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Adopting a giving attitude

Photos and Story by

DeLinda Martin

Student leader DeLinda Martin knows all too well what a difference the Adopt-A-Family program can make in a needy family’s life. Why? Because her family was in need just nine short years ago. Martin was pregnant and had a six-year-old son when her husband lost his job. She found work at a local store for $4.25 an hour to support the family.

"I was the only person working in the household," she said. "But a local church provided us a gift box. Because of that (the Adopt-A-Family program) is very dear to me. There are so many people out there in need. All it takes is a family illness or a divorce and any one of us could be there.

"It was a rough time in my life," she added. "Unless something miraculous happened I knew my family wouldn’t have had a Christmas."

At the Cascade Campus, the Adopt-A-Family program adopts at least 15 families, mostly PCC students, during the holidays. Each family has a secret adoptee who is responsible for buying goods they need, which often include Christmas gifts for the family’s children. Typically, Martin and other students recruit people around the district, such as faculty, administrators, student groups or private donors, to volunteer to be these secret adoptees.

When the families are selected they provide a wish list of what they need to Martin. If there are more than 15 families who have been identified as being in need, a giving tree is set up so that the children of the families will get a gift during the Christmas holiday.

After that tough time, Martin, now 41, eventually left Idaho with her family and settled in Banks. She was working at a high-tech company a few years ago when her manager told her that she was management material and would be an excellent candidate to move up the company ladder. But there was a problem.

"They said I didn’t have a degree," Martin said.

That led her to PCC. She tried to work on her transfer degree part-time while working full-time at the company, but the pressure of having a family and a heavy school load was too much. She now works part-time at the Cascade Campus ASPCC office as social programs director while also working on her degree in English. She is planning to transfer to Portland State University at the end of this school year so she can earn a master’s degree, specializing in adult and continuing education. Eventually, she would like to work in management for another production firm like a circuit board manufacturer.

DeLinda Martin

She said she would have had a hard time staying with her studies had it not been for her instructors.

"I have great instructors," said Martin, who said she fell in love with Cascade because of its diversity. "They provide the kind of encouragement in that they believed I could continue on and do this. I had to ease into it. A manager said to take a few computer classes. When I realized I could do it I became a knowledge hound and didn’t want to stop."

As Martin solicits donations and gathers her list of adoptees, she hopes people will find the gift of giving that once helped her. All Martin has to do is tell people about the time when she and her family were struggling to get by during the Christmas holiday.

"To people that are receiving the gifts it is the most important thing in their world," she said. "To me that gift box meant everything. The last thing you want is your six-year-old to know about Christmas (and to expect presents). He doesn’t remember that now, but I will always remember."

For more information on this program, call (503) 978-5188.

Other holiday drives around PCC

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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