Bringing joy to Wilsonville schools
Grace Chapel staff want nothing more than to spread love throughout the community, especially during the holiday season.
Every year, the Wilsonville church's Joy Drive provides the community a chance to give a child an anonymous gift. Whether it's keeping a child warm with a jacket or fulfiling an item on a family's Christmas wish list, the Joy Drive has one mission: to give.
"Of course we are a church and we truly believe that the message of Christmas and the message of Jesus is about giving," Pastor Jake Schwein said. "It's not about consuming, it's not about those things, but it truly is a time that people can love and love without strings attached."
For the Joy Drive, Grace Chapel staff ask every counselor or school psychologist at all Wilsonville schools what the needs of the children are. Schwein said he assures the school counselors that there are no caps on the amount of items needed for students — they will be taken care of. Then, during church, the needs are compiled and parishioners may purchase a gift fulfilling one or more of the needs so every child identified by the counselor can receive a gift.
"Because our schools care deeply for the kids and they don't have a lot of extra money for humanitarian needs we come along side of them and say 'Hey, we want to help be that arm,'" Schwein said. "They really are grateful because of that reason because they're like 'This is what we wish we could do, but we don't have the resources.'"
Since the Joy Drive started in 2006, about 150 to 200 children every year have been sent home with a gift around Christmas. This year, 176 Wilsonville children are receiving gifts. While most gifts are clothing, there are some books, art kits and science kits — a popular item being Slime.
"You get into a business like church and you can see on the outside it might look like people have everything," said Lauren Pickthorn, Joy Drive coordinator, "but there's so much need that's hiding under the surface and the place where you can see and access it most is our kids."
On Dec. 18, Grace Chapel staff finished delivering all the wrapped gifts to the school counselors and Lowrie Primary's school counselor Carmen Ryan said she couldn't be more grateful.
"It's the kids' smiles, parents are in tears because as much as our economy overall is great, there's a lot of people on the fringe," Ryan said. "We have a beautiful school and a beautiful community and there's a lot of people on the fringe and they work two, three jobs. I know it's (material) stuff, but it makes the kids feel important."
Both Schwein and Pickthorn said they will deliver gifts regardless of students' religious beliefs, race, gender or nationality. It's completely confidential and anonymous.
"We get to love them and show them that we care even if we don't know exactly who they are and even though they might on the outside look like they have it all together, we can love them at their most basic and most core needs," Pickthorn said. "It's beautiful to see."