Valley UMC leaves a legacy of service in Veneta
Since 1957 Valley United Methodist Church in Veneta, Oregon has been a beacon of light and hope for the community. The Church was founded to welcome all without judgment for study and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and reach out to human need.
The Church founded the Fern Ridge Community Dinner to serve a hot meal every Sunday evening to anyone who needs a meal and the Community Warm Shelter to shelter those in need, during an emergency or freezing weather.
Pastor Rev. Deena Wolfe explained how the shelter began by recognizing the need. “It started on one cold winter night at a community meal when some of the homeless folks came to the meal and there was ice on their beards and it was one of those just cold miserable nights. One of the members of Valley said we can't send them back out in this, and so that's where the Community Warm shelter was born.” Every winter, when the temperatures drop to 28 degrees, the shelter opens. During the 2019 snowstorm the shelter was open for 10 consecutive days sheltering as many as 24 individuals per night.
The Church was also a pilot site for the city of Veneta to provide transitional camping. Teri Watanabe, Community Outreach Pastor, said it started with a few tenants and a donated trailer. In 2 years, 6 individuals have achieved stable housing. In April of 2019 the city of Veneta recognized Valley UMC with a special award for their community efforts.
Over the years, many organizations have called the church building home, including alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous that meet six days a week. Valley sponsored a boy scout troop that helped 25 young men earn the eagle scout rank.
Wolfe said it was clear the Holy Spirit was working with the church in late 2020 when it became apparent that the church’s journey was nearing an end. “The Spirit brought the leaders of Valley and the Fernridge Faith Center in Elmira together," she said, explaining how the process came together. They had outgrown their building and were beginning to look for a larger one. The Fernridge Faith Center is in the process of purchasing the building and their leaders have great vision to continue the ministries Valley UMC started and even expand them.
Rev. Paul Gangle, the pastor for Fernridge Faith Center stated that, because of the love and generosity exhibited in his interactions with Valley leadership, it has changed his way of pastoring.
Watanabe and Wolfe have enjoyed their creative co-pastoring at Valley and another congregation. Wolfe’s new appointment is to Trinity UMC in Eugene and as chaplain for Cascade Health Hospice.
Wolfe said, “The people at Valley of Veneta UMC have accomplished their purpose and are leaving a legacy which will continue for years to come. Their love will never end.”