JVC Updates

Four - December 24

Merry Christmas Everyone!!
It is my Christmas wish that this update finds each of
you well and celebrating with family and friends. In
fact, I'm about to catch a plane in a few hours to
take me home for Christmas, and needless to say, I'm
pretty excited about seeing my family for the first
time in almost 5 months. Oh, and don't worry, this
email won't be nearly as long as the last one. =)
There has been a flurry of activity around the house
since October. The biggest thing that has happened
since I last wrote was on October 13th when we found
out from JVC that Sarah would be leaving our
community. It was devastating at first, and we didn't
want to let her go even though her placement wasn't
working out too well. After a week of emotional
goodbyes, she's back home in Northern Virginia now
after fulfilling one of her lifetime goals of taking a
train ride across the country.
That very same weekend we had our first retreat for
all the houses in Oregon and Western Washington. The
theme of the retreat was - fittingly - community
building. From those few days at Nestucca wildlife
sanctuary on the most beautiful Oregon coast, we have
taken great strides in the strength and quality of our
community on all levels. Whereas before the retreat
(during the first month or two we were here) our
community seemed like just a group of individuals who
all happen to be living together and volunteering at
the same time, now I personally feel like our
community is a true community, and we have bonded
together since Sarah left. The most noticable
difference, I think, is that now things feel more
comfortable. We feel comfortable to agree or disagree
as a group, and we feel comfortable and confident
enough to ensure that individual voices are also
heard. The result of all this is that now we are able
to look at each other as supports instead of the
fragmented collection of people we were before.
Needless to say, it's exciting that we are making
progress, and I look forward to coming home after work
each day.
Speaking of work, whoa. In the month of December
there were more people that came into the office for
energy and rent assistance than I thought lived in all
of Woodburn. Well not quite that bad, but we had more
than TWICE the amount of people this month (in 3 weeks
no less, due to the Christmas break) than we did in
November. The need in Woodburn and the surrounding
communities is skyrocketing as the weather turns
colder and rainier, and the Christmas tree farms (the
main employer this time of year) are no longer needing
help. Also, after the 1st of the year, the Smucker's
berry plant in Woodburn will be closing, which will
remove another several hundred jobs from the
workforce. On the bright side though, this past
Friday and Saturday was the St. Luke's Christmas food
and toy boxes distribution, which I helped organize.
Over 220 families received enough food for a large
Christmas dinner and toys for each of the children in
the household. We had about 40 volunteers helping on
both of the afternoons, and on the first weekend of
December the firefighters in town went around blaring
their sirens and collecting food all over Woodburn (a
city of 20,000). We got probably 10 tons of food from
them. And 10 tons of food is a lot, especially when
it's all in one room and there are 40 people trying to
sort it all. I realized on Saturday when it was all
over that this event was probably the high point of my
JV year... such a wonderful feeling to see something
of that scale take place. I am hoping that January
will bring more jobs and decrease the need for
assistance... we are also running pretty low on funds.
Even still, everyday without fail there comes a
moment when I am thankful that I am in Woodburn this
year. Whether it be a smile from a child when he
spots the big bag of candy I have in my office, or the
heartfelt thank you of the child's mother or father
after they receive the little bit of assistace I can
give them... these moments make my heart happy and I
feel blessed to be in this position this year. As you
can probably guess, I am learning things that I never
thought I would learn, and skills that will be
valuable for the rest of my life no matter which
profession I choose.
Speaking of unexpected opportunities to learn,
throughout the month of January, I will be teaching a
6th, 7th, and 8th grade elective over at St. Luke's
school on... guess... "Extreme Weather". I helped
pick the title. So if you have any ideas for cool
science projects the kids can do, feel free to let me
know. I'm used to boring college classes and taking
notes, so I think I'm going to have to change my mode
a little to keep everyone interested. =)
And speaking of extreme weather, it's been pretty
crazy here recently. In addition to the never-ending
rain, we actually got some snow one day last month,
which is super rare for the Willamette Valley, on the
order of once every two years. In fact, during one
week in November, we had a record high (73) and a
record low (27) in the same week. Whoever said the
Northwest's weather was easily predictable??
As for travelling around the Northwest, I've done a
bit of that too since October. I've been lucky enough
to have my good friend Anne Kapellen living close by
(in Vancouver, WA, just north of Portland) for the
last 8 weeks or so as she did her final clinical
rotation in SLU's Physical Therapy program. We've had
a lot of chances to hang out, and I got to go with her
when she went down to the Oregon Dunes and Crater Lake
in southern Oregon... we had a lot of fun taking
pictures together of anything and everything we
thought was interesting. =)
The best of the three senior trips I led in the past
three months (man I have GOT to write more often...!)
was to Hood River, OR in October, just before the end
of the apple and pear harvest. (Did you know the Hood
River valley is the world's largest grower of D'Anjou
pears??? Learn something every day...) We took a
scenic train ride through the river valley to the base
of Mt. Hood, an inactive volcano and the highest point
in Oregon. On the drive home, we drove through the
forest around the mountain, and got to experience the
first snowfall of the year on the mountain! It was
breathtaking. The first picture for this email is of
our group at the base of Mt. Hood, the second picture
is of Anne and I at Crater Lake (notice that I
neglected to wear longsleeves... I didn't realize the
windchill was going to be in the single digits!)
And last but not least, we recently invited all the
other houses in the area down for a Christmas Caroling
party on Dec. 13th... evidently caroling is not part
of the custom of a Hispanic Christmas, because people
were pretty much clueless as to why 20 young people
were out singing in the rain. Oh well, it was fun
anyway. =)
Again I hope everyone is happy and healthy and
enjoying the company of friends and family for
Christmas... I would like to thank you ALL from the
bottom of my heart for your encouraging notes and
letters and prayers. They are what keeps me going on
a daily basis. Thank you SO MUCH for your love and

Much peace and love to you all,