The small group of high school students who traveled to communities in Clackamas County that had been devastated by the Riverside Fire last month thought they knew what they would encounter: heartbreak, loss, hopelessness, defeat.
They were wrong.
“The people greeted us with big smiles,” said Elliot Shin, a Lincoln High School junior and president and founder of Olivenbaum, a student-run nonprofit that seeks to bring peace through music. “We all wanted to hug each other so much, but we couldn’t due to Covid.”
On Oct. 4, Olivenbaum visited two sites near Estacada ravaged by the Riverside Fire: a private home (with the owners’ permission) and the Dodge Community Church. Both were leveled by blazes that swept through the surrounding forests and countryside — and came within a half-mile of engulfing the town itself.
“As we gathered before the ruins and began to play ‘Amazing Grace,’ there was peace; there was hope and there was a message of new beginning,” Shin said afterward.
The musicians included Ashley Yoon, Lakeridge High School, violin; Ian Song, Cleveland High School, violin; Jay Choi, Summit Learning Charter, viola; Christine Youn, Lake Oswego High School cello.
New York University student Catherine Youn served as videographer.
For more information, or to donate, visit olivenbaummusic.org/donate. To view the Oct. 4 concert, see the video below:
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, opened a disaster relief assistance site this week to assist Clackamas County residents affected by the wildfires.
The site is located at Estacada City Hall, 475 SE Main St. in Estacada, and is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.