Forty years ago in Yakima, people were watching “The Brady Bunch,” listening to ABBA and driving Volkswagen Beetles.
And they were getting their first taste of Young Life’s barbecue beef sandwiches.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Central Washington State Fair’s Young Life booth.
“In honor of our 40 years, we are introducing the Big Schilly,” said Craig Hooper, the area director of Young Life. “It is twice as big as the regular sandwich with twice as much meat.”
That sandwich is named for the brothers who founded the booth, Gerrit and Carl Schilperoort. They wanted to be able to raise money to keep Young Life going, and the booth has definitely completed that goal. In the last 40 years, Young Life has made more than $1 million at the fair.
The money raised from the booth goes into a general fund that helps support Young Life’s activities, including sending youth to camp. These camps are located in Centralia, Antelope, Ore., and Gearhart, Ore.
The kids and adults who go to camp come from all of the “14 different clubs in the Yakima area.” said Hooper, 42. The clubs are located throughout the Yakima Valley. At the high school level they are called Young Life, and in middle schools they are called Wyldlife.
Though Young Life started its booth at the fair in 1972, the program has been in the Yakima area since the 1950s. Young Life is a nonprofit parachurch organization “whose focus is the Christian outreach to high school and middle school kids,” Hooper said.
About 65 adult volunteers in Yakima are assigned to a school to work with students.
“They spend time building relationships with kids, and do a weekly or monthly Young Life club, which is kind of like a youth group for nonchurched kids,” Hooper said.
Kristin Sargent, 35, is a teacher at Toppenish Middle School and is starting a Wyldlife group there. She brought three of her students along to volunteer at the fair.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Jaden Manjarrez, 13, said about working at the booth.
Jamie Zeller, 33, is a math teacher at West Valley High School and enjoys the food Young Life provides.
“I’m not much of a meat-eater, but I love the barbecue beef sandwiches,” said Zeller, who is also a Young Life volunteer and loves the worldwide youth group organization.
Young Life lets “Christian adults share the gospel with high school kids,” said Zeller, “and lets them decide if they want to know Jesus, without shoving it down their throats.”
And that is why Brandon Lenzi, 15, likes it. He has been participating in Young Life for three years now and says the experience has been “unique.”
“My math teacher at the (West Valley) junior high pushed me to go to a meeting and I’ve enjoyed it ever since,” said Lenzi.
• Nicole Jevons is a sophomore at West Valley High School and a member of Yakima Herald-Republic’s Unleashed journalism program for high school students.