By Ariel Slifka, Tillamook County Wellness AmeriCorps VISTA
For many Oregonians, the week following Labor Day 2020 will be remembered for quite some time. The wildfires that swept across our state left devastation for families, businesses, and entire communities – many of which are still working to recover and rebuild today.
Like so many others, Tillamook County’s Director of Community Development Sarah Absher knows it is no secret that Tillamook is a generous community. A handful of locals quickly organized a dessert auction through Facebook to raise money for fire relief on Sunday, and Sarah was stationed at the Tillamook Nazarene Church on Saturday to welcome and receive desserts. As someone who is ready to dive into any project that may need help, Sarah ended up joining the Open Table event that was occurring at the same time at the Nazarene Church. As she helped serve meals to community members in need, she was acutely aware of the increasing number of community residents impacted by hunger, but she also felt gratitude and hope in the volunteers who work so passionately to fill that void. Although this was not her initial plan for where the weekend was headed, she was touched by the experience and gave her email to the volunteer coordinator with plans to return.
On Sunday, Sarah woke up bright and early to bake a few goodies for the PNW Fire Relief Auction, an event quickly organized by Jesse Boroughs, Nichole Crossley and Kourtnie Zwald. The event was set to last 2-3 hours but ended up going for over 6 hours on Facebook with auction items being sold every 3 minutes – by the end, the community had raised over $22,000. This event demonstrated the amazing power that a community has when it comes together to support a cause. As Sarah pointed out, “It is easy to think that our actions as one individual are not enough to change the world, but each and every one of us has a unique set of skills that we can bring to the table.” She continued with the wildfires specifically, “I have no experience fighting fires, but I do have experience running an auction and I’m a halfway decent baker.” Although many of us may have felt helpless as we watched the smoke settle over the horizon, no act of service is too small to be left unappreciated. We may find that serving others not only lifts up those around us, but it also just might be the medicine our souls need to find the goodness in the world that still exists.
For Sarah, this weekend of service lifted a burden from her chest and restored a feeling of hope. “I am speechless and humbled, and thankful that my path crossed with so many wonderful humans over the course of the weekend. What it also reminded me is that we are all special, gifted people in our own ways, and that it takes all of us working together to overcome the challenges we face.”
For more local health and wellness information, go to www.tillamookcountywellness.org, or follow Tillamook County Wellness on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.