The Tigard Public Library held its first 'Together at the Table' event while volunteers helped sort costumes for seriously ill children.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Kari Kunst, an employee at Tigard Public Library, left, and patron Sharon Rose, fill out at Q&A form during a MLK Day: Together at the Table event at the library on Monday.Several Tigard groups got into the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, recognizing a push for a "day of service" to the community by hosting activities ranging from gatherings designed to get to know their neighbors better to sorting through costumes earmarked for seriously ill children.

At the Tigard Public Library, a steady stream of residents funneled into the facility's Burgess Community Room to participate in "Together at the Table," a casual walk-in program where residents were encouraged to chat about a variety of questions on placards.

Those questions ranged from what residents liked about their library to what quality or ability they would like to possess to what constitutes a perfect day for them?

"This is phenomenal," State Rep. Margaret Doherty of Tigard said as she glanced at those gathered at nearby tables.

A long-time Tigard Public Library volunteer, Doherty said she was there to shelve books but promised to return to chat with folks later in the event.

Doherty said she recalled 1968 when she went to see Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speak at Portland State University and recalls both the deaths of Kennedy and King that same year.

"That was a rough year," she recalled, pointing out she believes deep in King's heart "he was community activist."

Jeanette, a participant who asked that only her first name be used, said she frequently attends library events and was enjoying "Together at the Table."

"I love coming here," said Jeanette, who was accompanied by Eros, her Lhasa apso service dog. "It's like my lifesaver."

She said she enjoys the library because she comes in contact with a variety of interesting people or topics, most recently attending a lecture on wills.

"I'm just a fan of books," she said.

Also present was Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine who talked about anything residents had on their minds.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jeannette, a patron of the Tigard Public Library, attends a MLK Day: Together at the Table event with her dog, Eros,  at the library on Monday."What we ended up doing is just getting to know each other a little bit better," said McAlpine, who spent an hour at the event. She said for many it was their first encounter with Tigard's police chief, who took over the job last spring.

Among the topics addressed was McAlpine explaining how police departments in general have been moving away from a paramilitary-type of presence to community policing. In addition, McAlpine said she had an engaging conversation with a South Korean exchange student who attends Westside Christian High School.

Tigard resident Marsden Smith said he was driving by the library and was curious about what the "Together at the Table" event was all about so he pulled in.

He said his impression is that many residents don't know each other well so they find it difficult to talk about difficult subjects such as discrimination as one example.

In answering one of the placards' questions about what he would consider a perfect day, Smith said it would involve artistic painting while at home.

"What I've learned (is) you have to be a patient person to do art," said Marsden, a Tigard resident since 1993. "I've had to learn patience when I don't have patience."

By the end of the day, 64 people came through the library, according to Paula Walker, the library's communication coordinator.

"Given that this was the first time for this program and with all the things competing for people's time on Martin Luther King Day, we were very pleased with the turnout," Walker said. "It seemed like people had a good time conversing with others. Plus, they learned a lot about Dr. King with the informational bookmarks we passed out."

Meanwhile, for volunteers at Chelsea's Closet, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service got started on Friday when they sorted through hundreds of costumes that will eventually make their way to parties for seriously ill children in children's hospitals.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Chelsea Nguyen who works as a home lender with Umpqua Bank, places a costume on a hanger at the Chelsea Hicks Foundation in Tigard. Nguyen volunteered along with other employees with the bank to sort through costumes for terminally ill children.Among them was Lauren Thomas, who was volunteering as part of AmeriCorps VISTA program attached to the Washington County Public Health Women Infants and Children.

"I never heard of Chelsea's Closet and I was really excited when I found out about it," said Thomas who along with other volunteers, helped organize everything from infant tutus to a huge selection of princess costumes. Thomas said she found what the volunteers at Chelsea's Closet do, inspiring.

Chelsea Hicks was 3 years old when she was diagnosed with Stage IV Wilms' tumor cancer and during her hospital stay loved dressing up, according to the Chelsea Hick's Foundation website. Today, the organization has about 4,000 costumes in its inventory (with another 600 ready to be processed and added).

One of the highlights was getting to talk with Alison Hicks, Chelsea's mother, who attended the sorting event, said Thomas.

"I was sitting with Chelsea's mom and hearing the story," she said. "She talked about (Chelsea's) struggle and how she liked dressing up in costumes."

Also helping out was Tammy Yamamoto, an Aloha High graduate who majored in natural resources at Oregon State University, who cut out tags and helped organize costumes. She too is part of the same AmericCorps VISTA program as Thomas.

"It's pretty cool what they do," she said. "It was great. I would definitely return."

"We had 15 volunteers and were so happy with the turnout and all that they accomplished," said Jessica Heliker, program and volunteer coordinator for the Chelsea Hicks Foundation. "We just did a final count — 324 costumes in three hours!"TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jeannette Mayer who works in regulatory affairs with Umpqua Bank, hangs up a costume at Chelsea Hicks Foundation in Tigard.

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