Kids spend glee-filled morning in County Jail

See why this isn’t an episode of “Scared Straight” – but is a day of joy, for children who have so little …

BJ the Clown entertains kids at the annual Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office party for children who attend the Community Transitional School.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

To elementary-school-age children of families who are homeless, in transition, and experiencing poverty-related crises, typically have little hope for a Merry Christmas.

But again, for the 24th year, those youngsters in the care of the Community Transitional School were invited to party hosted by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) at their Inverness Jail on December 14.

The kids who piled off the busses didn’t care that the event was held in the jail’s large training room. It was transformed, for them, into a winter wonderland.

“Over the past 23 years this has blossomed into such a giving and caring project for these kids in need,” MCSO Corrections Division Captain Raimond Adgers remarked to East Portland News.

Planning for this year’s event actually began back last January, Adgers said. “We did a debriefing of the previous event, and looked forward to projects we’ll work on to help the Community Transition School.”

Volunteers stand by to hand out “seconds” for the kids – and adults – who didn’t get their fill of pizza.

In addition to the party, toys, and clothing, he added – they also come up with a project for the school. “This year, we raised funds for a reader board outside the school.”

Although almost every MCSO employee pitches in – from the command staff to office workers – a group of about 40 volunteers shepherd the project. “And, we have the help of many individuals, and those who work with area companies and organizations.”

Wilson High School Leadership Class members Gus Coats, Sam Olson, Gareth Baldrica-Franklin, Perry Taylor, and Levi Weiss show some of the 1,500 items of clothing they collected for the Community Transition School children.

One such group is composed of students from the Wilson High School Leadership Class.

“It’s like a ‘student council’,” explained their spokesman, Gareth Baldrica-Franklin. “Every year, for the last 19 years, the Leadership Class has raised funds, and come to help with the party.”

This year, they raised more than $1,000, “but we also held clothing drives at elementary schools that feed into Wilson,” Baldrica-Franklin added. “We got more than 1,500 individual items of clothing. We do it to help brighten their winters and put smiles on their faces. That’s all we’re trying to do.”

Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Stayton administers the oath, making the kids “Honorary Sheriff Deputies” – a tradition at the party.

After they’d dined on an early pizza lunch, Sheriff Dan Staton stopped by to greet the more than 80 kids at the party.

“We love every one of you,” Staton told them. “And, you should be very proud that you make everyone here feel absolutely wonderful. And, you should feel good about yourselves.”

Staton shows an illustration to the audience, and to officials from the Community Transition School, showing the “reader board” sign for which the sheriff’s office raised money.

After presenting their annual gift to the school – this year, a sign board to be constructed at the edge of the school’s property along NE Killingsworth Street, he spoke with East Portland News.

“I’m so proud of my staff for making this event the best part of the job,” Staton confided. “Everyone here takes these children into our hearts. We try to do anything and everything we can to improve their lives.”

One can’t help but feel happy when they see these children, he added. “They smile, they’re happy, they enjoy being here. For me, this event really starts the Christmas season.”

Three sisters from the Community Transitional School join Santa in his sleigh.

MCSO Facilities Security Officer Will Schwarz hands out toys and clothing that Santa’s helpers will present to a child.

Captain Adgers pointed out that Inverness Jail doesn’t have an accessible chimney – but still, Santa magically finds his way into the party room anyway.

Children shouted with joy when they saw the jolly fellow dressed in red, and lined up to meet him, to sit in his sleigh – and to receive two toys to cherish.

Wilson High Leadership Class member Caroline Bresler helps 6-year-old April to unwrap her gifts.

Supporters of the annual party include: Aramark, Keefe Group, Keizer Elks Club, Jack Dellert/Portland Trail Blazers, Wilson High School Leadership Group, Multnomah County Corrections Deputy Association, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Management Association, Local 88 of the Multnomah County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judges, and also BJ the Clown.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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