Like most small towns, Vernonia depends on volunteers to get things done throughout the community. Vernonia has chapters representing many national service groups – Lions Club, Boosters, PTA- but it also has a few unusual groups that really step up when needed and do some of the heavy lifting in town. Here is a brief description of just some the local service organizations you’ll find hard at work in this community.
Emergency Services are provided by Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District (VRFPD) and Vernonia Volunteer Ambulance Association (VVAA).
Lions Club-Internationally the Lions are the world’s largest service club. Locally, they are one of the biggest supporters of the Vernonia Community. The Lions raise funds through the annual BBQ Sandwiches they sell at Jamboree and other various events and then turn around and pour that money back into the community in a myriad of ways. In the past they have helped the local food bank, kids with eye exams, repaired fishing docks at Vernonia Lake, raised funds for a local resident who needed a kidney transplant, placed flags and crosses on graves of veterans for Memorial Day, helped raise funds for the local Head Start program …the list goes on and on. Pretty much wherever there is a need, the Lions are there. Around here, you can always count on the Lions!
Vernonia Hands On Art Center–Created to help children cope and recover from the trauma of the 1996 flood, Hands On Art now helps expose the community to the arts. Through their support of quality learning environments, they celebrate the creative spirit while honoring Vernonia’s heritage. Each year Hands On Art sponsors the Junior Salmon Auction, where the sale of work by high school art students raises money for the school art program. In the past, Hands On Art has also supported the Vernonia Ballet, Vernonia Community Theater, and Hands On Development, a summer day camp for children with developmental disabilities. They also organize an art show each year during the Vernonia Salmon Festival, held on the first Saturday in October; last year the art show helped fund a college scholarship for a local high school student.
Vernonia Boosters Club-In a small rural community like Vernonia, the opportunities for kids to participate in extra curricular activities could be limited. The local Boosters organizes and oversees non-school sports programs including little guy football, soccer, basketball, baseball, t-ball and softball. These programs are essential to the development of youth and help provide structured recreation. The Boosters conduct fundraising throughout the year to support these programs. They sell fireworks before the 4th of July and run the “Snack Shack” at home football and baseball games.
Vernonia Freewheelers Club-Originally organized as a social club to enjoy their shared passion of off road four-wheeling, this group has become the go-to group when a volunteer job calls for manpower. The Freewheelers have adopted a stretch of Highway 47 just south of town and regularly patrol it for litter. They have also taken on the maintenance of the Pioneer Cemetery. Each year they pick a family in need and help them out at Christmas time. When the Pioneer Museum needed a new sidewalk they spent several days prepping, pouring and finishing it. The single-day work parties they have participated in are too numerous to count: lake cleanup day, wrapping Christmas gifts for needy kids and much more. It’s not all work for these folks either, they usually make a big showing and are a crowd favorite in any local parade; their appearances in the Christmas Lighted Parade are becoming legendary! Wherever there is a need you are likely to see a big bunch of the Vernonia Freewheelers.
Vernonia Community PTA – The goals of the Vernonia Community PTA are the same as PTAs throughout the country, to promote parent involvement in the school system. The Vernonia PTA is extremely active, hosting the annual Easter Egg Hunt for children, holding a community talent show, organizing teacher and staff appreciation events, and much more. Recently they adopted a project to buy and install play equipment on the school campus. Having purchased and installed some play equipment and a swing set for the school campus; they continue to work to raise funds to add more equipment. This is an engaged, creative and organized group that works hard and accomplishes a lot for the school and the rest of the community.
P.E.O. – A philanthropic organization of professional women that provide educational opportunities for female students, they issue scholarships for high school seniors and women interested in continuing or returning to school. Each year P.E.O raises funds through their Christmas wreath sale. The meaning of “P.E.O.” has always been an official organizational secret, although in 2008 the national organization revised their website to indicate that P.E.O. stands for…well, we’re not going to spoil it. They’re a great group of women doing wonderful work in Vernonia, and we’ll leave it at that.
This is a snapshot of service groups in Vernonia. Their stories are part of the lifeblood of community, and are a piece of what makes this a great town. More stories are available on our website, www.vernonia.com.