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Wendy Bernard

Homeowner in Chiloquin, OR

My experience with Sierra Service Project is one of awe. Daily I wondered where I could turn for the help my husband and I were search of. We needed a ramp to make it easier for both of us to get in and out of our home, and I had run out of places to go. One day, I saw mention of SSP in the weekly newsletter for our small town of Chiloquin. After a couple years of waiting for those that were more in need than us to get work done, I filled out the application.

“They talked to us like we were old friends and listened to our stories.”

I was surprised when I got the call we had been chosen. I counted down the days, and I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. How would we be received by the workers? The day they arrived, I was so surprised at how warm and welcoming everyone was, all my concerns gone. It was as if family had come home to help me out. The volunteers were smiling, polite, and totally put me at ease.

They talked to us like we were old friends and listened to our stories. It had been a long time since I had seen that amount of dedication from young people. You could see the care and pride they had in their work. Their love and concern for us as individuals brought smiles to our faces. I would spend each day outside with them. I looked forward to their arrival every day, and when they left, it was as if my own children had returned to their homes.

“I wish they could have seen the day my husband came down the ramp, both arms in the air in victory in being able to leave the house without the pain of walking down steps.”

These young people went above and beyond. In return, I just had to do something for them, so I provided pitchers of lemonade, which they seemed to truly appreciate. They were a blessing and a bright light in the darkness that had become our battle for help.

They will forever be part of my heart and I wish they knew how much they mean to me. I wish they could have seen the day my husband came down the ramp, both arms in the air in victory in being able to leave the house without the pain of walking down steps, and the ease of me being able to do the same. We will never forget those who worked at our home and I hope in the future others will know the blessing of SSP’s work.

 

Editor’s Note: This article is featured in SSP’s 2018 Annual Newsletter; read all the stories written by youth volunteers, summer staff, and community members. Request a hard copy newsletter to be mailed to you.

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Megaweek

Kelsie Currie
2019 Site Director in Smith River, CA

As soon as word spread about the fires in Oregon, our Smith River staff was immediately concerned about our neighboring SSP site and it’s staff in Chiloquin, Oregon. As the fires raged on, our worries grew and we didn’t know about the possibility of the continuation of the work there.

We wanted to help anyway we can and when we got the call early into our week 5 that the 60 volunteers from Chiloquin would be making the trek down to Smith River to continue their week with us we couldn’t wait. We were nervous to host the biggest week of SSP that had ever been. We didn’t know what to expect, if there would be enough room, enough food and enough work. Despite all of the challenges we saw, we knew that our staffs were capable of overcoming them and that God was on our side.  Above all we were excited to embrace this new experience with open arms and open hearts.

“It was by far the most adventurous Adventure Wednesday that I have ever been a part of and that was only the beginning.”

So in 24 hours we called in some community favors, a couple of port-o-potties and our construction team came up with as many community projects they could think of. We arranged new sleeping areas, bought food and prayed for the safe travels of our Chiloquin friends.

The Chiloquin staff and volunteers beat us to our own water day at Jedediah State Park and what a joyous celebration it was. Our staffs embraced each other as well as the different youth and adult volunteers we have gotten to work with at past SSP’s. There was so much love and welcome in the air as the two sites became one and SSP Chilo-River Megaweek commenced. It was by far the most adventurous Adventure Wednesday that I have ever been a part of and that was only the beginning.

Our mega-songtime is something that I believe will live in the hearts of many for years. Our guitar players sat in the middle facing outward and everyone else formed a giant circle surrounding them. We played the SSP songtime classics, sang, danced and rejoiced in the community that we were building. Was it chaotic? Absolutely! But in the chaos there was joy and beauty.

“It was a perfect opportunity for our volunteers to practice opening the doors, making room for others both physically and in their hearts and to put their love into action.”

Throughout the week we combined work teams to advance our bigger projects. We also had many service opportunities in crescent city community gardens, churches and faith centers. There was plenty of work for all of our excited volunteers.

As for the spiritual program, I don’t think there could be a more fitting program theme for Megaweek to take place in. Love Courageously! It was a perfect opportunity for our volunteers to practice opening the doors, making room for others both physically and in their hearts and to put their love into action.

Matthew 18:20 says “when 2 or three gather in the Lord’s name, God is among them.” Well what about when 140 gather to serve God, the community and each other? I can tell you for certain that the presence of God was amplified among the 140 and beyond. These volunteers were able to touch so many lives both in the SSP community and in the Smith River/Crescent City communities.

Amen for Megaweek and may anyone who has the opportunity to participate in the future open themselves to the beauty of the experience!

 

Editor’s Note: Kelsie Currie has served on Summer Staff for three years most recently in Smith River, CA. Kelsie will be returning to Smith River in 2019 as the site director. This article is featured in SSP’s 2018 Annual Newsletter; read all the stories written by youth volunteers, summer staff, and community members. Request a hard copy newsletter to be mailed to you.

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Emma Healy

Emma Healy

Youth Board Member from First United Methodist Church, Napa, CA

The summer before freshman year I went on my first service trip with Sierra Service Project. The First United Methodist Church of Napa graciously sponsored me, and it changed my life. Since then, I have participated three more times.

SSP has been one of the most rewarding, incredible, and impactful experiences of my life. Every year I look forward to meeting and getting to know new people, building a community, and being in such an inclusive and supportive environment. I had no idea there would be a community out there full of compassionate, empathetic, loving, caring, and welcoming people until my first year at SSP. I still talk every day to people I met at SSP. I have created some amazing relationships and gotten to know the people from my church so much better.

“Spending time talking to the homeowners, and seeing how grateful they are for the work and gift our time, means a great deal to me.”

I have loved learning new skills through the projects I’ve done at SSP, which have included building a fence, building a deck and stairs, roofing, and working at Train Mountain, where we cut down trees and bushes, scraped, and painted. Spending time talking to the homeowners, and seeing how grateful they are for the work and gift our time, means a great deal to me.

Last summer, I served in Chiloquin, Oregon during the 4th of July. I wish I could be there this year, and every year in the future. I loved being a part of the float building and the parade, and watching a community come together. Serving people at the BBQ and talking with community members about their lives brought me joy, and being together while watching the fireworks will remain a beloved memory.

“SSP reminds me to always find grace, know God is always with me, remember how blessed I am, and to always be thankful.”

This year, I grew closer with my work team than I ever have been. There was a freshman who lives in Chiloquin and doesn’t have running water or electricity at his home. It was amazing to have him on my team, hear about his life, and watch him give back to his own community.

SSP reminds me to always find grace, know God is always with me, remember how blessed I am, and to always be thankful. SSP has made such an impact on my life that I’m starting something similar where I live, called Napa Valley Service Project, where we can help the members of my own community by doing similar work.

 

Editor’s Note: Emma Healy is a senior that attends SSP with Napa First United Methodist Church. She has been elected this year to serve as a youth representative on SSP’s Board of Directors. This article is featured in SSP’s 2018 Annual Newsletter; read all the stories written by youth volunteers, summer staff, and community members. Request a hard copy newsletter to be mailed to you.

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