It’s been a rough year, but members of several area churches were determined to make it a brighter one for Hermiston residents on Saturday, Sept. 26.
“A lot of folks are just struggling mentally so much because of the quarantine, and this is just our small way to bring some sunshine,” said New Hope Community Church Pastor Chris Hankel.
Volunteers spread out across the city, doing good deeds as they went. Some cleared weeds out of the landscaping along Highway 395 or picked up litter along the railroad tracks through town. Others held a free car wash, set up drive-thru prayer booths, paid for peoples’ laundry at local laundromats or paid for meals in the McDonald’s drive-thru.
The day of service was part of a larger movement called I Love My City, which local churches partnered to form in 2016 to bring hope to people after acts of violence rocked the town. They have held several events since then, including free gift-wrapping outside of Walmart during the Christmas season and an annual spring cleanup. The spring cleanup was canceled due to the pandemic, but Hankel said they decided to bring back a smaller version of it this month.
He didn’t know exactly how many people ended up volunteering on Saturday, but said he knew there were about 100 that came from New Hope.
Other involved churches included Hermiston Assembly of God, Faith Presbyterian, Rekindle, Hermiston Seventh-Day Adventist and Templo Fe Esperanza Y Amor.
“We love Hermiston and we want people to know God loves Hermiston,” Hankel said.
On Sept. 26, while helping wash cars for free in the parking lot of Smitty’s Ace Hardware, Claudia Meza said it was her first year participating in I Love My City, but she would definitely be back for future events. She said it was fun being able to help people without any expectation of something in return.
“People have been grateful and happy and that’s been the biggest blessing, seeing people happy,” she said.
The group washed more than 50 vehicles during the allotted three-hour block of time, according to Hankel.
Alejandro Ramirez was piling up bags of discarded weeds and clippings across from the Hermiston Community Center on Sept. 26, as volunteers trimmed and weeded the landscaping along the pedestrian path there. He said he and the other volunteers were there because they were Christians and believed “we’ve got to help one another.”
“That’s what the church is based on, and we’ve got to show that by our actions,” he said.
On Sunday, Sept. 27, more than 200 people met up at Butte Park for a socially-distanced joint worship service led by the pastors of the churches involved in I Love My City. Hankel said at the event they sang together and prayed for the nation and for Hermiston.
He said they hope to increase the frequency of I Love My City events in the future.
To get information about future events or to sign up to get involved, visit www.ilovehermiston.com.