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SSP’s annual newsletter is published digitally and in hard copy every fall.

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2019 Newsletter Introduction: A Place at the Table

“The idea seemed simple enough – we all desire to belong in community with others. We need a space to be nourished, and share our unique gifts. We long for affirmation that we belong, are loved, and are accepted in our fullest self-expression. Over time, it became apparent the ‘A Place at the Table’ summer theme was far more nuanced a concept than we first imagined.”

Veronica Russell
Director of Volunteers & Outreach

Read the rest of Veronica’s introduction.

Newsletter Stories:

Tiye Kurtz-Miott

Youth Board Member from Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, Oakland, CA

“This past summer, one of our youth group leaders at Lake Merritt United Methodist Church suggested our youth group go on a service trip with Sierra Service Project. We raised the money to go from donations and fundraising events, and chose to participate at SSP’s San Diego site.

As a pastor’s daughter, I mistakenly thought I had learned and experienced all I needed to know to maintain my relationship with God and my beliefs. However, after sitting down and opening up with my group, I realized I had barely touched the surface of my faith journey.”

Read the rest of Tiye’s story.

Rev. Guillermo Navarrete

Pastor at El Faro, The Border Church / La Iglesia Fronteriza, Tijuana, MX

“Through immersion trips to the border, young people experience contact with vulnerable people. The result, according to their subsequent comments, is “touching, eye-opening, unexpected, impactful, humbling, grateful, hopeful, connected, clarified, a great experience.” This is an experience that strengthens their soul and empowers them to carry the story to others. Eventually, a sense of care for other people in vulnerable conditions develops within them.”

Read the rest of Guillermo’s story.

Rev. Heather Gottas

St. Stephen United Methodist Church, Mesquite, TX

“SSP was an important part of my youth, and in fact, my SSP experiences were a large part of my call to ministry. As a pastor and mom, I wanted to share the SSP experience with my son and the youth whom I serve. My son Noah attended SSP for the first time in 2018 as a 12-year-old. He said it was the hardest work he’d ever done, but by the end of the week he was asking about next year, and talking about serving on staff in the future!”

Read the rest of Heather’s story.

Terra Kemper

Park Ranger, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Chiloquin, OR

“As an Oregon State Park located in Chiloquin, Collier Memorial State Park is incredibly fortunate to host Sierra Service Project volunteers for six service days in the summer. The partnership between Collier and SSP has fostered stewardship in the outdoors for over six years at the day-use area!”

Read the rest of Terra’s story.

Rev. Helen Mansfield

Klamath Falls First United Methodist Church, Klamath Falls, OR

“When I retired from ministry in the summer of 2018, I knew the thing I would miss the most was taking youth groups to Sierra Service Project every summer. I have not missed a summer since my first SSP trip in 1994. Little did I know this transition would actually allow me to have more involvement with SSP than I had in the past 25 years.”

Read the rest of Helen’s story.

Cindy Chow-Snavely

Board Member, Church of the Good Shepherd, Arcadia, CA

“I didn’t understand the pull of SSP for my husband and teenage kids. Port-A-Potties, occasional showers, PB&J sandwiches (EVERY DAY!), sunburns, sleeping bag accommodations, bumps and bruises, tarred and paint-stained clothing, disheveled exhaustion, and ravenous appetites upon return. Oh, and they had to pay to participate.

And then I went. And I experienced it for myself.”

Read the rest of Cindy’s story.

Deb Manahan

Board Member, Valencia United Methodist Church, Valencia, CA

“My journey with Sierra Service Project started in the early 2000s. It began with a call from Valencia United Methodist’s Pastor Pete Falbo, asking if I would chaperone a group of youth on a mission project called SSP. All he said was I would be driving a minivan full of high schoolers from Southern California up to somewhere in Oregon.

Little did I know from the first moment I stepped into Valencia United Methodist’s parking lot on a Saturday morning in July, my life would be forever changed.”

Read the rest of Deb’s story.

Amanda Smith

Youth Board Member, Point Pleasant United Methodist Church, Elk Grove, CA

“SSP is a lot of things to a lot of different people. For some, it’s a week to get away from home and be free, and for others, it’s a week of working hard and making friends. There is no one right answer to what SSP is because everyone has their own story, and I love telling mine.

For me, the concept of unplugging has always been difficult. Growing up in a technology-filled world really does influence your day to day life, whether you like it or not.”

Read the rest of Amanda’s story.

Russ King

Board Member, Point Pleasant United Methodist Church, Elk Grove, CA

“My oldest son, Connor, went on his first SSP trip in 2010 with our church, Point Pleasant United Methodist Church in Elk Grove, CA. I had no idea what it was about, but I volunteered to put together the slide show of pictures to show during service at our church after the youth group returned. After seeing all the photos, I knew I wanted to go the next year. Fortunately, a spot opened up for me (we have more adult volunteers who want to attend than we have room for) and I was able to go the next year to Fort Hall, ID.”

Read the rest of Russ’s story.

Rob Taylor

Board Member, Hope United Methodist Church, San Diego, CA

“I recently retired from an engineering career, and I want to give back to a society that has been so generous to me. I have also always loved working with youth, including my four kids. SSP blends my passions, allowing me to work on construction projects, support underrepresented communities, and tackle social injustice.”

Read the rest of Rob’s story.

Molly Leach

Youth Board Member, Loomis First United Methodist Church, Loomis, CA

“During my first SSP, I was assigned to a deck and ramp project for a man who occasionally used a wheelchair, and couldn’t get out of his house because it wasn’t accommodating for his needs. My group came into the project towards the end and got to finish it during our week.”

Read the rest of Molly’s story.

Bruce Ferguson

Summer Staff, The Fountains United Methodist Church, Fountain Hills, AZ

“After a lengthy drive through the greenest scenery I have ever witnessed, California Highway 197 was nearing its end. A dense trove of Redwoods lined both sides, and where Highway 101 took over, the golden rays of the setting sun blessed everything they touched. With such a majestic reveal of Smith River, I knew I had the fortune of stumbling across something magical. With each passing week I spent there, the small town and surrounding Del Norte County revealed more and more hidden gems.”

Read the rest of Bruce’s story.

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