Prison bus takes homeless kids for stay at county jail

We were shocked to learn that Multnomah County Sheriff Office Deputies were rounding up 80 children and checking them into the Inverness Jail just before Christmas. Read this story see what we learned about this incredible occurrence …

Some of the many Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office workers who put this unique party together stand by the piles of gifts they’ve wrapped for their guests.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Having covered so many events in outer East Portland over the past years, we thought we’d seen everything.

But when Lt. Jason Gates, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) spokesman, told us their organization was about to throw a party for kids at Inverness — the county jail — we changed our plans for the day and accepted his invitation to see this event for ourselves.

In the slammer
Clang, clack ‚Äì the door securely closes after we check in at the county jail. It gave this seasoned reporter a queasy feeling. Before this moment, we’d never been inside our metropolis’ working jail.

Those unsettled feelings evaporated when we entered a large training room at the facility. We were warmly greeted by Sandy Kaufman, Sheriff’s Operations Supervisor, a civilian staff member.

Sheriff’s office tradition continues
“Welcome to our 17th annual Holiday Party for Homeless Children,” she said. “Every year, all of the Sheriff’s staff members, uniformed officers, and civilian staff members all get together to we throw a big Christmas party for the Community Transitional School.”

Kaufman explained that this school provides an education for children of homeless families. “Most of these kids only experience public safety personnel in a highly emotional situation. It’s important to let them know we are here to keep them safe.”

“Our staff members pick out tags and we buy gifts for the kids,” Kaufman told us. “They each get two toys and two articles of clothing.”

It is a rare and unique moment as we experience Inverness Jail boss, (Left) Captain Ray Adgers, and (Center) Sheriff Bernie Giusto singing in harmony the holiday classic, “Jingle Bells”.

Mid-morning on December 15, the big jail bus pulls up to Inverness, and 80 bright-eyed kids pour out and into the training room, decorated in holiday colors. Student mentors from Wilson High School arrived with the youngsters, and helped out at the event.

MCSO Captain Ray Adgers, head of the Inverness Jail and the event’s Master of Ceremonies, got the festivities quickly underway by leading everyone in a round of Christmas carols.

Sheriff Bernie Giusto conducts a “Junior Sheriff’s Deputy swearing-in ceremony” that ends with the words “‚Ķ and to tell everyone my favorite color is ‚Ķ green!”

International comedy star rocks jailhouse

Showing off one his lesser skills, Rhys Thomas juggles six balls.

Then, Rhys Thomas, an internationally known comedy juggler, took center stage.

He may look like an ordinary juggler, but Thomas’ unique routines, comedic comments, and theatrical timing kept both adults and their guests in stitches.

Lunch and a visit from ‘The Big Guy’
After the show, the young guests were treated to a lunch featuring Izzy’s Pizza, and a visit by “The Big Guy” himself ‚Äì and we don’t mean the sheriff.

Santa Claus made his entrance, sat on his throne, and talked with each the kids. Then, the sheriff’s office volunteers bestowed upon the children their gifts.

Why do they do it?

“These children would not have a Christmas without us,” Kaufman explained. “And, it’s our special way of giving back to our community we serve.”

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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