Christmas means presents for children, and gifts are especially important for foster children, many of whom have experienced trauma, which makes giving them gifts even more critical. And this year a pandemic has been thrown into the mix.
Andrea O’Connor started the SCOTTY Foundation after her son Scotty was killed in a skateboard accident in July 2011. O’Connor’s family had a foster son for three years, and in 2003 O’Conner became involved with the Washington County Foster Parents Association. Within months of Scotty’s death, she had started the SCOTTY Foundation (Sponsoring Children Of Today, Tomorrow and Yesterday).
For the past 16 years Christmas trees decorated with gift tags listing the age, sex and gift wishes of foster children were placed around the county, but this year with COVID, the foundation had to come up with a new plan.
“We spoke with some of our most valued sponsors such as Kathy Peper in Summerfield and also included DHS (Department of Health and Human Services),” O’Connor said. “We needed to brainstorm to come up with a way to not only keep supporting these children but to also ensure we are not transferring the virus around.
“These are very difficult times for us all. The gift card idea gave us the best opportunity to do all the things we needed to do.”
The SCOTTY Foundation set up an account with Amazon, and sponsors can either purchase gift cards and drop them off at HomeStreet Bank in Tigard or donate gift cards directly on Amazon’s website. Amazon then transfers the gift card funds to the foundation’s account, and SCOTTY Foundation volunteers will choose the next name on the waiting list to purchase a gift. All foster families requesting holiday assistance must register for the waiting list on the foundation’s website
“Once the parent’s name comes up on the waiting list, we reach out to the foster parent and ask for two gift suggestions for that child,” O’Connor said. “We order the item on Amazon, and it is delivered directly to the foster home. We then send an email to the sponsor that tells them the name and the age of the child and a receipt showing what their donation purchased.
“We sponsor any foster parent who has a foster child in the home or if they have adopted the foster child. If the home cannot provide gifts for their biological children, we will support them as well… It has always been our mission to support the foster home and not just the foster children.”
This is Peper’s ninth year to organize giving trees in Tigard for the SCOTTY program. “Nine years ago, the Summerfield Board of Directors approved putting up a giving tree in the Clubhouse lobby,” she said. “HomeStreet Bank started participating seven years ago and Tigard Bonaventure five years ago.”
Tigard HomeStreet Bank Manager Haley Richardson said, “We just like participating every year. We support supplying children with basic needs, and this falls under that criteria. We hope to get lots of gift cards because people can’t buy presents for foster kids this year. This is a huge way to give back to the community.”
Summerfield Administrator Cari Lindsey noted that “Summerfield residents love to participate in this program, and we were nervous this year about what was going to happen. We have already received gift cards.”
Shumani Massa, Bonaventure’s activity assistant director, said, “I know we have a very charitable group of residents. Everybody there has kindness in their hearts.”
The King City Lions Club always participates in the program, and this year the Board of Directors voted to purchase $250 worth of gift cards. Bill Gerkin, who has been in charge of selecting tags and purchasing gifts for the past eight years, said of the gift card program, “I think it’s a great idea.”
According to O’Conner, they have supported up to 850 children in one year, and she thinks “with so many people being out of work due to COVID, that we will exceed that number this year.”
She added, “I am so incredibly touched to live in a community that cares so much about the future generation. I see those with so little of their own go out of their way to help a child in need. I see that children asking for simple life items such as pillows and blankets see for themselves that this world is full of love and wonderful people that care so much about them. I see foster parents cry with such joy when they realize the help they need is there for them. This toy drive is a gift in itself to all of us.”
Want to help?
Summerfield and Bonaventure residents can turn gift cards in at their respective reception desks; the general public is encouraged to use HomeStreet Bank’s secure night deposit slot; and all should include their email address with the gift card. The bank is located across the parking lot from Planet Fitness at 16230 SW Pacific Highway, Suite 140. E-Gift Cards can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.