Portland Adventist Academy Students Aid Vernonia Victims

(from left) Cody Rasmussen and Brandon Couch (both juniors) were required to wear protective gear for the dirty jobs they were assigned. It helped keep them warm, but it didn't keep the water out.[December 17, 2007] Source: PAA/Liesl Vistaunet public relations & marketing director

Mrs. Waters was up to her knees in water last month when the flood waters came to her small town of Vernonia, Oregon. Floods of volunteers have been swarming the town since. One-hundred and twenty-five of them were Portland Adventist Academy (PAA) Juniors and Seniors.

On December 11, 2007, a handful of PAA teachers and staff took their students to flood ravaged Vernonia for a day of volunteering in conditions that required water-proof clothing, face-masks and, in some cases, protective jump-suites.

The jobs were dirty and it was very cold. “But I don’t think I heard one complaint,” said PAA Chaplain Greg Phillips. “The kids were His hands and feet, so to speak.”

The staff observed how remarkably sensitive the students were to the families they were helping. “The lady we helped seemed really reserved and shy,” said Senior Holly Long. “But, I would be too if there were strangers in my home tearing down my walls. It was important to understand that.”

PAA students had the unique privilege of not only helping families that had lost everything, but hearing their stories also. While one group of students was ripping out sopping wet insulation from a crawl space, the homeowner was told that her house had to be torn down to the studs. She had only owned her home for one year. “I felt really bad for them,” said Junior Amelia Gradt.

Jim Roberston, Bible teacher, took his group of 9 boys to Mrs. Water’s home. After the boys spent the day gutting her crawl space, Mrs. Waters took time to talk with Robertson. “Your kids are like angels in blue jeans,” said Mrs. Waters as she enveloped Robertson in a hug.