Middle schoolers launch Mission Possible to aid houseless

 

Last updated 12/13/2022 at Noon

Sisters middle schoolers are helping the houseless through a Young Life project. PHOTO PROVIDED

“If you want to see hope, stop and take a look at these girls,” Sisters Area Director of Young Life Shannon Miller says.

Miller is blown away, not only by the ownership 39 middle schoolers have taken in spearheading a project designed to ease the burden of Sisters residents experiencing houselessness, but by the success of their recent fundraiser.

With frigid weather bearing down on Sisters Country, the girls’ vision is to provide practical items — everything from snow pants to shampoo—to area residents who could use a hand up this winter.

As seventh-grader Mackenzie Frutos put it, “We’re not waiting for other people to do the work. We’re taking it into our own hands.”

On Sunday, the girls responded to their leaders’ question, “How are you going to pay for all that?” by raising a cool $3,000 through a massive bake sale.

The baking began last Friday, December 9, when close to 40 tween girls crowded into Sisters Community Church’s commercial kitchen under the supervision of adult volunteers, to measure copious amounts of butter and sugar, chop nuts and cranberries, and drop cookie batter onto baking sheets. Some of the group returned the next day to do more baking, and some showed up yet again, at 6 a.m. on Sunday, to prepare cinnamon rolls before the morning’s church service. All totaled, they produced 430 cookies, 80 brownies, 33 bags of English toffee, 21 loaves of pumpkin bread, 16 loaves of orange-cranberry bread, and 137 cinnamon rolls.

Evidently it didn’t hurt their cause when morning churchgoers arrived to the smell of cinnamon wafting through the sanctuary. As hoped, the baked goods proved impossible to resist following the worship service.

According to Frutos, “all but a couple peanut butter cookies sold.”

In actuality, the students’ effort began back in August, when the girls, many of whom have been meeting weekly since fifth grade, sat around brainstorming how they might help their community.

Miller said, “They asked, what would happen if we started helping the houseless in Sisters? And they started to dream and dream and dream. They’ve contacted women in the church to help teach them how to sew denim bags, and then they want to fill those bags with warm things for the houseless.”

Twelve-year-old Frutos explained, “God spoke to us, opened our hearts, [showing us] this was what we wanted to work for.” For her, the effort provides a way to connect with the community, which isn’t an easy thing since her family lives on remote acreage outside town. “I can’t just walk people’s dogs,” she said.

The idea to name the effort Mission Possible came from seventh-grader Maddie Durham after the girls rejected other, too-narrow characterizations of their project. They wanted it to capture their broader vision, as they anticipate serving those who live in trailers, RVs, and campers in the woods, in addition to those with no physical roof over their heads. Thus, they also prefer the more inclusive term “houseless” for those they’ll serve.

Next up, the group looks forward to a sewing lesson to fabricate the drawstring denim bags. In coming up with a wish list for items to place inside the bags, Frutos said the girls together considered, “If we were homeless, what things would we want to help get us through the winter?”

Their wish list features cold-weather outerwear; hand, neck, and foot warmers; socks, hats, and gloves; nonperishable food items; hygiene products; and more. Already Left Coast Lodge gave a large donation of travel-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner.

When asked if donations of these types of items are still needed, Frutos replied with a laugh, “We’ll take as much as you can give!”

What began several years ago as a group of 10 fifth-grade girls brought together by Durham’s mom, Lee Ann, to build friendships and explore faith evolved into a WyldLife club. WyldLife is the middle school arm of Young Life, a Christian ministry aimed at introducing adolescents to the faith while offering support and engaging activities. Since Miller took the reins as area director in 2018, the ministry has seen explosive growth. This particular “small group” of girls is mentored by Miller, Mary Ingram, and Tami Kirkpatrick.

The students’ camaraderie and passion are hard to deny.

Seventh-grader Makayla Kirkpatrick shared that what gets her most excited about Mission Possible “are all the steps we’re going to do together,” and that they’re doing this “for God, in the community.”

Mission Possible is truly a student-conceived and student-led effort. “We’ve just come alongside them,” Miller said.

Mackenzie Frutos displays one of the cookies she decorated. PHOTO PROVIDED

The girls especially look forward to distributing the bags and, for now, will focus on those in Sisters Country who would benefit. “We’re figuring it out as we go,” Frutos said.

Donations of new or gently used items — coats, snow pants, travel-sized toiletries, and the like—and/or monetary gifts may be dropped off at Sisters Community Church, 1300 McKenzie Hwy., over the next few weeks. Or donate online at giving.younglife.org (select “Sisters Area” as recipient).

Students interested in more information about Young Life, or adults interested in volunteering, can visit their Facebook page or sisters.younglife.org.

Any contributions exceeding the amount used by Mission Possible will help support Young Life’s ministry to middle and high school students and future projects. Speaking on behalf of 39 servant-hearted middle schoolers, Frutos said, “We might think of another thing we want to do.

 

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