Fostering the holiday spirit
Seniors from all over King City gathered around Christmas trees to ring in the holiday season for foster children all over Washington County on Wednesday, Dec. 20.
Volunteer Kathy Peper headed up the Washington County Foster Children's Christmas project. Summerfield, King City, Bonaventure Retirement Home, King City Senior Village and HomeStreet Bank all participated in a community project to collect gifts for foster children.
It was the first year participating for Elaine Stensrud, a King City resident, who said the event was inspiring and rewarding. "I like helping kids in general," Stensrud said. "Suddenly I had the holiday spirit."
Toys, clothing, shoes, gift cards and make-up sets were among the hundreds of gifts donated. After the gifts were gathered by the SCOTTY Foundation, which stands for Sponsoring Children of Today, Tomorrow and Yesterday, they were distributed in Hillsboro at 1300 N.E. 48th Ave., Suite 1600. Each year the SCOTTY Foundation focuses on two causes, one of which is the holiday campaign. In the fall/winter each year, the foundation aims toward the foster care system, because each year thousands of children are placed in foster care. Foster parents do receive financial assistance to cover a foster child's basic living necessities, but there are no extra funds given to these families during the holiday season, according to Amber O'Connor from the SCOTTY Foundation. "Not only can this result in a financial hardship for the foster family, it can also deny a child who has known only pain and neglect, the childhood magic of the holidays. The children placed in foster homes may have never opened a gift waiting for them under a tree on Christmas morning. It is through the generosity of others that we are able to support these foster homes/children during the holiday season," O'Conner said. "Our focus is to ease the financial hardship that some foster parents may feel during the holidays, allowing the children placed in their care a momentary reprieve from life's adversities."
Many of the volunteers who donated and helped to decorate the gifts have grandchildren and some even have great-grandchildren.
For Judy Chisolm, a resident of King City and a grandmother of 17, the event was opportunity to be involved with her community. It was her second year helping with the event. She said her family enjoys the tradition of helping others in need.
Priscilla Wilson, a Summerfield resident, said she had great fun shopping for the foster youth. Wilson, also a grandmother and great-grandmother picked out Legos. "I love shopping for Legos," she said. Wilson added that she would participate again next year.
Summerfield was abuzz with volunteers, such as Linda McCall, who has participated for three years. "It's so wonderful to see everyone's generosity," McCall said. "I feel like one of Santa's elves."
Summerfield Administrator Cari Lindsey described the event as an absolute joy. "Kathy (Peper) does all the work. The residents just love buying for the little ones and Kthy connects all the dots," Lindsey added.
All of the stops boasted slews of gifts, but Bonaventure was filled with cheer as nearly every resident gathered around the tree and admired their handiwork.
Bonaventure Activity Director Sally Borowczak was impressed with the great turnout of residents and their donations of gifts.
Bonaventure Sales and Marketing Manager Brittany Dohrwardt said the residents love to be involved in the community and the giving event was one they really enjoyed.
"The word about the event spread like wildfire via word-of-mouth in the dining room," Dohrwardt said. "The residents have been collecting toys to donate since November."
The day of toy collecting wrapped up at HomeStreet Bank, where Branch Manager Haley Richardson pointed out a gift that spoke to her heart.
As a mother of two sons, Richardson was humbled by a foster child's request for deodorant and cologne. "I really makes me understand what the kids are going through," she said. "And look, someone bought this beautiful bag filling the request. It's also good for my own kids to realize how much they have and that it's so important to help and care for others."
Joining Richardson at the bank, was a special Santa and Mrs. Claus team – Ron and Deborah Threadgill from Threadgill's Memorial Services, who donated gift cards for the cause.
There are approximately 600 to 800 children in the Washington County foster program. They often arrive without shoes or clothing to start school, and the Christmas program supplies not only Christmas gifts, but basic needs for these children.
All extra items that are left over from the Christmas donations are given to the Foster Closet (503-389-4012, foster-closet.org) to be used for new children coming into the system.
For more information, visit 4scotty.org or call Peper at 503-530-8888.
By Mandy Feder-Sawyer
Reporter, Regal Courier