Goodwill

Joey Edminster, Jennifer Chavez, Mary Kaye Clarke-Hergert, Ken Gosney and Heather Weaver help serve food during a holiday party for area foster children at the Hermiston Goodwill store.

The Christmas season for area foster children was made brighter thanks to a partnership with the Hermiston Goodwill store.

The local thrift store reached out last holiday season, said Marvin Hamilton, a certifier with the Department of Human Services Child Welfare program. Employees of the store threw a pizza party for local youths and their families. In the second year of the program, Hamilton said the word spread and even more kids and their families showed up for the Dec. 4 event.

Also, Hamilton said the project has spread throughout the region, as Joey Edminster, Goodwill’s community and marketing specialist, planned similar events throughout other cities served by stores in the Columbia Basin region, including Walla Walla and Kennewick, Hamilton said.

“We like doing this for our kids and it’s spreading. It started here, which is really cool,” Hamilton said.

In addition to pizza, cake and drinks, each child received a $20 voucher to spend in the store. DHS workers and store employees acted as personal shoppers, assisting some children as they looked around the store

After choosing an item that cost $1, one of the kids asked how much he had left. With an astonished look on his face, Hamilton said the child responded, “I’m going to buy the whole store.” Another told Hamilton she felt “like a princess” when trying on a jacket.

“It was fun watching the kids with their gift certificates,” Hamilton said.

Also, a Dec. 11 event that was hosted at Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center provided a festive party atmosphere with food, bounce houses, music and a visit from Santa Claus. Hamilton was especially touched by the connections between local students and foster kids.

“It was beautiful to have that Hermiston High School choir sing Christmas songs and they were so interactive with the kids,” Hamilton said. “The choir was so friendly with the foster kids.”

In February, the Department of Human Services will host its second annual Cabin Fever for Kids event. The idea, Hamilton said, is to provide an indoor event that offers activities for kids while also providing networking opportunities for area foster parents.

Volunteers are welcome to help organize informational and activity booths as well as providing food or donations for bounce house rentals. For more information, contact Hamilton at 541-564-4484 or marvin.hamilton@dhsoha.state.or.us.

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