Creating Communities: Sierra Service Project and Indian Valley

October 01, 2008

By Ken Donnell
Greenville United Methodist Church

Greenville, California and the local Indian Valley were amazed and excited, in the summer of 2008, by the arrival of the staff and volunteers for the Sierra Service Project (SSP). From mid June to early August, the Greenville United Methodist Church was “headquarters” for SSP. It was a win-win-win situation for everyone involved: many young urban and suburban teens got the opportunity to spend a week in a small mountain community, the local community benefited from the many projects completed by the SSP volunteers, and the Greenville UMC came alive with the presence of so many motivated visitors.
With a staff of seven young counselors and a rotating group of 40-60 new campers arriving every week, the Greenville UMC was filled with activity, starting at 7 a.m. every day and not ending until “lights out” at 9 p.m. Hard-working young people spread good cheer to all corners of the Indian Valley from dawn to dusk.
The Greenville area has a severely depressed local economy, so the projects completed by the SSP were greatly appreciated. In addition to the many Native American homes that were repaired, the education building of the Greenville UMC got a new coat of exterior paint, and the old Indian Valley Hospital got a thorough cleaning on the inside.
While the projects completed by the SSP were notable, perhaps the greatest contribution by the staff and volunteers came from the spiritual boost they brought to Greenville. Having a depressed economy for 10-15 years has weighed heavily on the spirits of many local residents. When bad news comes in wave after wave, year after year, it is difficult for small communities to remain positive and hopeful. All too often, such small communities slide from hopelessness into a deep despair that leads to alienation. For six weeks, the staff and volunteers of the SSP broke through this despair, and brought the sunlight of hope and faith back to Greenville. It is a light that still shines in many of our hearts, and it is a light that we will hold surely remember as we eagerly await the return of the SSP in the summer of 2009.