By Tyler Leeds

The Bulletin

Seventh-graders at Morning Star Christian School in Bend are providing the manpower for a philanthropic program that helps local foster children and their families.

The students are staffing the Hope Chest, which provides clothes, school supplies and other items to foster children for free. The program was originally run by the Court Appointed Special Advocates but was transferred to the local nonprofit Action Through Advocacy at the beginning of this year. Action Through Advocacy sent out word that it needed a site to host and organize the items. Morning Star Christian seventh-grade teacher Lisa Potter, who is a foster parent, read of the need in a newsletter and decided to offer her whole class to the project.

“This project is very important to the community and can help kids facing big challenges,” Potter said. “We just want foster kids to know that people care about them and to give our students a role to play in making that happen.”

The items are stored on shelves assembled by the students in a classroom. Large, clear bins hold clothes of assorted types and sizes while other containers are full of supplies like paper or crayons. Around 30 foster families came to an open house last month, but the space is continually open Wednesdays and Fridays as well as on an emergency basis.

The main task for the students, Potter said, is sorting through and organizing the heaps of donated items that show up at the school. On Monday, when Potter’s class was sorting through a bag of clothes, a few students quietly discussed whether a pair of teal pants were better suited for the boys’ or girls’ bin.

“It’s fun getting to help people and meeting them when they come in,” said Annika Timm, 12.

Her classmate, 13-year-old Ethan Crotwell, said, “It feels good getting these clothes to people who need them.”

A large portion of the clothes come from fundraisers run by the mattress store Sleep Country. The students are required to track these items and perform inventories, recording how many items from Sleep Country went out to foster families.

“It teaches them organization and other practical skills, which is always a good thing,” Potter said.

The seventh grade is not unique in hosting a philanthropic program. Every class at Morning Star Christian works on a charitable project throughout the year. The 3-year-olds in preschool are working with an orphanage in Rwanda, while the first-grade class is helping to raise funds for a local child with a rare, nontreatable disease.

“Kids are naturally helpers and givers, and we want to help them with that,” said Shannon Mathisen, the school’s outreach coordinator. “With the seventh-graders, we were able to provide the kid-power so this program could keep going.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160,