To vote for Whipple Creek’s Real Life in Hazel Dell community center, visit http://refresheverything.com/bereal or text the number 105496 to 73774.
The vision is simple, the application unique. Brett Aljets, head pastor of Whipple Creek Church, describes it thusly: “We don’t want to be a church for the city or of the city. We want to be a church with the city.”
Abstaining from the politics of religion, Aljets oversees a 9-year-old church community in Hazel Dell that transcended denominations to welcome two other area churches into its congregation for the Christmas season. Whipple Creek’s first off-site ministry was housed at a skate park. Churchgoers every three months fill trash cans with socks, underwear or gift cards that are emptied at a public elementary school. The church provides financial support and volunteers to a Rose Village laundromat that washes needy families’ clothes for free once a month.
The Whipple Creek approach is outward-oriented, not a “holy huddle,” as Aljets put it, and reflective of Aljets’ dream: He wants to put a new face on Christianity.
“We always say what the church is against,” Aljets said. “What is a church for? It’s for Jesus and Jesus was for people, particularly the disenfranchised.”
To vote for Whipple Creek's Real Life in Hazel Dell community center, visit http://refresheverything.com/bereal or text the number 105496 to 73774.
Whipple Creek Church is relatively small. It has a congregation of about 200 people. Its accomplishments, though, are considerable; 2011, too, figures to be fruitful.
The church is partnering with the Xchange Church, which hosts services on Sundays at 4 p.m. inside Whipple Creek’s Hazel Dell headquarters, 8802 N.W. Ninth Ave., to early this year open Grace Lodge, a women’s center on a 140-acre site near Daybreak Park in Battle Ground.
Clark County Commissioner Marc Boldt helped facilitate a lease agreement between the church and the county to open the center. The terms: $1 a year for 20 years.
The facility’s primary aim will be working with woman recovering from what Aljets termed “addiction lifestyles.”
Women recently released from drug treatment, possibly prison, “don’t have the skills to get by,” Aljets said. “We’ll help restore them to motherhood. Show them how you set up an alarm (clock) and go to a job.”
The center will offer mentoring and courses on basic life skills, like coupon clipping.
“It’s a huge house that’s been sitting there vacant for years,” Aljets said of the facility only a few renovations shy of opening. “It was a God thing.”
A men’s center is in the offing, with a site to be determined, Aljets said. Similarly, the church has dreamt for two years, Aljets said, of opening Real Life in Hazel Dell — a community center that would house a food and clothing bank, an indoor/outdoor skate park and after-school mentoring.
Whipple Creek is a finalist this month for a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh Project grant that Aljets said would go a long way toward breaking ground on the center Whipple Creek envisions.
“It won’t be church-y,” Aljets said. Voting runs through the end of the month.
On the Pepsi Refresh website, Aljets wrote, “We seek to be a community that if we weren’t here, we’d be missed.”
Whipple Creek started in 2002, five years after Aljets moved to Vancouver to become the youth pastor of a 400-member church. The pastor left, Aljets took the reins on an interim basis and membership fell to about 100 people.
He closed shop for a year and then launched Whipple Creek. “Even the church we started in 2002,” Aljets said, “is different than the church we have now.”
Aljets and his wife, Merrily, have two sons, Levi, 14, and Isaac, 11.
One of the church’s first outreaches was opening its parking lot to Hazel Dell skateboarders with nowhere to skate. Eventually, they installed plywood inside the church for teens to skate during cold and rainy months. There are still holes on the walls from wheels that crashed through the plaster during tricks.
Eventually, through another partnership, the skateboarders moved to RipZu, 1417 N.E. 76th Street. Some of the skaters have become members of Whipple Creek; the relationship endures.
In the coming year, Whipple Creek plans to expand its participation in a national initiative called “A Trashcan Can Make a Difference.” The enterprise turns Dumpster diving on its head: Containers used to collect items that are unwanted and unclean are instead used to collect brand new socks, underwear and wet wipes for kids who go to school in clothes that are unclean. The church already partners with Eisenhower Elementary School. It also plans to provide essentials to students at Jason Lee Middle School and Columbia River High School.
When Eisenhower families lose their electricity or live in homes that catch fire, Principal Doug Hood calls Whipple Creek. The question — “Can you help?” — is always met with the same response: Yes.
“We’re really a God-moving church,” Aljets said. “It makes things fluid.”