the tradition of service

Elizabeth Skurdahl, Development Coordinator, reflects on the history of JVC Northwest in light of the beginning of the 2012-2013 service year.


Well, it’s that time of year again! The beginning of August marks the close of one service year and the beginning of another. On August 6th, 142 men and women from across the country will gather at Camp Adams in Molalla, Oregon for their orientation and inauguration as Jesuit Volunteers. Here at the JVC Northwest office, the excitement is palpable as the staff prepares to welcome this new group of individuals dedicated to community, spirituality, simple living, and social and ecological justice.

Amidst the flurry of tackling last minute details and finalizing plans for the beginning of a new service year, what strikes me most is the rich tradition and history upon which this year is founded. JVC Northwest began in 1956, when a group of dedicated individuals built and began teaching at the Copper Valley School in Alaska. Their generosity of spirit and commitment to those they served became the cornerstone of JVC Northwest’s mission and work.

Five of the original Jesuit Volunteers in Copper Valley, AK (1956)

Things have changed since then. Over 56 years, JVC Northwest has grown out of Copper Valley to serving over 120,000 individuals in 21 different locales throughout Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska. The small group of original volunteers has grown to a network of over 6,000 FJVs from the Northwest, united by their spirit of service and the common experience of being “ruined for life.” And I’m sure Orientation today looks far different from what it did even just 20 years ago, let alone 56! Despite these changes, the core mission – to serve the marginalized and stand in solidarity with the vulnerable – remains the same.

2011-12 JV Darryl Yip serving at the James John SUN school in Portland, OR

The JVs that will gather at Camp Adams next week, then, are a part of the incredible legacy of the volunteers that came before them.  Following in the footsteps of the original founders, they are dedicating a year in the service of those who so often go overlooked in our society.

As we welcome these new JVs, we remember the history that precedes them. The tradition of service continues!

’11-12 JVs Chris Freeburg, Janna Lam, Katie Kurtz, and Angela Bagnasco at Camp Adams

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