'SAFE TOUCH' BENEFITS YOUNG PARENT PROGRAM

March 05, 2002 11:00 pm
FOR YOUNG PARENTS: Philip Hickey gives free massages once a month to young parents, and he has taught them to do simple massages, such as hand or foot massages. Being massaged is Randi Gorte of La Grande. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
FOR YOUNG PARENTS: Philip Hickey gives free massages once a month to young parents, and he has taught them to do simple massages, such as hand or foot massages. Being massaged is Randi Gorte of La Grande. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

He has a compassionate touch, some say.

That compassionate touch of masseur Philip Hickey is bringing a few much-needed dollars to Shelter From the Storms Young Parent Program.

Hickey, who lives in Cove, began giving massages in January to benefit the organization that helps victims of domestic violence, as well as young parents.

On the Third Thursday of each month, he sets up a massage chair about 10 a.m. at Joe and Sugars on Washington Avenue, where customers can get a massage and a latt. Hickey does not charge a specific fee for his latt massages, but asks that clients donate money.

We raised about $60 in January and $80 in February, said Cherrie Ward, a counselor with the Young Parent Program.

Hickey, who graduated from La Grande High School in 1972, gives free massages once a month to the young parents, and he has taught them to do simple massages, such as hand or foot

massages.

Part of what were trying to do is let them know there is safe touch in the world, he said. Thats my mission.

Hickey left Union County for Seattle, but he recently retired and returned to the county. He said he is certified to do massages for pregnant women.

I hope to hook up some people and do pregnancy massage, he said. Im having a hard time being retired. Im not good at it.

Hickeys volunteer efforts couldnt come at a better time for the Shelter Young Parent Program, which has lost some funding. One full-time employee, director Beth Bingham, has been reduced to half time, and Ward remains a half-time worker.

We have no outreach now, Ward said. Were scrambling to serve the ones we have, and we cant go out and find new ones.

The program, with 28 participants, accepts new parents, Ward said, and last year it served 72.

A large percentage of these parents have been abused, Ward said. We treat them with respect as adults and do our best to assist them in getting on their feet and remaining or becoming effective and safe parents.

A $10,000 grant from the PGE-Enron Foundation, down from last years $21,000, helped the young parent program continue its services, said Shelter Director Sarah Schlichting.

Theres a lot of money out there for pregnancy prevention, but not much for services, she said. Its difficult to maintain a program of that size.

Hickey hopes to continue to do his part, setting up massage chairs in other businesses that are interested.

About Joe and Sugars, Hickey said, Its been awesome for them to give us the space.

Alice Perry Linker