Clothing children is a big mission


By Sue Cody


W2W ALCPWhat if you are a child in need of new shoes, but your parents can’t afford them? Or you have outgrown your pants and sweatshirts and don’t have anything that fits.


When other kids have newer, cooler clothes, the stress and embarrassment of not fitting in even affects kids’ ability to learn.


That’s why the Assistance League of the Columbia Pacific (ALCP) steps in to help. The all-volunteer nonprofit exists solely to create and support philanthropic programs that promote the well-being and self-esteem of children and teens throughout Clatsop County, which The Way to Wellville encourages. The Assistance League’s national Operation School Bell program helps provide children with clothing.


“When you think of Nike Night,” said ALCP’s Operation School Bell chair Liz Knutsen, “perhaps you think of a joyful, slightly chaotic store full of young boys shopping side by side with men and women and coaches and teachers searching for the perfect pair of brand new Nike shoes, and maybe a cool hoodie to match. Maybe you hear loud music, and laughter. Maybe you smell fresh Fultano’s pizza, homemade cookies. Maybe you just feel a sense of warmth and community. That’s what our partnership with Nike Factory stores has provided for the past seven years.”


ALCP partners with merchants, such as Ter Har’s, Nike and Ross, to receive discounts so children can choose from popular new items.


Each child is taken on a shopping trip to a local store with a volunteer to advise them how to spend their money – $80 for elementary school children and about $120 for middle and high school students.


This school year ALCP was able to take over the Nike Factory Outlet store for an evening of fun and shopping, and clothed 135 middle and high school boys.


“To date we have teamed up to clothe over 900 boys, and we have spent over $9,000, Knutsen said. “We are just so grateful to Mike Burk and his team members at the Nike store in Seaside for working with us to provide an unforgettable event for the young men of our community.”


Burk, who is the manager of the Seaside Nike Factory Outlet store, was then given a National Operation School Bell award.


Burk said, “You are the people who make it happen, I just oversee everything,” as he thanked his co-workers and “the people upstairs,” who provide the donations.


Golf Ball Drop


ALCP raises funds through its Golf Ball Drop, Home and Chef Tour, memberships, contributions, sponsorships and grants. The Golf Ball Drop, held at the Astoria Golf and Country Club, is especially popular. People purchase a golf ball for $5 and a chance to win a prize. The Columbia River Bar Pilots load the golf balls into a helicopter and drop them over a green on the golf course. Prizes are awarded for the balls that fall closest to the hole.


The event this year is Saturday, May 13. Kids may participate in a free golf clinic and putting contest from 11 a.m. to noon; a barbecue is held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (no cost for kids age 5 and younger); and the Golf Ball Drop is at 12:15 p.m.


Tickets are available at Holly McHone Jewelers, 1150 Commercial St. in Astoria.


Raffle tickets are also available on site for $5. Organizers say $20 will clothe a child with new shoes, socks, pants, shirts and hoodies.


A growing commitment


In 2007, when the local Assistance League chapter started, it was able to clothe 70 children, Knutsen reported. This year, it clothed 690 children. “We spent $66,000 that went back into the community,” she said.


There are 128 members who contributed 9,556 volunteer hours this year, secretary Karen Radditz said. “This group of women is basically the fabric and soul of our community.”


Miss Oregon Alexis Mather attended the ALCP’s May 4 luncheon and said its mission meshes with her platform of Mentoring to Develop Leaders.


“I feel very lucky and very special for how this community has wrapped its arms around me,” said the Astoria High School graduate. “And I also believe that is exactly what this organization does for our youth within Clatsop County, which is extremely inspiring. This organization is providing the tools that these children need in order to be successful.”