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Sparrow Club gives kids chance to donate

Many Jackson County schoolchildren get a taste of charitable giving and actions through the Southern Oregon Sparrow Club.

Children with serious medical needs are taken in as "sparrows" at area schools, where monetary pledges by area businesses are paid off by students performing community service hours. Students, however, also learn about "social responsibility" and that leads to other charitable activities, says Matt Sampson, regional director of the program for the past two years.

"It's extremely invaluable because it gives kids such a simple entry into the world of giving," Sampson says. "It gives them an opportunity to experience the intrinsic rewards of doing good work."

Sparrow Club chapters in four Southern Oregon counties have adopted 125 sparrows since 2002, raising about $600,000, Sampson says. He says he hopes about 40 more sparrows will be adopted this school year.

"That's my goal. It might be more in the high-20 range, but we'll try."

Sampson says he has no shortage of schools willing to participate, and those enrolled in the program often go the extra mile.

"Every year schools do more than they are supposed to do," he says. "I can count on three fingers the times schools have done fewer hours than they were asked to do. And we're seeing more schools coming on board all the time."

Exposing schoolchildren to their own power to make change is one of the joys of Sampson's job, he says.

"There is a reward to giving, and that's what kids are starting to see," he says.

Physicians, social workers, teachers and others in the community typically refer children with serious medical needs to the Sparrow Club, Sampson says. Once a family applies, a doctor attests that the child has a life-threatening illness or a chronic, debilitating condition. But the club is always looking for more sparrows to sponsor, he says.

Although a school typically dedicates a single year to each sparrow, the tax-exempt bank account stays open for sparrows' entire lives. To donate, or for more information, visit www.sparrowclubs.org, call 541-621-1126 or e-mail matt@sparrowclubs.org.