SUNNYSIDE — The holiday spirit shined through downtown prior to Thanksgiving as all 61 Sunnyside Christian High School students performed their traditional day of service and lent a helping hand to enrich the city’s festive charm for a couple of hours on Thursday morning, Nov. 21.

“We got everybody on board the bus at 8:30 this morning and here we are. We’re working at City Hall, the pool and here (in the planter area between the sidewalk and parking lot on the corner of Edison Ave. and 8th St.),” History teacher Derek Westerhoff explained. “Today, we’re teaching about service and our mission of showing God’s love to everyone.”

“I think it’s just fun to come out here and serve people. It’s nice to do something and not just sit in a classroom; to get hands on,” sophomore Brea Rip conveyed after she pitched her shovel full of dirt and rocks over her head and into the dump truck.

Math teacher Jeremy Van Dam coordinated the school’s effort with City Hall to volunteer the entire student body along with their hard-working enthusiasm in aiding the Public Works Department with their landscape duties.

The four classes average about 15 students in size and are made up of teens from all over the lower valley. … “So, we’re really trying to help out the local Sunnyside community,” Westerhoff added.

“I think it’s amazing to help out and to show how we really care about our community, and we want it to look nice… to inspire others to help around town,” senior Taylor Wolf stated.

Until about 10:30 a.m., more than 122 pairs of soiled hands utilized an assortment of city landscaping tools and contributed their spirited labor in fulfilling their beautification goal in time for the season of giving traditions.

“It’s a special couple of hours because we know we’re helping others and adding joy to their lives,” senior Madi Candanoza excitedly acknowledged as she looks forward to celebrating Christmas once the turkey has been eaten. “One of the benefits of being in a small school is that we all get to participate in activities like this… It just makes all of us feel good to help out.”

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email

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