In 2005, I found myself at a crossroads of sorts. I was on a break from school and decided that I wanted to be a camp counselor. After a church merger, my mom told me that our new Associate Pastor was the dean of our Jr. High Camp in our church’s district. That experience changed the trajectory of my life forever and I embarked on a journey of counseling youth that made me who I am today.
Since then, I have counseled youth in various forms, but one of the most formidable ways I have helped youth (and grown in my own spiritual journey!) has been through Sierra Service Project. I began chaperoning my youth group on SSP trips in 2009 and it has changed me as much as it has changed my youth (if not more). Through SSP, I have truly learned the spirit of serving others and have seen how it can change the lives of both those that SSP serves with and the youth that spend a week of their summer working hard for the sake of helping those in need. I have seen how the work that SSP does empowers youth to want to make the world better, and have seen some choose majors in college that reflect what they’ve learned at SSP. I believe this is a large part of what makes and will continue to make the world a better place for all.
SSP most embodies Micah 6:8, “The Lord has showed you what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” and teaches youth and adults who walk through their sites each summer how God calls us to serve those in need. I believe in that mission as well, which is why I am called to be a 12xSSP monthly donor. I encourage those who read this to do the same.
Daisy Winner worked on SSP summer staff in Susanville, CA and Stockton/Coarsegold, CA. She is currently working for Seed Global Health in Boston, MA and is one of our newest 12xSSP donors. Here are 12 reasons she loves SSP:
It inspired me to pursue a career dedicated to service
It taught me flexibility and creativity in challenging situations
Gave me life long friends
It gave the skills to work well with others from a variety of backgrounds
It taught me how a little help can go a long way in making a difference in someone’s life
It taught me to love and accept others
I can build a deck and reroof a house now
It showed me that everyone has a skill and knowledge to share
It brought me to new places whose beauty I will never forget
It taught me humility and grace
It showed me that everyone deserves love
It taught me that service is something anyone can be a part of!
My first summer on staff I was a part of a three-person construction team in South Los Angeles led by Brandon Leppla. This was Brandon’s third year of being on staff… and my third week. I would have been happy running simple projects all summer, afraid of messing up something as complicated as a wheelchair ramp.
We knew that she really needed a ramp.
Brandon and I visited a woman who had requested a wheelchair ramp. She was unable to leave her home, except the one time each week that her nephew would take her to church. We knew that she really needed a ramp. As we looked around her cramped courtyard we also knew that it was going to be a real challenge to build. This ramp was going to have complicated turns and platforms that needed to be drilled into the concrete. We decided to call it “the beast ramp.” Knowing that Brandon had the most experience, I thought it was safe to assume that he would be taming the beast ramp while I got my toes wet managing paint projects.
But Brandon wasn’t about to let me take the easy way out. He put me in charge of the beast ramp. I had to take all that I had learned during training and put it into practice. I had to not only plan the ramp layout, but I also had to teach teenagers how to build it!
It was an amazing moment that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
After six weeks of sweat and tears (thankfully there was no blood), I remember watching Ms. Garnett roll down the beast ramp for the first time. The joy of watching her was mixed with a terrible fear that the whole thing was going to crumble at any second. I breathed a sigh of relief when she made it safely down the ramp and out of her house on her own. It was an amazing moment that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Volunteers worked for six weeks to complete the “beast ramp.”
Ms. Garnett at the top of her brand new wheelchair ramp.
Ms. Garnett was finally able to come and go in her house without assistance.
When Brandon put me in charge of the beast ramp, he gave me the opportunity to step up. When Ms. Garnett rolled down the beast ramp and out of her house, I had proven to myself that I was capable of more than I thought.
Flash forward four years. At the ripe old age of 23 I found myself in a position I wouldn’t have predicted. I was running a non-profit. I was responsible for organizing over 1,000 people to stand and demand change for their community. I was putting together proposals that leveraged millions of dollars each year. I was responsible for developing and managing the budget, for managing the other staff. I found myself with quite a bit of responsibility.
What kind of 23 year old does that? A 23 year old who has worked for Sierra Service Project.
I say all of these things not to toot my own horn- by any means. I say all of these things as a way of showing thanks for what others have done. I know that those skills, courage, and confidence came from opportunities that others gave me to develop them.
(…) there is no better place for me to invest the resources I’ve been given.
If SSP can continue to do this – to create change agents who have the courage to take on the challenges thrown their way – then there is no better place for me to invest the resources I’ve been given.
I’m a 12xSSP donor because SSP is the epitome of serving humbly in love. My first experience with SSP was when I was 16 years old, and my church group from Linden United Methodist Church went to Klamath. I was opened up to all sorts of new experiences. My group painted a house for a Native American family.
I’m a 12xSSP donor because SSP is the epitome of serving humbly in love.
I remember this very spiritual event where we walked along a rocky area near the river. We were asked to place paper bags at different spots. I’m sure we talked about how we seem small and don’t always understand what the big picture is. We hiked a bit, and scrambled up toward a bridge, just as the sun was setting. Down below, the SSP staff were lighting luminaries, and when we looked down below, it was in the shape of a hand that we helped make, representing God’s hand. It was incredibly beautiful, knowing that I was part of something bigger, God’s love.
It was incredibly beautiful, knowing that I was part of something bigger, God’s love.
That same night, it was warm, and we got to sleep outside under the stars, during the August meteor shower. It was the most magical light show I’ve ever seen. The following year, I went again as a camper, to Bishop. I was pushed past my own limits (roofing a home), made new friends, used an outhouse in a field of cows, and an outdoor makeshift shower.
“Painting a plaster mask of our faces from the nose up, revealing our true selves. These were fun to make!” – Cheryl Breitenbucher
Cheryl Breitenbucher reroofing a Native American home near Bishop, CA, in 1996.
Cheryl, second from left, cleaning an alley in South Los Angeles in 2014.
Cheryl, left, replacing a floor in Vernonia in 2015.
Cheryl cleaning a homeowner’s yard in Sacramento in 2016.
During the last 3 years, I’ve experienced SSP as a counselor with Weekends of Service in South Los Angeles, Vernonia, and Sacramento with our youth from Brentwood Community UMC. Watching our youth group feel empowered to help others is a powerful thing, and I hope that Sierra Service Project continues their good works. It really helped to solidify my faith, and I don’t think at the time I realized how meaningful those experiences were until I really reflected on their impact.