Allison Saldaña anchored a set of giant plastic teeth to a table set up by the Multnomah County School Oral Health Program. Then she grabbed a giant toothbrush and started to brush with vigor, causing her oversized glasses to slip down her nose.
She looked up and grinned at her mother, who stood back with a hand on a stroller and an arm around Allison’s baby brother Aaron.
Saldaña, age 8, said she loves to brush. So before her mother hustled her along, she grabbed a human-sized toothbrush and free copy of “Una Boca Saludable para su Bebe” [A Healthy Mouth for your Baby]. After all, her brother is growing a set of teeth of his own.
Maria Saldaña, who receives supplemental food benefits through Multnomah County’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, came out for WIC’s annual Summer and Safety Fair. She joined more than 350 WIC recipients at the event, held this year at East County Health Center in Gresham.
“It went really well,” said Gayle Wilson, a nutrition assistant at the WIC clinic in Gresham and founder of the annual event, now in its seventh year. “It was something I wanted to do, mostly to connect families with resources over the summer, to find out about activities, especially free and low-cost activities.”
Among the 19 community and government groups to attend the event were Mt. Hood Community College Head Start, the SnowCap food pantry, WorkSource Oregon and Latino Network, as well as Multnomah County’s library, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, home weatherization, and other health and social service programs.
Schedeen’s Farm has come for six years, bringing fresh fruits and veggies to families who receive farmer's market vouchers during the event (more than 300 this year).
“For a lot of people who use WIC, transportation is an issue,” said Julie Schedeen, who has farmed for 40 years. She said the farm staff look forward to the fair every year as a way to connect with people who often don’t have the option of coming out to farmers markets.
“You give back to the world around you,” she said. “Everything can’t be about making money.”
Among those who to turned out this year was Guadalupe Vasquez.
She came to explore ways to keep her older girls – a pair of 9-year-old twins and a 4-year-old – busy during the summer vacation. “There are things I don’t find out about, like summer classes.” She said she especially likes the library’s summer reading program, which rewards kids who read with prizes.
Vasquez’s youngest daughter, 2-year-old Aremy, stood on her toes, clinging to the edge of the library's display table, with her head tilted back to see the spread of Spanish-language rhyme booklets and stacks of free stickers. She grabbed one sticker that read, “Build a better future” and reached out to another little girl at her side, trying to give the sticker away.
But the little girl, 2-year-old Rebekah, was busy trying to crawl under the table. Rebekah’s mother Kaysha Baer scooped her up, placed her back in a Little Mermaid stroller and pushed the girl along, down the row of tables. She stopped at the WorkSource Oregon table to look at flyers for job seekers, and Rebekah jumped out and ran to a table set up by Oregon State University's nutrition program and grabbed one of the dozens of tiny cups filled with strawberry smoothie.
Baer works a minimum wage job as a cashier. And until she can get something that pays better, she relies on WIC for fresh foods and protein for her and Rebekah.
“I started when I was pregnant with her,” she said. “It helps a lot.”