Category Archives: #depoebayoregon

“Depoe Bay’s Miracle for Kids” by Steve Sparks 2010

Neighbors for Kids (Based on true events)

Our Mission

“Neighbors For Kids is an Oregon nonprofit 501(c)3 dedicated to supporting families in Lincoln County during out-of-school-time hours by providing quality after school and summer programs to pre-school and school-aged children in a safe, affordable, fun learning environment”

June, 2010

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Steve Sparks, Board Director and Officer 2010-2016

As written by Steve Sparks, NFK Board member, including contributions from NFK Board members, staff, students and other stakeholders. The community of Depoe Bay and surrounding areas will be forever grateful for the special contributions of NFK’s original Board and team: Dr. and Mrs. Jack and Maggie Brown and Loretta Hoagland.

Loretta Hoagland

The history of Neighbors for Kids and the Kids Zone After-School Program begins on a beautiful afternoon along the Oregon coast while Loretta Hoagland was sitting on her porch overlooking Depoe Bay, the “smallest harbor in the world.” Loretta observed several young teens walking by her home and up the hill.  They looked like good kids, dressed nicely, full of enthusiasm, and handsome, probably just got out of school.  They were approaching another home up the hill. No doubt they were going to have a fun gathering of friends after school. Loretta always worried about kids not having any place to go or anything to do in this little town 12 miles away from Lincoln City to the north and Newport to the south.   But while she watched, something happened as the kids walked to the steps of the home they were approaching. To her dismay, Loretta observed the kids completing a “drug buy!” She was shocked and angry. “This can’t happen in my town!” she wanted to shout.  As the true events of this story unfold, it becomes clear that love, faith, big dreams, passion and the determination of ordinary people resulted in what many perceive as a “miracle.”

What happened next is compelling and heartwarming. That moment in time ten years ago changed Loretta Hoagland’s life forever.  Loretta couldn’t sit back and allow the town she loved and its future to be turned over to drugs. She was moved so much that she immediately called a meeting at her home with neighbors. That evening almost 20 of her neighbors showed up and demanded to know what the emergency was all about.  Neighbors Against Drugs and Alcohol, later known as Neighbors for Kids (NFK) and Kids Zone, was born that evening when residents got together with Loretta and angrily and passionately decided to make a stand against the increasing use of drugs and alcohol by the youth in their town of Depoe Bay.  Almost single-handedly, Loretta was on the way to inspiring the entire town of 1200 citizens on the central Oregon coast.

Jack and Maggie Brown

Jack and Maggie Brown always loved the Oregon coast, especially Depoe Bay. This little town with a beautiful small harbor to moor their boat was perfect to start their retirement years. Jack and Maggie had lived in Richland, Washington for 30 years while Jack pursued his career as a nuclear scientist with Battelle Labs. After moving to Depoe Bay, Jack started a rowing club in the harbor offering kids free classes. Both Jack and Maggie heard about the new community action group, Neighbors for Kids, and were instantly drawn to the cause of fighting drugs and alcohol with the idea of giving kids something to do after school.

Our First Location

Although it started with the rowing club, soon the group was offering tutoring along with other activities, and curious kids began to show up after school to find out more. As its popularity grew and news of the after-school program spread, the group of dedicated volunteers was offered the use of part of a small building owned by the City of Depoe Bay.  Soon a small nonprofit community service organization was in the making, attracting more kids and supportive parents along with many community volunteers. Eventually the entire 700 square foot building on Highway 101 was turned over to Neighbors for Kids as a gift from the City of Depoe Bay.

Volunteer carpenters and other contractors came in to help remodel the building to make it more suited to serving the needs of an after-school program, including a kitchen area to serve meals. The NFK Board of Directors decided to call the after-school program “Kids Zone.”  The program continued to grow, and there was never enough space. Eventually, the Depoe Bay Fire Department had to inform the NFK Board that the fire code would limit the number of occupants in the building. With a growing waiting list and no more space for expansion, “What will we do now?” became the big question for the NFK Board to answer.

The Dream of a New Facility

This is when the scientist in Jack Brown turned a dream of building a big new facility for Kids Zone on the same site as the tiny cinderblock facility into a reality. Jack’s dream was a building that would not only have plenty of space for the after school program but that would also offer the community as a whole the potential for much more. A strategy and plan emerged, and Jack and Maggie Brown led the charge, getting the support of federal, state, county, and local government. Jack Brown’s role on the Depoe Bay City Council was a huge help in getting access to the right people and resources. Dr. Brown describes the NFK vision and evolution in the following way:

NFK began with a dream to give local kids a safe place to go after school and be with adults that deeply care for them. This devotion to kids by adults outside their blood family fulfills one of the key assets identified by the Search Foundation as critical to any child’s development. NFK has grown primarily due to the leadership of several professional directors and the tireless volunteering of local adults that give over 4,000 hours of volunteering each year. This success story motivated Oregon’s congressional delegation, many of the premier grant foundations, state, county, and local governments and private citizens to provide funding in support of NFK’s new building. This new facility combined with our tremendous professional staff and cadre of dedicated volunteers stand proud to serve the children of mid-Lincoln County.

The new facility became a symbol of community vision for the future of NFK. All the memories and successes, especially the stories of kids who benefited, transferred to the new building and served as a foundation upon which the future organization was built. The old building was taken down soon after the new facility opened its doors, but its role in bringing an after-school program to Depoe Bay will not be forgotten. It will always represent the blood, sweat, and tears of many volunteers and donors, including a significant historical event in the community of Depoe Bay and surrounding areas.

Steve Scopelleti

NFK’s former Vice-Chair, Steve Scopelleti, was the real hero behind getting the new building completed, and his story of giving back to the community follows.  Steve became involved with Neighbors for Kids in the spring of 2008. As it turned out, his background in construction and project management was perfectly suited for NFK’s next big challenge. Steve had experience with a similar project some years previously in St. Louis, Missouri. The welcomed award of significant federal funding through Housing & Urban Development (HUD) meant that NFK now needed to complete the construction of a new 7,000 square foot building for the expanded needs of Kids Zone and to build a foundation for the future of NFK’s larger vision to serve the broader community’s educational needs. Steve believed strongly that this would become his best work, and motivation came directly from his heart and a belief that anything is possible with the right timing, chemistry, and team to pull it off.

The Dream Becomes a Reality

Steve Scopelleti, along with the NFK Building Committee that included Jack Brown as chair, Maggie Brown, Toby Winn, Dee Dee Howard, and Bruce Silver, set about to launch this daunting construction project. The NFK Building Committee knew immediately that finding the right architect to assist with the design of a special building with unique requirements was critical. Steve was appointed Vice-Chair of NFK and project manager for the new building. This new official role gave him the responsibility and authority to move efficiently and quickly to get the project underway.  Scott/Edwards of Portland was selected and immediately agreed to provide the design at a 50% discount! Scott/Edwards was also chosen, because they had extensive experience designing buildings for schools with stringent code requirements and special needs to allow for long term occupancy and safety features for children.

The project was broken down into three phases; Phase 1: building the shell; Phase 2: completing the first floor; Phase 3: completing the second floor and parking lot. The plan was to get the building completed for Kids Zone first, move-in, strengthen and expand the after school program, then begin planning for the building’s optimum use in the future, which would require additional funding dictated by the programs that might be offered, such as information technology and science programs. The building was also designed to include a half-court basketball gym and hoops to support basketball and other sports programs as well as providing a large area for group activities, conferences and fund raising events.

The New Facility Opens

The NFK Board and the community as a whole were very proud when the new building was opened to the public in April 2010 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Some 200 community members and leaders came to the grand opening and many spoke of a dream fulfilled, even a miracle for this small town on the central coast of Oregon.  Ordinary people with a passion for helping our kids grow into responsible and caring adults made it happen. Steve Scopelleti believed this was his best work and one on which he could be most proud to have had the opportunity to contribute and make a difference in the community. Doing something good for others and from the heart has no boundaries for personal satisfaction and reward.

Finding the NFK Program Director

Most educators would agree that finding a teacher with empathy, one who has lived through a challenging childhood, and one who has leadership qualities, is a blessing to have on your team.  Toby Winn was, and continues to be, our “blessing” as Program Director of Neighbors for Kids.

Toby Winn, an educator from the San Diego area, moved to the Oregon coast 18 years ago while still in high school, when his mother decided it was time for a change. Toby was still living with his mother at the time and felt the change would be good for him too, and he wanted to be supportive.  He grew up as a disadvantaged youth who struggled through a life of poverty in a neighborhood challenged with substance abuse and gang activity. Toby was resilient and found the hope and support he needed in a local Boys and Girls Club program and from the coaches of his soccer teams.  These formative years helped Toby decide that what he wanted in life was to use his past experiences to become a career youth educator.

After graduating from the University of Oregon with honors, Toby dedicated his life to serving at-risk youth and families in the very programs which had helped to save him and inspire him to succeed. While living in Eugene, Oregon, working for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Emerald Valley, Toby grew into an effective leader, touching the lives of hundreds of children in Lane County. Then, while browsing through the local paper one day, Toby noticed an employment ad seeking a program director for a small after-school program on the central Oregon coast. Toby felt that this job, Neighbors for Kids, “Kids Zone” in Depoe Bay had his name written all over it, so he applied.  And Toby got the job!  As with Loretta, Jack, Maggie and Steve, this career move would change Toby’s life forever as well.

Toby immediately became a transformative leader for NFK.  His leadership and skills in mentoring kids were evident from the start. His energy and enthusiasm was quickly recognized by the NFK Board and the community.  NFK at that time didn’t have a whole lot of money, but they were able to carve out a budget to make it work for Toby and a small but dedicated part-time staff that included Ernestina Brady, Amberdawn Howe, Travis Harris and Vivian Arends.   But money is never the prime motivator for anyone with a passion for the work they do.

Toby loved his work and adopted the Oregon coast as home for the long term.  He and the staff introduced new ideas and improved existing programs.  He went to work creating relationships in the community to help build support for Kids Zone. The result was that more kids and parents wanted to be a part of Kids Zone. And more volunteers came forward offering their time and skills. As a result of Toby Winn’s leadership, the talents of Kids Zone’s outstanding staff and the support provided by a visionary NFK Board of Directors, NFK became a well-recognized after-school program in the region.

Strong Community Partnerships

It is our belief that strong community public and private partnerships like Neighbors for Kids are the way of the future. We cannot possibly meet all the challenging community needs relying solely on federal and state government.  NFK‘s goal is to join hands with other community members and leaders, including private and public entities, to achieve the long-term goal of building a stronger society by focusing on our most valuable resource, our children.  

Communities must take a more proactive role in improving the educational opportunities and personal growth of its next generation of adults.   Our future depends on what we do to make a difference for our kids in our respective communities.  We know that public schools can’t do it all, especially with ever-increasing financial challenges.

There is a critical three-hour time slot after school for most children. Research and experience suggests this three-hour period can be the most dangerous and unproductive time of the day for children who cannot participate in after school sports or other structured programs. After-school programs can be tailored to local needs and have proven to be a complementary adjunct to the public school learning experience.

We know our kids do better all the way around when after-school programs are offered.   And with additional community support and funding, the building and facilities for after-school activities can be used more effectively by offering educational and recreational programs for all ages for the entire day, including evenings and weekends.

The miracle of this story is all about ordinary people coming together to create a better environment for kids.  All it took was the courage, passion, and perseverance of one citizen like Loretta Hoagland, who took ownership of a potentially serious problem in this small town of Depoe Bay where kids bus 12 miles to public school.  If it can happen in Depoe Bay, it can happen anywhere in the country.

Plight of Homeless Military Children…A Testimonial by Jenny Green, Depoe Bay, Oregon

Jenny Green, Age 9

Photo by Captain Hopes Kids…

My Experience as a Former Military Child Who Became Homeless… by Jenny Green

Close to a year ago, little did I know that I would befriend someone who shares somewhat similar experiences from childhood as me.  Although these experiences are generations apart, they are rooted from the same source…both our fathers experienced PTSD from war.  My friend Steve’s father suffered PTSD from WWII and Korean War, while my father suffers PTSD from Vietnam. I am glad I am friends with Steve; he helped me to realize that I am not the only one out there with effects from a family members fight with this dilemma. Now I know that I am not my own little island in the sea of humanity, there are many of us islands.I was fortunate enough as a child to live in Italy and Germany as a military brat. Dad was active duty and a Vietnam vet with USMC and later enlisted with the U.S. Army. What I didn’t realize then, was that he had PTSD. When he would yell, scream, and smack me around I thought it was normal, in fact, to me it was a simple fact of life. What I also didn’t realize, was how my Dad’s PTSD affected my Mom as well. She would go to work early, come home late, and work many weekends for the Stars and Strips Newspaper; staying away from Dad as much as possible. I did not know my mother, and she did not know me, and the only thing I knew of my Dad was the abuse and anger he had towards me.That was my life ’till I was almost 10 years old, then the apple cart was turned upside down, we moved back from overseas.  Dad divorced Mom about a year and a half after we returned leaving us in southern Indiana, and Dad left for good to Michigan. Once Mom realized he was never coming back, the monster she had harbored came out with a vengeance, secondary PTSD.When Dad left, I was lucky enough to be at my Grandmother’s house, as she took us in for six months. Mom slept 14 to 18 hours a day, only getting up to go to use the bathroom, and then back to bed to either sleep or lie there and cry. Finally my Grandmother had enough of us being in her house and forced my Mom and I out, leaving us at a public housing office. After a few nights in a shelter, we were placed in a small public housing apartment called, “White Court” in New Albany, In.I thought this move was going to help give my Mom momentum with having a fresh start; indeed this was not the case, her PTSD got worse. I had to wear the same pair of socks for 8 months; they smelled like ammonia, were caked with filth and were literally plastered to my feet. When I had shoes, I walked out of them at the toes and wear them for months in that condition. My jeans and t-shirt were stained with wearing them for weeks straight day and night, as I did not have night pajamas. There was no washer and dryer, no laundry mat in walking distance, and she would not buy soap or a bucket to wash clothes.                            There was never any food in the house, and if there was something in the fridge it was usually what someone was tossing out because it was spoiling. I was at least lucky to have free lunch from my elementary school, so I knew I could have a meal once a day during the school year. I relied on that food, as it was literally all I had in my life. I hated summers because I would miss out on the lunches from school and would scrap together meager meals of stale hamburger buns and souring bologna, bologna so soured that there was a white pasty film on it that I would scrap off.It was during one of these summers when I was 12 about to be 13 and had to attend summer school, that Mom closed the door to me. It was my last day of elementary school, when I got home all the doors and windows were locked and Mom was not answering. I sat on the porch till 10pm wondering what had happened, asking neighbors if they had seen anyone at the apartment, nothing. I went to a 5th grade friend’s house, but her family did not want anything to do with stained clothed, ammonia smelling kid; they told me to leave and not return. Under the glow of the dim street light I slept on the porch that night.  The next morning I walked downtown to the amphitheater next to the Ohio River. I would sleep in and around this amphitheater for the next three months. Summer school did not serve lunch, so at night for food I would dig in the dumpsters of the local restaurants after they had closed. I remember eating half eaten fried chicken legs, macaroni salad with my fingers, licking pie filling off of paper plates, and using old napkins with lipstick stains smeared on them.  I remember being afraid to sleep outside at night; so I would walk around town, watch the trains, or sit and listen to the coal barges and tugs going up and down the Ohio River till dawn. I was also afraid of the local law enforcement, as I was scared of getting in trouble for being homeless and filthy. I did not know at the time that they would actually have helped me. I kept going home every other day and knocking on the door and no one ever answered, even though I could see the mail was picked up and curtains were moved.The day 7th grade started, again I went back home and knocked on the door. To my surprise my mom answered the door. Dark circles under her eyes, dirty clothes, and matted hair is how she greeted me. I asked where she had been, and all she could say was that she had been busy. I told her 7th grade started today and I need her to go register me for school at the junior high, she agreed and we walked to school. I walk in the office with the same jeans, t-shirt, socks, and shoes I had been wearing for four months since the end of April, as people are staring at us I get registered for school and receive my class schedule. Second period was pre-algebra, and I hated math but I did not know that my life was about to change. I met my best friend Tracy, she didn’t care what I looked like or smelled like. In fact, later in the school year her Mom and Dad invited me over to their house as often as I wanted. They fed me, washed my clothes, and let me shower. By 8th grade I was living in their house. Mom still had custody of me but she allowed for my move. I was in their household ’till just after high school graduation with a 3.75 GPA, college bound, clean clothes and good food.  Someone had finally given me a chance to survive, and I thrived… 

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Jenny’s testimonial was first published in January 2014. Thank you Jenny for all you do for our community! We are kindred spirits!

Your friend always,

Steve Sparks

Veterans Day 2019…Honoring and Remembering American Heroes and the Families Who Served Too…

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Steve Sparks with Jim Downing, left and Robert Benafal, right. Both served with my father on the USS West Virginia (BB48) in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Oregon Veterans Memorials Directory…  Click on highlighted text for more…

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This is a red granite memorial tablet mounted behind on a gray granite slab with an electric flame on a pedestal in front of the Lincoln County Courthouse.

Flame of Freedom…Newport, Oregon  Click highlighted text for more…

Several  years ago while walking around our City Park in Depoe Bay, Oregon, I stopped to look closely at our town’s VFW Veterans Memorial.  When I looked closer, the name Ronald Allen Slane, Sp5, US Army 1967-68 was engraved on the plaque as an example to honor veterans of all wars.  Ron was a medic who died during an ambush in Vietnam while trying to save another soldier…he didn’t even have a weapon to defend himself.  “Ron Slane, Lincoln City, Oregon, volunteered to go to war as an army medic.  He was a conscientious objector, but believed he had a duty to serve in some way.”

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Depoe Bay, Oregon VFW Memorial…Click photo for a larger view…

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For me, and millions of kids born before and after WWII, Veterans Day, is very personal.  Now, in retirement, I devote much of my spare time honoring veterans of all wars, and military families who serve too…  I also honor my fellow veterans who served during the Vietnam War, and all the wars since then.  We can never thank our veterans and their families enough for serving America while protecting the freedoms we enjoy each and every day of our lives.  This is a debt that can never be paid back…

So, on this Veterans Day, go visit at least one veterans memorial close to home, and give thanks to all those who have served, who serve now, and will serve in the future, including 1st responders who keep us safe on the home front.  Thank the families and loved ones who serve too, and who become the care givers to our heroes who return home with moral and physical injuries that often require a lifetime of healing. 

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1 & 2…click here.

Missing!!! Please help us bring Katy Roe home to Depoe Bay, Oregon!!!

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Please click this image for contact information and a larger view.

It looked like the entire community of Depoe Bay, Oregon came to City Hall last night for a candlelight vigil for our dear friend and town daughter, Katy Roe.  Katy disappeared last Sunday and has not been seen or heard from since.  Katy spent most of her childhood and young adult years growing up in Depoe Bay.  She and her twin sister Louie Roe have been exemplary citizens of our community and model young adults who have always given back to our town and are loved dearly by all of us.  Please, please, help us bring Katy home!!!  You can do this by sharing this blog post on your own social media networks and talking about Katy to family, friends, and colleagues.  Thank you dear friends and family for giving a little of your time to help the community of Depoe Bay and Lincoln County, Oregon find Katy…  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

With love for Katy Roe and her family,

Steve and Judy Sparks, Depoe Bay, Oregon

“Fleet of Flowers” on Memorial Day in Depoe Bay, Oregon!

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“Fleet of Flowers” Depoe Bay, Oregon, Memorial Day 2014…click for larger view…

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Fleet of Flowers Boat Parade

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Honoring the Armed Forces of America on Memorial Day in Depoe Bay, Oregon

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USS Coast Guard Helicopter

 

Memorial Day Fleet of Flowers…Depoe Bay, Oregon  Quote from this website…

“On Memorial Day, each year since 1945, Depoe Bay has hosted the FLEET OF FLOWERS. This colorful ceremony is recognized as one of the most impressive observances held in the United States. The event was initiated to honor the memories of two fishermen, Roy Bower and John Chambers, who died at sea in an attempt to aid another fisherman.  The Fleet of Flowers is to honor those who have been lost at sea.  The event has grown over the years to include members of the Armed Forces as well as fishermen and firefighters who gave their lives to serve others.”

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Although we are not home for the “Fleet of Flowers” every year on Memorial Day, we are there in spirit.  Since moving to the Oregon Coast over 10 years ago, we have come to know the honor bestowed on the legacy of coastal fishermen.  Lives have been lost and saved at sea over many decades either because of the extreme weather conditions at times or in a rescue effort by the US Coast Guard stationed in Depoe Bay and other ports along the Oregon Coast.  Memorial Day is the time for honor and remembrance of those who gave their lives while building Oregon’s fishing industry.  It is also the time to honor the US Coast Guard’s historic role in providing homeland security and protecting the coastal waters of Oregon.  Depoe Bay has a strong presence of the US Coast Guard who serve our community along with the firefighters, emergency medical services, and local police 1st responders.  With great pride, we honor the Armed Forces of America on Memorial Day as well.

The long tradition of the Fleet of Flowers on Memorial Day brings much joy and healing to the community.  We celebrate and honor those who have risked their lives while serving America and all the families who served too…

Steve Sparks, Author, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story…

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Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon, Mental Health Advisory Committee

 

 

 

The story of Katy and Louie Roe, twins, who just graduated from Taft High School is inspiring to young people and adults everywhere!

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http://www.thenewsguard.com/news/article_3e9ddef0-b00c-11e1-a8b3-0019bb2963f4.html

I have had the honor and pleasure of knowing Katy and Louie for almost 3 years as a board member of www.neighborsforkids.org.  They are both honor students graduating from Taft High School in Lincoln City, Oregon.  The twins have been a part of  the www.neighborsforkids.org family for 11 years since the very beginning as a Depoe Bay, Oregon after-school program.  They are the granddaughters of Walt and Patty Summerton of Depoe Bay.  Walt is a former US Marine Vietnam veteran and business owner.  Walt and Patty are not alone as grand parents who raise their grandchildren.  Katy and Louise know quite a lot about “owning your future.”

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story