‘Kids in Transition’ get big serving of Christmas cheer from Sheriff’s Office volunteers

It’s a fabulous party – and it’s only for kids who are homeless for the Holidays. Discover the reason for this effort, mounted by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office …

Surrounded by the hundreds of gifts, obtained for their guests, are this year’s organizer, Elizabeth Daily – and one of the many volunteers, Janese Jacobsen.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
At a time when most kids are preoccupied, wondering what gifts for them are under their Christmas tree – many kids from homeless families don’t even know where they’ll be spending the night.

For this reason, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) command staff, deputies, office workers, and volunteers host a Holiday party at a surprising venue, Inverness Jail – for kids who attend the Community Transitional School.

MCSO Corrections Sgt. Louise Moaning welcomes young guests to the party.

The large meeting room – securely walled off from the jail at the other end – is decorated for the Holidays. “The day before the event, female inmates decorated the room, and colored the white boards,” MCSO Public Information Officer, Lt. Mary Lindstrand told us at the December 17 event. “Even though they’re spending the Holidays in jail, it really seems to bring some joy to the inmates who help out.”

The party’s chief organizer, Elizabeth Daily – the MSCO Program Supervisor – was scurrying about, making sure everything was ready just before the children arrived.

“I have a lot of help with this,” acknowledged Daily. “Along with dozens of volunteers, Rota English, Lt. Mary Lindstrand, and Kim Staton, our Sheriff’s wife, are really involved with the event.”

MCSO Court Services Captain Rai Adgers welcomes the guests – with the help of a guest, Devon.

Members of three unions – AFSCME Local 88, Multnomah County Corrections Deputies Association, and the Multnomah County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association – contribute funds, gifts, or both, Daily smiled. A group of 15 volunteers wraps each of the four gifts that are given to each guest – two articles of clothing, and two toys.

“We feel this is important,” Daily said, “Because otherwise, these children literally have no Christmas. They’re generally homeless, and often move from house to house, or stay in shelters. When I see the kids’ faces, it makes all the work worthwhile.”

Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton greets the young guests as the special Christmas program begins.

Students and staff from the Community Transition School present a “thank you banner” to Sheriff Staton.

Gleeful kids poured into the room, and were seated at long decorated tables. Lindstrand said they’re serving 85 children this year. “You can tell by the noise level how happy these kids are.”

It had looked like the deputies might run a little short of gifts, Lindstrand mentioned. “But, we put out the word, and had a large amount of last-minute donations come in. We went shopping last night, and wrapped the gifts.”

With the help of his daughter, Matti, Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton administers the “Honorary Sheriff’s Deputy Oath”.

Staff, deputies and volunteers gather to sing Christmas carols.

With that, the formal program began, with the kids being sworn in as Honorary Sheriff’s Deputies. The volunteers led rounds of Christmas carols, and volunteers set up food tables, laden with pizzas and treats.

Portland Trailblazers mascot “Blaze” gets a hearty welcome from the guests at the party.

All the effort was well worth it, Lindstrand said. “Just to see the look on the kids’ faces right now – and then later, when they talk with Santa; and after that when they open their gifts – is priceless.”

Here comes the star of this show, Santa and Mrs. Claus!

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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