The town of Chiloquin, Oregon (population: about 700) was once a bustling lumber town. Today, its economic base is gone, dozens of houses are boarded up or empty, unemployment is the norm, and drug and alcohol abuse are major problems. Youth lack after school activities and vandalism is prevalent.
A Woman Called Sam, left, and Kathy Erion live in Chiloquin. They connect SSP with local donations, projects, and more!
Despite this, many residents are hopeful. Three years ago, SSP entered into a partnership with the local United Methodist Church, a committed group of twenty regular worshipers. Since then, one thousand volunteers have spent a week in Chiloquin repairing homes, building fences, working in state parks, and painting buildings. SSP’s presence has added momentum to a movement to create a new, positive future for Chiloquin.
Despite this, many residents are hopeful.
This summer, SSP volunteers have painted the Hirvi Building in the heart of Chiloquin’s nearly-empty business district. This prominent building, which once housed the town’s bank, has stood empty for decades.
The Hirvi building used to house the town’s bank. When SSP arrived, it was very run-down.
This is the first building you seen when entering Chiloquin. Repainting it is monumental for the pride of the town.
SSP volunteers have spent 6 weeks working hard repainting the Hirvi building!
The transformation has is incredible!
Throughout the summer, countless residents stopped by the Hirvi Building to thank our volunteers for their work. The project has triggered a ripple effect of downtown beautification efforts: two nearby businesses were inspired to paint their facades, and the local volunteer fire department finished repairing the front of their offices. The local paper, Herald & News, highlighted SSP’s work inthis front page articlelast week.
We have faith that the transformation that has begun will continue!
Sierra Service Project is excited to continue our work in Chiloquin in the summer of 2016, and for many years to come. We have faith that the transformation that has begun will continue!
The First United Methodist Church of Loomis just made its 10th annual $1,000 contribution to the Sierra Service Project (SSP)! Pat Aiello, a long-time member of the church and SSP participant, explains that “Loomis chooses to support SSP from our missions budget because of the impact this organization has had on our youth, our adults and the entire life of this congregation.”
This relationship dates back to the very beginning of Sierra Service Project, which was incorporated in 1979 by a small group of United Methodist clergy and laypersons. One of those laypersons was Les Olsen, a life-long member of the church. “The Olsens are now in their third generation of participation with Sierra Service Project,” said Aiello. The latest and youngest participant is Parker Olsen, a 9th grader, who just returned from a week of service in Chiloquin, Oregon.
Parker, center, does the SSP cheer with his work team in Chiloquin, OR.
“Loomis First UMC has played an amazing role in the history of SSP, going all the way back to the days of our founding,” says Rick Eaton, SSP’s Executive Director. “Loomis has sent volunteer teams continuously for four decades and has provided us with incredibly generous financial support. In addition, many of your key young adult leaders have come out of the Loomis congregation.”
“Loomis First UMC has played an amazing role in the history of SSP, going all the way back to the days of our founding”
The Sierra Service Project is an independent, Christian youth service ministry with a long association with the United Methodist Church. This year, over 490 youth and adult leaders from 38 California-Nevada churches will participant in one of SSP’s home repair and community improvement programs.
Editor’s Note: Learn how you can donate to and participate in Sierra Service Project’s programs!
My name is Scott Wilmoth, and I am one of the youth directors at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Tustin, California. This is my third SSP experience as an adult counselor, and this year our group served in Walker River, Nevada during week two. I enjoy the SSP experience because it is about serving, it is about being a part of something that is bigger than the individual, and it is about being the hands of Christ to our brothers and sisters.
SSP empowers both youth and adults to come out of their comfort zone (…)
SSP empowers both youth and adults to come out of their comfort zone to do things they may not normally do like use power tools to help build a shed. This sense of empowerment helps their confidence to grow, and as their confidence grows their trust in others grows, too. SSP builds on this trust in the work team, and the trust in the community that is built, to help each person grow in the spiritual walk with Christ. The experience is real, and as a youth director that is what we want for our youth. We want them to have a real service experience that helps them grow in their faith. As a parent I also want that for my own children.
Scott, right, with his oldest son Gavin in Tsaile, Arizona in 2013.
During each of my three SSP counselor experiences I have had the honor of sharing those experiences with my oldest son (he has been to SSP four times and is a member of our youth group). Each time we have gone to SSP together I watch him smile, dance, learn about different cultures, use power tools, play his mandolin, sing, grow in his faith, and be a part of a community of Christ that is unique and special. Listening to him speak during the closing candlelight circle fills my heart with love and pride. We get to share stories of how we have served together. Our first year of SSP together both of our groups worked on some houses in the same location, and on Friday of that week the owners of the houses had our groups celebrate the work by serving us a goat stew lunch. It was a life-changing experience that we were able to share together as father and son. We will never forget it.
It was a life-changing experience that we were able to share together as father and son.
For the first time our church sent a group of middle school youth to SSP, so my youngest son was able to attend week two in Stockton. He had a wonderful time serving on a farm where his group pulled weeds, picked tomatoes, and fed chickens. He grew closer to members of his youth group (and the adult leaders), and he met some new friends, as well. We were also able to share stories of service, and his faith continued to grow from this experience. I am excited about sharing the SSP experience with him soon.
Scott plays the role of a ladder buddy in Walker River, 2015.
As a parent, sharing these kinds of experiences is priceless. SSP empowers these young people and gives them confidence to do things they may not do at home. SSP shows them the value of servant leadership that in giving you shall receive. SSP shows them the value of working together as a community both on the smaller work team and in the larger group during worship and programming. SSP gives them the opportunity to grow in their faith, and those are all traits that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Thanks be to God! Amen!
Editor’s Note: Scott’s sons also wrote about their experiences this summer. Read about Garrett‘s and Gavin‘s experiences.
My name is Garrett Wilmoth and I am 12 years old. I attend Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Tustin, California, and I am a member of the youth group at church. This was the first year that our church sent a middle school group to SSP, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.
(…) I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.
We sent 10 middle school youth from our church to Stockton, California during week 2 of SSP. My team worked on Boggs Tract Community Farm where we picked tomatoes and peppers, we dug up a lot of weeds, prepared areas for planting, and we got to feed the chickens. I learned how to use a pick axe to help dig up all of those weeds. I also liked how each person on the work team had a special job to do. I was the hydration specialist so I made sure I got the water, and I made sure that everyone took their water breaks on time.
Garrett, front, with his work team at Boggs Tract Community Farm.
This was my first time going to SSP. My dad and my brother have gone before, and I know they always have a good time. I was a little nervous about going at first, but I made many new friends so that made it easier.
I was a little nervous about going at first, but I made many new friends so that made it easier.
I really enjoyed working with my friends because I love to serve others. We were able to serve others in the Stockton community, and be the hands of Christ to all of those people and to each other. Thank you to the staff for their work and making the week fun, and I would really like to go to SSP again next year.
We were able to serve others in the Stockton community, and be the hands of Christ to all of those people and to each other.
Editor’s Note: SSP is excited to be returning to Stockton in 2016. Garrett’s brother and father also wrote about their experiences this summer. Read about Gavin‘s and Scott‘s experiences.