Why I Love SSP

Why I Love SSP

By Eleanor Weiss

Youth from Community United Methodist Church in Half Moon Bay, CA

Winner of the “I Love SSP” Instagram Contest


Every Summer when I get home from SSP I’m always asked the same question,

What is Sierra Service Project and why do I love it so much?”

Well this is my answer. Sierra Service Project is my all time favorite church service trip that allows me to meet new friends, explore my faith, be myself, bond with the amazing staff, and most importantly help others. Sierra Service Project is not just about doing the work; it’s about getting to know the people and community you’re doing the work for.

Service Project is not just about doing the work; it’s about getting to know the people and community you’re doing the work for.

We all get to know each other throughout the week and develop a bond that can’t be broken, we have to learn to trust one another and that we will have each other’s backs.

An important part of Sierra Service Project is the amazing Staff, really, they have changed my life. 2013 through 2015 proved to be a really hard time in my life due to a handful of reasons and I felt lost in the world because I was losing myself and who I wanted to be. I remember summer of 2014 I attended Sierra Service Project in Chiloquin Oregon not feeling one hundred percent myself, one night I remember breaking down and in only a few seconds a camper and Staff member ran over and tried to help me calm down, it was when the Staff member asked me “would you like to pray about it?”, did I realize not only do I have these amazing people surrounding me but I have positive loving people that push me in my faith and to be the best that I can be.

So I say this again, Sierra Service Project is not just about doing the work, it’s about creating something beautiful with people that will love and care about one another through it all. Sierra Service Project is my second home and always will be thanks to everyone I have meth there.



Editor’s Note: Eleanor won our “I Love SSP” Instagram Contest in November. She was awarded a $75 credit in SSP swag from the online store and a feature in our December edition of Inside the Margins. Follow SSP on Instagram for more opportunities like this!

My SSP Experience

My SSP Experience

By Rick Grether

Adult Counselor from San Luis Obispo United Methodist Church


Our church was introduced to SSP in 1995 by a family that had just moved to our area from Pasadena. They were surprised we didn’t have an active SSP group, so they took it upon themselves to motivate our participation. Their daughter became our youth leader and organized our first SSP trip, to Carson City that year, 1996. I agreed to go along as a van driver because one of my boys was participating and it seemed like a worthwhile project.

This was life-changing for me as well as a benefit to my children as they participated in later years.

This was life-changing for me as well as a benefit to my children as they participated in later years. I went along as a driver/helper but on arrival was assigned eight youth I’d never before met for a roofing project. What an experience for both the youth and me! I learned how awesome even purple haired youth can be and that we all have gifts, sometimes not readily apparent. This was the most growing I had done in a week ever, and my youth team agreed they felt the same. We arrived somewhat apprehensive and shy and left as one big loving family. I hug more now because of it!

My wife had always taken our children to church while I communed with God on my bicycle. SSP however, as I found out, allowed me to demonstrate spirituality through activity. I was never fond of sitting in pews listening to, often boring, sermons, but this was a way to serve others (the basis of Jesus’ teachings) through construction. After our fourth child graduated high school in 2005, I continued leading our SSP groups because I understood what a beneficial program this was for all youth, not just my own. I have always appreciated watching campers mature from the Sunday arrival to Saturday’s departure. What a difference a week makes!

I was never fond of sitting in pews listening to, often boring, sermons, but this was a way to serve others (the basis of Jesus’ teachings) through construction.

Another thing I like about SSP is that it’s non-denominational. Yes, it’s a Methodist based organization, but you don’t have to belong to any church to participate. And music is a big part! I so enjoy hearing young people play guitar and sing, and the nightly programs allow for this as well as exposing us to the histories of the Native American cultures we serve. And now that SSP participates in underserved areas of some cities, we are able to serve and better understand other Americans less fortunate than we are. Campers always come away with appreciation and empathy for communities that differ from their own.

I love SSP and will continue helping with this program as long as I am physically able.


Editor’s Note: This is just one of the stories in the new edition of the Sierra Service Project Book. Those who donate $500 or more to SSP’s Year End Fundraising Campaign will receive a copy of the book. It will be made available for sale soon.

Thanksgiving at Dignity Village

Thanksgiving at Dignity Village

By Janet Acree

Former SSP Staff


This Thanksgiving, I was blessed with the opportunity to serve. What started out as an idea thought up by Robbie Frederiksen and shared with me over the summer, became the most meaningful Thanksgiving experience I’ve ever had.

With the support of Fremont United Methodist Church, Robbie and I spent our Thanksgiving morning receiving food donations from various church members to take and serve at Dignity Village in Portland. A group of volunteers helped us transport and set up the meal.

In an area just ten minutes down the road from Fremont UMC, right in front of the city’s compost plot, a group of structures lend themselves as housing for 60 people without homes. We arrived to find a number of tables already set up and a group of very hospitable hosts.

We quickly set up the food and shared a traditional Thanksgiving meal with the people of Dignity Village. This experience truly encompassed the meaning of Thanksgiving for me, and I give thanks for all who helped to make it a success: the members of Fremont UMC who took time from cooking their own family’s meal, using precious oven space to prepare something for this dinner; the volunteers who chose to spend their day serving; and most importantly Robbie, whose commitment extended beyond Thanksgiving, taking time to plan and organize with his church and Dignity Village long before the holiday.


Editor’s Note: This was originally published in the December 2013 edition of Inside the Margins, SSP’s Monthly E-Newsletter. Sign up to receive stories like this every month!

SSP Wins National Best Practice Award at ReFrame Conference

SSP Wins National Best Practice Award at ReFrame Conference

Sacramento-based Sierra Service Project (SSP) was recognized recently with a Best Practice Award at the ReFrame Association’s 5th Annual National Conference held in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Nominated by volunteers participating in SSP home repair projects, the organization won in the Management Excellence category. This award recognizes the organization that takes exceptional care of employees—both permanent and temporary staff—including their training, supervision, continuing education, etc.

Megan Walsh, SSP’s Program Director, explained that their five-person central staff is involved in a variety of courses and meet-up groups through the local Nonprofit Resource Center. SSP pays for these courses and covers a portion of college courses for employees pursuing degrees. SSP also hires 42 summer staffers, offering online pre-summer training followed by 10 days of hand-on classroom training with a variety of outside experts and resources included. “Each summer staff person is required to take ‘Sabbath’ time which is four hours each week away from work duties,” Walsh noted, and “we also focus on job sharing and how each person can support teammates.”

This past year, SSP offered a Leadership Academy for some returning summer staff “to study best leadership practices and how these practices related to their personal faith.”

ReFrame is a growing nationwide association, which supports, educates and promotes home repair and rehab organizations. This year’s conference drew 125 people from 15 states and represented 36 different nonprofits. Community development expert and “Toxic Charity” author Robert Lupton was keynote speaker at the conference. Paul Leonard, former Habitat for Humanity CEO, closed the two-day meeting.


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