Five outer East Portland charities supported by ‘Santa’s Place’

Take a photo with Santa (and share your secret wish list with him), become a ‘toy tester’, enjoy stories and games at Eastport Plaza for free – and have the opportunity to support five good causes at the same time …

Officer Phillip Kent, Portland Police Bureau Sunshine Division; Major Curt Loberger, US Marine Corps; Santa; Jillian Glazer, Trillium Family Services; Barbara Sloan, Salvation Army; and Dean Johnston, Portland Fire & Rescue Toy and Joy Makers spend a few minutes with Santa.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For the first time since the old Eastport Plaza Mall building was torn down, Santa and Mrs. Claus are coming back to spend a full month at the shopping center’s new Christmas attraction, called “Santa’s Place”.

Eastport Plaza’s Dianne Gill introduces Santa’s Place to the community.

A whole holiday experience
“Santa’s Place is where kids can experience the joy of Christmas through music and activities,” said the shopping center’s general manager, Dianne Gill, at the preview on November 24.

Santa’s throne, completely refurbished for this event, is the original chair built for Eastport Plaza when it first opened in 1960, Gill pointed out. At Santa’s Place, visitors will find:

  • Christmas crafts;
  • Coloring contest;
  • Holiday movies & popcorn;
  • A kid’s holiday library and story-telling room;
  • A Santa’s Workshop toy-testing area; and
  • Santa’ throne room and Mrs. Claus.

A nexus for community charities
“We’ve created Santa’s Place as a way to help build community here in East Portland,” Gill said. “The economy is making it more difficult for many people to enjoy the holidays this year. Admission to Santa’s Place is free, but for those who can, we ask folks who can to give a donation, drop off canned or packaged food – or new, unwrapped toys – to share with families who are facing hard economic times.”

Donations will stay in East Portland, Gill added, and will be distributed by five community partners.

Aid organizations say need is greater than ever
“This year, we’re seeing a lot more need in the community,” said Dean Johnson, chair of Portland Fire & Rescue’s Toy & Joy Makers – one of five charities supported by the month-long event.

Dean Johnson, of Portland Fire & Rescue’s Toy & Joy Makers.

“We really appreciate the support of the community – especially in light of the unfortunate circumstances at our Toy And Joy building over the last few weeks,” Johnson added. “With your support – by bringing one or more new, unwrapped toys to Santa’s Place – you’ll help this holiday season be a bit brighter for many youngsters.”

Captain Barbara Sloan, of Salvation Army Metro Portland.

Salvation Army Metro Portland’s Captain Barbara Sloan said, “The number of people who are asking for assistance is up by 50%, and 15% of them have never asked us for help in the past.”

In addition to Santa’s Place, the Salvation Army’s “Angel Trees” are also located in US Bank, Rent-a-Center, Wherehouse Music, and Century 21 Cinema at Eastport Plaza. “People pick an angel decoration off the tree, and donate money at the checkout stand. We use this money to buy toys for kids who really need them.”

Portland Police Bureau Sunshine Division’s Officer Philip Kent.

Visitors will find Portland Police Bureau Sunshine Division barrels at Santa’s Place and other stores in the shopping center. “Last year, we set a record for the number of families we served,” reported Officer Philip Kent, “This year, we’re serving at least 25% more families every month, and our donations are down by 15%. We appreciate any help feeding Portland’s families in need.”

Jillian Glasier, from Trillium Family Services.

Jillian Glasier, from Trillium Family Services, told how, locally, donations benefit the Parry Center children with mental and behavioral health problems. “This time of year, it can be really hard for kids who are in our residential programs, away from their homes, families and friends. We appreciate the support we’ll get from Santa’s Place – and that we’ll be able to bring the children here for their own very special time – and a visit with Santa.”

Major Curt Loberger US Marine Corps added that the effort will aid their Toys-for-Tots program. “We’ve done this for many years – and we distribute toys in the areas where we collect them,” he said.

Bring your camera
In addition to the children’s activities, Gill said, they’re running a coloring contest, and a drawing for adults to win a dinner for four.

“The best part is that it’s all free,” Gill said. “Be sure to bring your camera, and take photos of your kids with Santa.”

Santa’s Place is open Mondays thru Saturdays from now through December 24 mornings from 11AM to 3 PM and evenings from 4 PM – 7 PM. Please note: children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian; please plan to stay and enjoy the experience with your youngsters.

Eastport Plaza is located at 4000 SE 82nd Avenue of Roses. Call (503) 771-3817 for more information or see for more information.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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