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Alternative program sets pace for giving

The Mid-County Memo

Students at the Parkrose Alternative Center for Education made a record-breaking effort to help homeless and transitioning people in Portland this holiday season.

PACE is actually a school within Parkrose High School. Students must apply and go through an interview process. According to Evan McFadden, a PACE teacher, the program serves students who might be at risk for not graduating. He sees his job as getting students interested in school again and viewing school as a positive experience. About 80 students are currently enrolled, and a waiting list proves an even higher demand.

Community service is an important aspect of PACE. McFadden said his students get a real sense of satisfaction from helping others in difficult situations and are empathetic, as they often come from difficult backgrounds themselves.

Each November McFadden and the other PACE teachers, Carol Hansen and Karmin Williams, get the ball rolling on what they call their homeless project. For 25 years, PACE students have been gathering grooming supplies, clothing and blankets to donate to homeless shelters. Students are tasked in mid-November to make posters and fliers; to produce a commercial for the in-school television station; to solicit donations directly from hotels, dentists and beauty salons; to alert the media and to select shelters they’ll help.

Student organizers for the effort this year were Angelina Bennett and Kari Mendoza. According to McFadden, when the students receive their assignments, they enthusiastically do all the work.

This year 312 hygiene kits — the most ever, each containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, soap, shampoo, conditioner, a razor, deodorant and socks — were prepared and delivered to a pair of homeless shelters. On Thursday, Dec. 20, nearly 70 kids piled into three buses. They dropped clothing at the Portland Rescue Mission and then headed to Transition Projects Inc. downtown and Clark Center in Southeast Portland to decorate and leave behind their gift bags and blankets. Staff at the shelters played Santa, leaving the gifts on or under bunks to be discovered on Christmas morning.

The final phase of the project will be completed when kids head back to school this month. They will write thank-you notes to all those who donated to their cause.

Parkrose Alternative Center for Education students Iesha Ash, right, and Ashley James decorate the Dr. Rodney Glisan Men’s Shelter at Transition Projects Inc., the entry point and shelter for thousands of homeless, transients and indigents seeking basic services in Portland. At the annual PACE project, students Gary Cooper and Sierra Butler add Christmas decorations to the men’s shelter at Transition Projects Inc. in downtown Portland.
Transition Projects Inc. Housing Case Manager Shelley Dixon, left, gives a brief history and mission of the organization as PACE Co-President Angelina Bennett and fellow PACE students listen. To find out more about Transition Projects Inc., go to PACE adviser Evan McFadden shows one of the 312 Hygiene Packs — a record number - that program students solicited from individuals and the Mid-county business community, which were then packaged for people who are homeless and in transition.
Parkrose seniors Shayla Brodigan, left, and BreeAnna Day carry in some of the hundreds of donated blankets the Parkrose PACE Program garnered for the Dr. Rodney Glisan Men’s and the Jean’s Place Women’s Northwest Transition Projects shelters in downtown Portland. Folding and sorting the record number of donated blankets for imminent distribution at Transition Projects Inc. is, from left, Ryan Gibson, David McCown and Grant Weston. Every fall, at the beginning of the school year, PACE begins soliciting for the annually delivered items.
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