A Hermiston-based nonprofit organization is driving into the new year with a brand new 8-passenger van — courtesy of Altrusa International of Hermiston.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Kriss Dammeyer, founder and executive director of Made to Thrive. “We are so thankful and so blessed by that group of women that all rallied together to make this happen for us.”

Founded in 2014, Made to Thrive aims to provide support to assist vulnerable youths in the community. The main focus is to facilitate opportunities for them to engage in sports, adventure activities, music and the arts.

Based on personal experience, Dammeyer knows that getting kids plugged into activities can make a difference in their lives. However, when she noticed a lot of kids weren’t engaging in available opportunities offered through the schools and parks and recreation programs, she found out there were financial barriers and transportation issues.

Growing up in what she called a “less desirable situation,” Dammeyer found an outlet through sports. Fostering a feeling of belonging, it motivated her to thrive rather than merely survive.

Dammeyer graduated with a business degree from Western Oregon University and then pursued post-graduate studies in social entrepreneurship through Pepperdine University. She later returned to Hermiston when her mother became ill.

In addition to providing registration fees, needed equipment or shoes/clothing for participants to engage in activities, Made to Thrive coordinates rides when needed. In addition, it provides transportation for special outings.

Dammeyer couldn’t be happier with the 2020 Toyota Sienna. After just a handful of years, she’s racked up more than 200,000 miles on her personal rig. A vehicle, Dammeyer said, has been on Made to Thrive’s wish list since the beginning. The van is already getting good use, logging 1,000 miles in less than a week.

Also a nonprofit, Altrusa International focuses on helping create better communities. The name “Altrusa” is derived from combining altruism and USA.

The local club tackles both big and small projects — some only require time and labor, while others depend upon funding. The group hosts a fall auction event each year as its only fundraiser, said JoAn Hill and Sue Daggett, co-chairs of the club’s Community Service Committee. A portion of the auction’s proceeds are set aside for a future “major project,” which must address literacy, community service, vocational services or international relations.

The committee was looking to fund a project that would make a significant impact on the community — Dammyer’s program serves more than 200 youths a year. The Altrusans were impressed by Made to Thrive’s outreach, its mission and leadership, Hill and Daggett said.

After Hill and Daggett submitted a $40,000 budget request for the project, local dealerships were contacted to submit proposals. General manager Glenn Silaski of Rogers Toyota of Hermiston came back with the best deal on a vehicle, Hill and Daggett said.

The women were quick to point out that money for the project didn’t merely come from Altrusa. The generosity of area businesses and individuals provided financial support and in-kind donations for the auction, and community members attended and opened their wallets to contribute.

For more information about Made to Thrive, contact Dammeyer at 541-571-6169, kriss@madetothrive.org, www.madetothrive.org or search Facebook. For more about Altrusa, visit www.districttwelve.altrusa.org or search Facebook.

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