Napa/Sonoma Fires – A Story of Service

Napa/Sonoma Fires – A Story of Service

Mike Robak
Adult Volunteer in Chiloquin, OR
Napa First UMC Youth Director

I want to tell you a story about the selfless acts of one of our Sierra Service Project volunteer alumni, Ryan Olson.

On October 9, as bits and pieces of the fire emerged, many of us were desperate to make sure our friends and family were safe. As the severity of this tragedy became clear, our community wanted to help. We went to the church, registered online, and made calls to volunteer, but we were not needed.


As Ryan assisted an older couple with their scarce belongings, they began calling him their ‘Angel.’


It was at this point we learned that 16-year-old Ryan Olson had been helping evacuees from the very start. At St. Apolinaris, Ryan worked setting up beds, distributing food, and taking donations. When he was no longer needed, Ryan served at Napa College. Ryan organized and sorted clothes, served breakfast at 7:00 AM, and assisted where needed.

Ryan was so impressed with the compassion the volunteers and staff had for the evacuees. As Ryan assisted an older couple with their scarce belongings, they began calling him their ‘Angel.’ Ryan told me how impressed he was with a gentleman who, with no compensation, traveled from out of state with his food truck to prepare and serve meals.


He hoped his acts would make those hurting feel cared for and loved. As Ryan says, “It was just the right thing to do.”


I’ve always been curious about what compels people to acts of compassion. So, I asked Ryan what motivated him to do this service. Ryan replied that he felt so grateful that his family and loved ones were safe. He wanted to give others, even for a short time, the same kindness, comfort, love, and security. He hoped his acts would make those hurting feel cared for and loved. As Ryan says, “It was just the right thing to do.” Ryan’s involvement with 4-H and three summer trips with SSP allowed him to see the value in serving others.

If you know Ryan and the Olson family, you know kindness, service to others, and love is intrinsic in their life. Over the last five years I’ve watched Ryan grow from a bright, curious, carefree adolescent into an amazing, wonderful young man. It has been a blessing I will cherish all my life.

I am so grateful to all of you who have supported SSP through your gifts and encouragement. As Pastor Lee says, through these gifts to young people like Ryan, you are helping to change the world.


Editor’s Note: Mike Robak and Ryan Olson both attend SSP with Napa First UMC, where Mike is the youth director. Mike and Ryan served in Chiloquin, OR in 2017 and are registered to serve in Spokane, WA in 2018. Learn how to help the victims of the Napa and Sonoma fires. Register your group to serve during summer 2018!

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