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Woodburn volunteers donate 330 gifts to youths at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility

COURTESY PHOTO: SEAN PAGE - Volunteers with St. Vincent de Paul pose for a photo with Rev. Sean Page before bringing gifts into MacLaren Youth Facility, where Page is chaplain. St. Vincent de Paul has donated gifts to every MacLaren youth every Christmas for the past four years.
For the fourth year in a row, St. Vincent de Paul Society St. Luke chapter in Woodburn has donated gifts to the youths at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility.

The group donates about 350 gift bags so that each resident gets a gift, something that is rare, according to Sean Page, who is the facility's chaplain and volunteer coordinator.

"We have a lot of restrictions on what they can receive," Page said. "So often very few if any gifts (that come in the mail from families) make it through."

So this donation is incredibly special, he said.

"A lot of these guys grew up with not a lot. The holidays are hard because they're reminded of their loneliness, that they're not with their families," Page said. "So for them to come and ensure that every single person gets a gift on Christmas, it's incredible."

Not only that, but St. Vincent de Paul donated board games to each unit as a whole, as well as treats. St. Vincent de Paul President Lynn Loza said she was able to secure donations of Coca-Cola, a rare treat for the youth offenders.

The volunteers delivered the games and goodies to the facility on Sunday, walking around to each unit and visiting with the young men. The individual gift bags, however, will be saved for distribution on Christmas Day by staff.

"Often the staff is having to just correct and this gives them the opportunity to have a positive interaction with the youth," Page said, adding that it also makes the actual holiday more special.

It's easy to forget about young people locked away, and perhaps it's easy to argue that other recipients of goodwill are more deserving. But Page argues that it would be hard to find more grateful recipients than the young men at MacLaren.

"Every youth knows why he's here; the thing they don't remember is how much worth they have, how much potential they still have," Page said. "This is that reminder: that someone cares, that they have potential, they have support and there are opportunities out there."

And while he admits many youths might think a church would have ulterior motives, he praises what this group of volunteers is doing.

"With St. Vincent de Paul, there are no strings attached," he said. "They want to make sure (the youths) know they're loved. That's the main focus, and that's just so cool."

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