor at the market."

Sawtell said another youngster brought woodworking projects like pet food dishes, tic-tac-toe boards and a desk organizer that looks like a huge pencil.

"Even the mayor bought one of those," Sawtell said.

Another youth made his own Play-Doh, another made zucchini bread and yet another made refrigerator pickles.

Sawtell told the kids they'd be judged on three things: how well they completed their project, how well they presented it, and how well they communicated with the public eye-to-eye. One mother told Sawtell the program brought her daughter out of her shell.

"It was just phenomenal," Sawtell said.

The Sawtells initiated the program this year because the Power of Produce (POP) Club, which saw 600 kids participate two years ago, is on hiatus due to the COVID-19 crisis. Sawtell said it would be difficult to get kids to distance socially and wear masks, but they wanted to do something.

"We had to do something for kids," Sawtell said. "That's what our market is all about."

So, the Sawtells simplified an existing model, and it worked. Now other markets are looking to Molalla to help them replicate the program. Sawtell said Molalla will continue the program next year, and they hope to bring back the POP Club as well.

Leaders had planned to use POP Club dollars to reward the participants, but in the end, they didn't have to. Molalla came through and provided more than $2,400 for prize money. Each child received at least $50 and some as much as $300.

Even in the pouring rain, a crowd gathered to support the kids. Molalla mayor Scott Keyser handed out the awards.

The participants were:

Nicholas Rodriguez

Howard Hickey

Tanner Conway

Morgan Richle

Trinity Luce

Cole Brandenburg

Parker Wildhaber

Emma Brandenburg

Ella Wildhaber

Jessi Flores-Lemus

Sorai Flores-Lemus

Daniel McCormick

Hunter Conway

Amelie John K-Lemus

Arya John K-Lemus

Ryan Helmig

Lea Helmig

Forest Hobson

Kendall Wolfer

Daisy Salvetti

Lillian Valor

Justin Wolfer

Andre Wolfer

Kristen Wohlers
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