Shawn Cass
Shawn Cass
About 400 children will receive Christmas gifts thanks to a partnership between Catholic Charities of Oregon and local businesses.

For more than 15 years each autumn, Catholic Charities case managers have assessed and polled their clients, developing a catalog of gifts to submit to businesses who want to help. Central Catholic High School, for example, takes a large list of needed presents and then students, staff and parents get busy. The items get purchased and wrapped by donors and then Catholic Charities makes deliveries. Oregon Catholic Press, publisher of this newspaper, participates, as does Providence Health and Services, Holy Family Parish, St. Anthony Village, and Kroeger, the company that owns Fred Meyer stores.

Before the pandemic, the families received gifts at a party, complete with Central Catholic students as elves. Now deliveries are private.

“One time, a woman came up to me and said, ‘You are the Christmas gift person, right?’” said Shawn Cass, a Catholic Charities worker for 23 years who coordinates the project. “She then told me, ‘This is the first time that I have ever been able to give my kids gifts at Christmas.”

Cass said she is only the go-between for beautiful families who need a hand and generous workers.

“We have strangers who step up to offer Christmas to our clients when there is no thought of anything in return,” Cass said. “The donors don’t even get the joy of seeing children get the gifts. I stand in witness of people humbly asking for something and then of strangers generously stepping up and offering what they have. Christmas can become so much about stuff, but this exchange of gifts is not about stuff, it’s about relationships.”

Last year, the number of gifts skyrocketed to 1,000 despite pandemic complications. Many people gave so Catholic Charities could send gifts to children who suffered losses in the fall 2020 wildfires in the state. One donor came up with 300 presents on his own, a massive collection of skateboards, doll houses and other items from Amazon.