Kent/Tricia Harrop - Good neighbors say goodbye
“You start building a good neighborhood when you yourself decide that you will be a good neighbor.”
For 20 years, it has been our great joy to be part of the community of McMinnville and Yamhill County. With you, our neighbors, we raised our children, shared life’s ups and downs, and offered a helping hand to neighbors in need. We believe the moral health of a community is determined by our response to the most vulnerable of our neighbors. As part of this community, we learned much about what a healthy community looks like. Here are some lessons we’ve learned.
* Our community is enriched by a diversity of cultures, customs and languages.
* Prejudices slip away as we learn to speak one another’s languages and learn one another’s stories.
For example, this past summer, I was learning Spanish in preparation for a health mission trip to Nicaragua. For help, I walked to Discovery Meadows Park and practiced with Spanish-speaking neighbors watching their children play. One couple — regulars, like me — were gracious listeners and gently corrected me as I learned their language. In time, a friendship developed, transcending my limited Spanish and their English.
I’ve enjoyed serving on the CWISH Committee, the Community Winter Shelter program hosted by five partner churches. We provide a warm, safe place for neighbors living on the street.
Another local partnership of churches is YAHOO Mexico Mission, which this year sent more than 60 youths and adults to build homes in Mexico. The lessons learned will last a lifetime.
The church I serve provides breakfast and assistance in a hospitality room on Monday and Friday mornings, primarily for neighbors without housing. We’ve come to know our guests as friends. We’ve learned the homeless friends’ stories are not so different from our own.
People throughout the county give generously of their time and money. Park and school bonds have passed. Service clubs have raised important funds for scholarships and community nonprofits. Buildings have been built and charitable groups supported. I have interacted with several of these community groups.
Many residents make gifts of their time. Wherever your interest lies, you can find many opportunities to volunteer. Sometimes, it’s hard work, but it’s always rewarding. Whether it’s ushering at Gallery Theater, coaching a child’s sports team, working in the library, reading to kids at school or sorting food for a food bank, people are always needed. I’ve learned volunteering is a great way to make friends.
Recently, I have enjoyed volunteering at the McMinnville Free Clinic. Several community members saw the need to provide holistic health care to people without health insurance or other means to afford it, and the clinic opened in March 2013. I provide administrative support. We see patients between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of each month. As many as 20 patients come in. Doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, health educators, prayer partners, greeters, and receptionists from churches as well as the wider community volunteer at the clinic, working tirelessly to provide care for neighbors and friends.
This experience has shown me that the need for health care crosses many lines. Some people have Medicare but can’t afford the co-pay or can’t find a provider in the community. Others lost their jobs and receive too much unemployment to qualify for the Oregon Health Plan. The clinic serves as an excellent example of people helping people in our community.
Children in our community are valued. It definitely takes a village to raise a child. McMinnville Parks and Recreation Department programs have been an important part of our children’s lives. Volunteer coaches provide guidance and role models. Recreational teams provide physical activity and friends.
And thank you, teachers! School funding continues to decline, and government expectations continue to change, but our teachers remain child-centered.
Living here, I have learned much about local leadership. Our forefathers were thoughtful and intentional in establishing our communities. We are so fortunate that McMinnville Water & Light provides water and electricity at reasonable rates, much lower than many other cities. At times, I have seen government bodies needlessly fight among themselves while community needs were not met. But other governmental entities work hard at listening to citizens and to one another. The most effective leaders know how to listen, work together and remain friends even when they disagree. Wonders of community collaboration occur when organizations partner rather than compete.
Our community was founded on an agricultural base. While we must diversify our economy to ensure job growth, we must also remember our roots and protect them. This means maintaining opportunities for those in agriculture. Opportunities include growing food for the food bank, processing locally and being good stewards of the land. A good book on this subject is “The Town That Food Saved” by Ben Hewitt.
We leave McMinnville with grateful hearts. It is so hard to say goodbye. You have been our village. Soon we will become part of the community in Beverly, Mass. We will take with us the lessons learned from this wonderful community. As we leave, new people will arrive. They, too, will find the generous spirit you have shared with us.
The Rev. Kent Harrop since 1994 has served as pastor of McMinnville First Baptist Church. He volunteers with the CWISH Committee, as a Linfield College Trustee and with Ecumencial Ministries of Oregon.
Tricia Harrop is former director of the Yamhill Regional Food Bank and the McMinnville Leadership Development Program, and she is active in Kiwanis. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and camping. She and Kent raised two daughters in McMinnville: Lindsay and Katelyn.
In May, Kent and Tricia will move to Massachusetts, where Kent will serve as pastor at First Baptist Beverly. For fun, he kayaks on the Willammette River — soon the Atlantic Ocean.