Nine years and 16,320 volunteer hours later, the Loving Sunnyside Initiative started by members of Sunnyside (Wash.) Christian Reformed Church is celebrating the completion of its 100th home.
Loving Sunnyside, a program that is part of the nonprofit organization Sunnyside Transformation Yakima Valley, helps people who are elderly, disabled, or have low income with home repair, painting, yard work, and basic clean-up twice each year.
“We started with 120 volunteers each paint day, and the last effort [had] 350 volunteers,” said Leroy Werkhoven, member of Sunnyside CRC and organizer of Loving Sunnyside Initiative. “Seven congregations other than the CRC participated, and both the Christian school and the public school provided the student volunteers.”
Loving Sunnyside was formed nine years ago when nine members of Sunnyside CRC traveled to Compton, Calif., to participate in a clean-up and paint day. After learning the Compton model, they began to look for homes in the town of Sunnyside that needed upkeep and repair.
Volunteers began meeting with homeowners on Sunday afternoons to discover their various needs. Work days for the selected homes were planned twice a year. “Each clean-up and paint day started with a huge breakfast and a short presentation to share with volunteers [about] why sharing our love with our neighbors is so important. Our theme text was 1 John 4:16: ‘We love because he first loved us,’” said Werkhoven.
Volunteers return after the work is complete and ask homeowners if there are further needs or prayer requests. In addition, each family is given an English- or Spanish-language Bible and a card identifying churches within the Sunnyside community. “Having spent my life as a churched individual and someone that grew up understanding demonstrating our love to others . . . for me this is a wonderful opportunity to connect with people . . . a true service,” said Werkhoven.
Currently the Loving Sunnyside Initiative is looking for new community tasks within the town of Sunnyside, such as a mass yard-clean up or projects in the city parks.