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Playground effort gains momentum at church


Fundraising — Joyful Servant project to benefit from local eight-handed piano group Too Grand! event in September

Lately, Emily Scharfenberger has been thinking about how small ideas can snowball into great things.

That’s in no small part due to her project to replace the playground at Joyful Servant Lutheran Church. What began as a simple thought upon viewing the dilapidated structure she used growing up, has since gained momentum to the tune of more than $23,000 in grants and community support.

“People just really got behind this,” she said. “I think when people hear there are children involved they don’t even hesitate.”

The initial idea was a shared one, which came to Scharfenberger and her mother as they looked out the back window while washing dishes in the church kitchen.

“The boards were literally falling apart,” she said. “It was more of a liability to have out there than to not have anything. We just thought it was a good time to start anew.”

The initial plan called for a single commercial playground set, but having been born in April 1983, just a month before Joyful Servant was founded, Scharfenberger saw the timing of the project dovetailing with both her 30th birthday and the church’s 30th anniversary.

That development represented the first increase in momentum, but hardly the last. It came around the same time that the church leadership, which had been trying to find a use for an old, unused house since building a new one, decided to invite a relief nursery to set up shop there.

Because A Family Place would be using a preschool setting for about 12 to 15 kids from Yamhill County’s most vulnerable families – thereby reducing child abuse, neglect and foster care placements by giving their parents time to find work, seek counseling or otherwise improve as parents – the need for a new playground took a sudden turn. In addition to several small fundraising efforts, like bake sales and a children’s backpack collection, Scharfenberger spearheaded an auction to benefit the project in March.

Once again, what began as a humble idea — to donate things like homemade movie gift baskets and raise more excitement about the project than money – mushroomed beyond Scharfenberger’s wildest dreams.

“We brought in $10,000 at that event and the church was packed,” she said. “I can’t ever remember it ever being that full as it was at the auction.”

During that auction, Joyful Servent congregants Lee and Linda Schrepel purchased a performance by local eight-handed piano and chamber ensemble group Too Grand! Sept. 14 at group founder and pianist Sonja Haugen’s home in Portland.

The Schrepels are taking donations, suggested at $25 a seat, for the event, thereby contributing to the cause in two ways. Those interested may call Lee at 503-662-3926 or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Similarly, Scharfenberger was taken aback as donations continued to come in steadily following the auction and after the project budget had been reached.

The church made a push to complete the project in time for its 30th anniversary celebration in June, but was unable to secure an excavator until September, at which point Scharfenberger expects it will take one or two volunteer work days to complete the installation.