Melting Moment Cookies come out of the oven of a test kitchen, where three young chefs taste and grade them on a "de delicious" scale, while 4-year-old Chauncey scoots his truck under their feet. In the dining room, a parrot in a cage watches over half a dozen kids busy with art and writing projects.
This is the home of Julia and Matthew Carter, as well as the office of Northwest Seasons, a local quarterly newspaper for, by and about kids.
In 2002, the Carters moved to Astoria from St. Louis, where they had worked with inner-city youth for 15 years. As a couple, they had decided long ago that it wasn't enough to say, "Somebody should do something to help others," according to Matthew Carter; they needed to dive in and do something themselves. In Oregon, they decided to help North Coast children who were most in need of a boost.
"We asked ourselves how we could serve the needs of Astoria area, which is so different from St. Louis," said Julia Carter. "We wanted to know the best way to help build bridges with disadvantaged kids."
Thus began Northwest Seasons, a forum in which children with special needs and talents could shine. Now starting its second year, the newspaper is "making a difference in kids' lives," says Julia Carter.
Submitted photo by Julia Carter
Young chefs gave this Melting Moments cookie recipe a "Triple De Licious" rating in the fall issue of Northwest Seasons. From left, Diego McArthur, a.k.a. Al E. Gator, brother Micah and sister Allison. Written and illustrated by youth from 4 to 20, Northwest Seasons is filled with stories, artwork and word games. The newspaper is distributed free to nine libraries and other area locations.
And it isn't just kids' stuff. Young readers are urged to care about the local community, including the environment and people with special needs.
For the winter issue, 10-year-old Nick F. Time (all the contributors have pen names) interviewed the casting director for "The Ring 2" movie. The young reporter, who deals with autism, glows with pride. "I want to be a movie director," he says.
In the same issue, The Maestro, age 10, reports on the Chinook people helping one another at the Chinook Indian Food Bank. Eight-year-old Al E. Gator has been drawing since he was a toddler, and now he draws cartoons for the newspaper. Horseshoe Lil, 9, makes her debut with cartoons of horses, snowmen and people with wheelchairs. And I.B. Loving, 7, writes with her father about her fun trip to Lake Oswego with others in her Down's Syndrome Network.
Ima Bouncer, 20, and The Bear, 18, co-wrote an article about finding acceptance at a camp for people with disabilities. Says the 20-year-old, "I write about kids with special needs, people's rights and belonging."
Says Matthew Carter, "The kids are wonderful. They have gifts that are sometimes overlooked because of their disabilities, either physical or psychological."
Not only those who are singled out as "differently abled" are the unusual ones. According to The Bear, "Everybody in the world is different."
Northwest Seasons is distributed free around the area, but paid subscriptions and tax-deductible contributions are welcome. For more information, contact Julia Carter, president of Arise and Shine Ministries, 1457 Exchange St., Astoria, OR 97103 or call 325-2226.