BROOKINGS CHURCH TAKES ITS TURN TO MAINTAIN COLLEGE IN SITKA

July 12, 2001 11:00 pm
Roger Marcoux, left, joins crew repairing roof. ().
Roger Marcoux, left, joins crew repairing roof. ().

Ten volunteers from Brookings Presbyterian Church spent two weeks helping maintain Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, Alaska, the last two weeks in June.

The small Presbyterian college, which has an enrollment of 150, relies on volunteers to maintain the college. Even some of its faculty are unpaid, said Barbara Wilson.

The school started as an orphanage for native American children in Sitka. It advanced to an elementary school to a high school and finally a college.

The trip was organized by Barbara Ratliff who began planning for the trip two years ago. She saw information in a church newsletter.

I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for youth to do some mission work, Ratliff said.

After college officials scheduled when people from Brookings could help, fundraisers began, Ratliff said. By the time Warren Muller, the churchs pastor, arrived, planning was well under way. Fundraisers ranged from a spaghetti feed to youth performing chores for people.

Five youth group members and five adults participated in the project. Youths attending were Jason Caster, Matt Dillenburg, Christel Morrill, Jill Morrill and Joe Speir. Adults were Terry Caster, Ellen Marcoux, Roger Marcoux, Ratliff and Wilson.

Many of the youth said they would do it again, although Jill Morrill said her sister probably doesnt want to ever mow grass again.

Christel Morrill was given a rotary push mower. She mowed about three acres of grass, Ratliff said.

Jill Morrill spent more time inside tearing down a wall for a remodeling project. She admits after being taken away from the project that she was fired from a volunteer job.

She also rebuilt a desk.

I did it for people who have no furniture, Jill Morrill said. It was really cool.

I would do it again in a second, she said about the trip.

I also would do it again, but I would take two seconds, Dillenburg said.

Dillenburg and Jason Caster had the dubious honor of moving library books and magazines.

We moved 300 boxes, Dillenburg said.

Speir said he helped Jill tear down walls. We were remodeling two rooms and made one new room.

It was awesome, Speir said. I will go back.

In addition to the lawn mowing, remodeling and moving library books, the team also built steps outside a doorway and repaired the roof on the gymnasium, Ratliff said.

The Brookings group was joined by a group from Cape Girardeau, Mo. Every two weeks a new group arrives to help with maintenance, Ratliff said. The college prefers smaller groups because there is only so much that can be done at a time.

Participants seemed to think the trip went well, except for Dillenburg having his meal order lost twice on the road to Portland, he said.

The group flew from Portland to Seattle. From there they flew to Sitka. Upon arrival, they were housed in the mens dorm where they found keys didnt work, said Ellen Marcoux.

It was quickly discovered that in a mens dorm, there are only mens restrooms. The group quickly devised a system, letting people know whether the facilities are occupied by men or women.

But do you know what its like to have to use the restroom and all of them are occupied by women? Dillenburg said.

The trip also had a few small-world surprises. Ratliff said when they went to the college cafeteria, she saw a couple of familiar faces.

It was Walt and Iva Thompson of Harbor who were traveling by car to Alaska. They arrived in Sitka by ferry, Ratliff said.

We got to see lots of wonderful, wonderful sites, too, Wilson said.

We got to see a Russian Orthodox Church, Ratliff said. There are no seats in the church, so people stand for two hours on Sunday mornings. Much of there worship is liturgy and chant.

We went to the 45-minute service on Saturday night, Jill Morrill said.

The group took a fishing trip and enjoyed the warm weather. Wilson said she packed sweatshirts and never did wear one. On the boat they saw whales spyhopping, grizzlies on shore and otters.

Ratliff said she enjoyed watching a bald eagle take a salmon into a tree. There the eagle had to contend with ravens that kept attacking in an effort to get some of the fish.

Trip participants were also entertained with Russian and Tlingit Tribe dances.

Sheldon Jackson College was established in 1878 to as a training center for the Tlingit Indians, according to college literature. It is operated by the Presbyterian Church. It was named for Sheldon Jackson, who was a Presbyterian missionary on the Alaska panhandle.