Hood River has a new teen service project that is seeking to benefit both the local community and those abroad.
The Juice Loop Project — by Gorge Teens in Service — began with four students, under the direction of parent organizer Joy Behr, and has since grown to 10, mostly through word of mouth by its members. The goal: Community connection.
“The Juice Loop is about … the value of service to one another and a reverence to the Earth, who provides the food for both our bodies and souls,” said Behr. “It did turn into a much bigger service project than we ever expected to do.”
Bigger, because not only are the teens headed to the Dominican Republic in November for a “service adventure” trip, but have worked on both sides of the Columbia to bring fresh juice to those in need.
The group worked with Mt. Hood Organics to glean end of season pears, and then with Hood River Juice — also known as Ryan’s — to turn it into 100 percent, flash-pasteurized pear juice.
“This is the first year, so I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I’ve juiced his apples before, but didn’t know what pears would be like. It was really good and really well received.”
And then they sold “shares” of the juice to other local businesses in order to donate the end product to the neediest in the Gorge communities, such as senior centers and senior meals programs, food banks, and even a school lunch program in Wishram.
“In the beginning, the kids were going out, looking for sponsorships from businesses for them to buy gallons of juice for us to distribute free,” she said. “We got a number of businesses to support it, but we didn’t get out as much as we wanted to.”
Still, the Juice Loop donated 1,500 gallons of the fresh pear juice. But getting it into the hands of those who needed it proved harder than Behr and the students anticipated.
On the Beat
Fundraiser to send Juice Loop Project participants to the Dominican Republic in November.
June 3-4 at 7 p.m.
Hood River Valley High School Bowe Theatre
$8 adults, $5 students
Suitable for all ages
“I tried to get (juice) to schools but that was tricky,” she said. “For me to say, ‘We have this for free,’ and have them not be able to get it to the kids and their families (was hard).
“So much in this first year was just figuring out who needed it and how to get it to places who needed it and could use it.”
Even with the donations, the group still had juice left over, so they decided to sell the excess. Behr talked with Rosauers, and the supermarket agreed to not only allow the students to sell gallons of juice to customers as they entered the store, but refrigerated it for them, too. The group sold the juice for four weekends; profits allowed them to cover the costs of the project, and even make a little to put towards their November trip.
“We’re connected with a gentleman (in the Dominican Republic), who lives and works with the community where we’ll do projects,” Behr said. “It will be different projects — one day at a coffee plantation, then another day at another plantation.”
Each member is raising $2,000 to cover the cost of the trip — together, so that finances don’t get in the way of the students’ quest to serve.
In support of the Dominican Republic trip, an all-ages fundraising show has been planned. “On the Beat” will feature music, dance, theater and comedy Friday and Saturday, June 3-4, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Hood River Valley High School Bowe Theatre. The show will feature performers of all ages and will be suitable for families.
“On the Beat” will be emceed by Hood River Valley High School senior Miguel Vasquez, “known and loved by all in the local theater scene,” said Behr. “Miguel directed a similar performance last year and the reviews were fantastic, so he decided to offer two nights this year.” Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students, and all proceeds will go towards the trip.
Locally, Behr foresees the project continuing into the future, mostly due to the positive feedback she received from business sponsors and juice recipients.
“Providence supported us with 500 donations, and they were the ones who told me how special we were, on both sides of the river,” she said. “(The juice) was really well received, especially by seniors in The Dalles,” she said. “The seniors really loved it. We got rave reviews in both Stevenson and The Dalles.
“… We will continue to participate in service projects, likely with the partners we made in the Juice Loop Project,” she said.
The group has partnered with various local organizations, including CultureSeed, Columbia Gorge Peace Village, and the Leos, among others.