Annual Get Out! Serve Day brings Westsides mission to life

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Fourth-grader Evan McReynolds is getting an early indoctrination to the tradition of Get Out! Serve Day by accompanying his father, Chris McReynolds, class of 1995. Pictured working on the alumni crew is Jeremy Stillwell, a classmate of McReynolds, McReynolds, Michael Wanberg and Andrew Laine, both graduates of the class of 2001. Saturday was a special day at Westside Christian High School. The entire student body spent the morning in service to others, during the school’s annual Get Out! Serve Day.

Over the past 11 years the school community has contributed nearly 29,000 service hours and more than $300,000 in supplies and labor as they actively make a difference in the community as a result of this traditional service day.

Groups of students, family, alumni and staff helped clean, paint, weed, remove graffiti, sort clothing donations and many more tasks for 15 nonprofit organizations at 18 locations across the metropolitan area.

Get Out! Serve Day is a signature event for WCHS. It is also a key component of Westside Outside — a unique Westside program designed to help students develop a heart of compassion. The event encourages students to serve outside the school for an “open heart” encounter with the poor, the oppressed and hurting people in the community.

“This annual event really brings Westside’s mission to life,” said Principal Steve Pringle. “We are intentional about equipping our students to be servant leaders as they experience the value of helping others in our community. Serve Day reminds our students to get out of their comfort zone and meet others where they are, whether it is a homeless shelter, a refuge for abused women and children, or some other organization that helps the poor. For many, this experience is the springboard to ongoing volunteer work.”

The impact of this annual event has been significant. Many nonprofit service organizations don’t have the staff to keep up with maintenance tasks around their facilities. What the Westside teams accomplish in one day would take many of them months to do.

“So many children will have what they need because the Westside students helped us get ready to pour out our resources,” said Carolyn Quatier, president of Northwest Children’s Outreach.

WCHS junior Erika Meusch served at Northwest Children’s Outreach sorting donated clothing and toys.

“We sorted clothing that would be given to children,” she said. “We made sure that there were buttons and that zippers worked and that clothes were in good condition.

“The experience made me feel like I was helping. I worked with my dad and his girlfriend, so it was a family affair.”

Sophomore Olivia Hartford spent her morning working at the Good Neighbor Center, which is a family center where homeless families can live for six weeks while getting on their feet again.

“They gave us a tour,” she said. “Every family has a room, there are laundry facilities and a common kitchen. We did yard work — we did lots of weeding. We cleaned out a gigantic pile of useless donations. Someone had donated a steering wheel cover!

“We fixed bikes, adjusted brakes and chains and pumped up tires and spruced up the play area. It was a good time and pretty fun.”

This was her second year working at the Good Neighbor Center.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Senior Carly Colby, left, and junior Zhuo Ying Xia sort clothing at Northwest Children's Outreach.“It was nice to see progress. It looked nice and the work we had done last year (was still evident),” she said.

For sophomore Lydia Heye, who moved to the area from East Africa this fall, Serve Day was a “cool experience” and just the sort of opportunity she was looking for when she enrolled at WCHS. Heye was part of the team that worked at Mary Woodward Elementary School in Tigard.

“We removed trees and pruned shrubs to make it easier for the students to get to their garden,” she said. “We harvested some squash and pumpkins that they can use in the school for lessons or decorations.”

Pringle said a growing number of alumni are involved in Serve Day and in fact, one whole project was manned by former WCHS students.

“There were about 15 to 20 alumni working on the Neighborhood House,” said alumni Jeremy Stillwell, who graduated from WCHS in 1995. The alumni took on upgrading the parking lot, building a retaining wall and tiling a floor in the center’s pantry. Stillwell explained why he participates in Serve Day.

“Westside’s a great place. It’s as much a family environment as it is a school,” Stillwell said. “And a lot of the same teachers have been there since 1985. It’s really rare today to see people that dedicated to a community. I’ve always loved Westside.”

“Having alumni involved shows that service is a lifestyle WCHS encourages,” Pringle said. “More and more alumni are coming back for Serve Day. It’s a highlight for them and continues that sense and spirit of community.”

At the end of the day how did it make the students feel?

“I think we all felt grateful for what we have,” Hartford said. “And it felt good to help.”

“I’m proud of these kids and their families, and it’s a privilege to be able to support the work of these organizations,” Pringle said.

Westside plans to continue holding the Get Out! Serve Day every year, said Brett Meyers, Westside Director of School programs.

“The value in going and serving is not just in the bond we forge with local organizations when we visit, but also in the promise that we will be back,” he said.

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