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Miss Oregon returns to LifeChange Center

Pelett meets women, children growing in life transition program


by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Miss Oregon Emma Pelett hangs out with Omar, the son of a resident, during a tour of the new LifeChange Center for Women and Their Children in Beaverton on Friday.The Union Gospel Mission’s LifeChange Center for Women and Their Children has — in more ways than one — come a long way since Emma Pelett volunteered there in 2006.

And of course, so has she. The idealistic Central Catholic High School student who lent her time and effort to the transitional housing and healing center is now an idealistic Portland State University student and was crowned Miss Oregon in December.

As a precursor to her taking part in the mission’s annual fundraising banquet on Saturday, Pelett visited the LifeChange Center’s new home at 3400 S.W. 103rd Ave. next to Cornerstone Church on Friday afternoon. LifeChange relocated to the quiet residential area near Raleigh Hills last December from its longtime home in downtown Portland near the Burnside Bridge.

Pelett took the opportunity to revisit some of the center’s staff she worked with while meeting some of the residents — women and children working their way out of unfortunate life circumstances including homelessness, abuse and drug and alcohol addiction.

After touring the expansive, two story building — which originally housed the Northwestern Christian Home for the Aged, founded in 1938 — Pelett said she was impressed with the facility and the strides in services and staffing at the center since she volunteered eight years ago as a high school sophomore.

“I didn’t know it existed,” she said of her initial involvement. “I attended a fundraiser, and they asked if I’d like to come and meet the women and children. I got to know everyone and could see the great work they were doing — the funding raised and how they were using it to change lives. I think that’s very cool.”

Of all the organizations to support with her time and name, Pelett could think of few worthier than LifeChange.

“Women and children — what could be more important?” she asked on Friday. “I want to support those in the community who need it the most.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Miss Oregon Emma Pelett gets a tour of the new Union Gospel Mission LifeChange Center in Beaverton on Friday from Pastor Rob Howells.

Great things

When the center opened in its new facility the week of Dec. 11, 2013, nine women moved from the bustling, sometimes chaotic environment at the foot of the Burnside Bridge to the comparatively pastoral West Hills setting. The center now houses 21 women and 13 children, on its way toward approaching a capacity of 25 women and 20 children.

Residents at the Beaverton facility work with a case manager and counselors toward healing and spiritual growth. They take classes, participate in work therapy, attend weekly counseling sessions and Bible study as well as build life skills. Staff hold them accountable for their actions while offering support and encouragement.

On average, about 92 percent of homeless women have domestic violence issues in their past, noted LifeChange Director Gloria Hall back in December. “As part of our ministry, we help them deal with the core issues that led to homelessness,” she said. “Unless we deal with those, they are likely to relapse.

“For the women who choose to move onto the next phase of their recovery, they know it’s their chance,” she added, “and it doesn’t cost them anything. We can’t make them change, it’s their choice.”

Stacy Kean, the LifeChange Center’s communications director, said after just a few months the new facility is already fulfilling its promise as a more nurturing environment to house and help more mothers and children in need.

“We were downtown, but we wanted to take in more women, and more women with kids,” she said. “We found a facility that was great, with multiple rooms, a yard with grass for kids to play. It’s got all kinds of great things.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Miss Oregon Emma Pelett chats with resident Hope and her son Brodee at the new LifeChange Center for Women and Their Children in Beaverton on Friday as Pastor Rob Howells looks on.

Mother and child reunion

No one realizes that more than Melinda Bell, whose addiction to methamphetamine cost the custody of her three children, along with nearly all she’d previously held dear — her freedom included. Sharing a flier she found on a bookshelf while in jail with her attorney, the Hermiston woman was grateful to land in the LifeWorks program on April 18, 2013.

“I was looking at 10 years in prison for selling prescription drugs,” she said in December. “Instead, I have a one-year sentence to home detention, where I am learning new life skills and able to raise my children in a healthy environment.”

A year later, she finds herself sober and enjoying time with her 16-year-old daughter Janita, her 12-year-old son Javon and 7-year-old son Omarion.

“I’m learning the value of drug-free living, a sober life,” she said on Friday. “Before coming here, I had nowhere to go. The support here is not just about drug and alcohol rehab, it’s also home.”

With the help of her rekindled spirituality, Bell has learned to quell the frustration and anger that previously made her eager to go to battle for, well, just about anything.

“Now I don’t even have a desire to fight,” she said.

Looking forward to being reunited with her 10-year-old twins soon and sharing her experiences with the nonprofit, Seattle-based Women of Wisdom program, Bell knows the LifeChange Center will live up to its name as far as she and her children are concerned.

“The only way to fail here,” she said, “is if you don’t try.”

For more information on The Union Gospel Mission’s LifeChange Center for Women and Their Children and Saturday’s fundraising event, visit umgportland.org, or call 503-274-4483.

To volunteer, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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