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Concentration camp survivor to speak on foster care

Photo courtesy of Mary T. Previte.

Photo courtesy of Mary T. Previte.

BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON-- Mary T. Previte, a former assemblywoman in the New Jersey General Assembly, will speak on her childhood at the first fundraiser for local foster care nonprofit, Skookum Kids, on Nov. 10. The event will be held at the Majestic Ballroom from 7-8:30 p.m. and is free to the public.

Previte spent almost three years imprisoned by the Japanese in Weihsien Concentration Camp in Weihsien, China. She later became the administrator of the Camden County Youth Center. In 1997, Previte was elected to the New Jersey General Assembly where she advocated for disadvantaged and troubled youth. Her story has been told by the BBC, The New York Times and National Public Radio.

“Children who have lived in the chaos of abuse, neglect and a constantly topsy-turvy world need alternative families who wrap them in a comfortably predictable life, families they can trust,” Previte said when asked why she wanted to fly out for the event.

Skookum Kids began in Bellingham in 2015. Skookum runs a volunteer-staffed home for children just entering foster care, finds foster homes for those children and licenses foster parents. Skookum currently serves Whatcom and Skagit counties with a goal to expand across Washington state.

Previte is set to speak on her time in Weihsien, specifically on how her teachers provided a sense of safety in the midst of their severe situation.

“Despite enduring unimaginable suffering, the resilience of her spirit and the simple kindness of a few adults, preserved Mary’s childhood and propelled her into a life of significant accomplishment,” Ray Deck, director, said. “We hope for nothing less in the life of every child we encounter at Skookum House.”

The event will feature a drink and dessert buffet and a presentation by Deck. An audience Q&A with presenters will follow the presentations. Free childcare is available for the event. Those interested in attending should visit Skookum’s website at

Skookum Kids was founded in 2015 by Ray Deck III in Bellingham, Washington. This non-profit organization is dedicated to repairing the foster care system by equipping those already affected by the system and educating those who are not. It is staffed by seven full-time and four part-time employees and over 100 volunteers. For more information, visit their website at

Laura Ann PoehnerComment