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Local Non-Profit Repairs Communities Across Western States

sspThe Sierra Service Project (SSP), founded in 1975 and inspired by and modeled after the Appalachian Service Project, organizes an annual summer program in which youth volunteers help repair homes and buildings in rural and urban communities across the western United States. Originally founded by several United Methodist Church ministers, SSP is now an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. It maintains a close affiliation with the United Methodist Church but also draws participants from a number of other denominations.

The organization, which recently moved its headquarters from Carmichael to a storefront near Del Paso Boulevard and Arden Way in North Sacramento, works to change the lives of teenagers through selfless service to those in need. According to their website, the SSP sees their service-projects as an opportunity to put their faith in action and seeks “through acts of service repairing homes and community centers, [to invite] youth into a closer relationship with God and to experience the transformative power of serving people who have a culture and life experience different from their own.”

Each program location is staffed by a Site Director, Spiritual Life Coordinator, three Construction Team members, and two Cooks. They are trained and present at the site for the entire summer, working with the community to provide quality service opportunities. The Staff participates in a ten-day training which consists of hands-on job specific training, sessions on leadership, conflict resolution, youth ministry, and cultural sensitivity among others. This training equips these young adults to be prepared for difficult situations that they may encounter over the summer.

Safety of every type – physical and emotional – is a top priority. SSP wants each youth to have the best possible experience so the group creates an environment dedicated to safety, adequate rest, nutritious meals and snacks, and lots of emotional and spiritual support for everyone. Each week begins with hands-on tool training before anyone begins service work.

Week-long summer service projects, open to churches and their young people, take place at six locations across the western United States–4 in rural communities and 2 in urban areas. The locations are: Navajo Nation in Northeastern Arizona (which will most likely be more rustic than the other sites, but the exact location has not been determined yet); Chiloquin, Oregon, working with local Klamath tribes; Walker River, Nevada on the Walker River Paiute Reservation and in nearby Schurz, NV; Smith River on the Northern California Coast on the Rancheria of the Tolowa tribe, but primarily the surrounding community; South Los Angeles, where volunteers will repair homes and work within the community for four days during the week and have their service experience enhanced by a day of exploring the city, visiting social services agencies ,and Skid Row as well as spending an evening at the beach; and the multicultural city of Stockton, California, which will have a program similar to South Los Angeles.

Parents, churches, and young people interested in finding out more about the summer 2014 opportunities can contact the Sierra Service Project at 916-488-6441 or visit the organization’s website www.sierraserviceproject.org. Those interested in donating to the group should contact Rick Eaton, Executive Director, or Megan Taylor, Director of Programs, at 916-448-6441.

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