Deep faith guides Troutdale volunteer
James Whitehill’s deep Christian faith propels him to spend hours every week volunteering with children at his church, the homeless, and working at an assisted living facility.
“I want to help people,” said 16-year-old Whitehill simply, “Jesus saved me, and the least I can do is help other people.”
Whitehill volunteers “a lot” with the Mountainview Christian Church kid’s ministry. He teaches and does skits with the children. He also volunteers at the yearly vacation bible school, which attracts more than 100 children.
He is a greeter at church every other month.
“I really enjoy worship,” he says, “it is a huge connection for me.”
Whitehill has many fans.
“James is a genuine, kind and caring person,” said Christian Bass, Mountainview’s Family Pastor and a mentor to Whitehill. “He is willing to take risks necessary to grow as a person. These risks usually involve finding ways to meet and serve new people. He is an example of maturity among his peers.”
“He is all heart and cares deeply for kids, the homeless, and the elderly. I cannot think of another Amazing Kid such as James Whitehill. He is an example for all of us!” said Sherry Benfit, a family friend who nominated Whitehill as an Amazing Kid.
Whitehill has also volunteered in the kitchen at Wi-Ne-Ma Christian Camp on the Oregon coast, which he plans to do again this summer.
He also volunteers in Mountainview’s homeless outreach called No One Left Behind. He joins the group weekly to feed homeless folks living outdoors in the area and serves dinner at the church every Friday for people experiencing homelessness.
“I get a joy and happiness that overflows” when helping others, Whitehill says.
He’s also a bit surprised that giving is often returned to him. “I get love and respect too” from volunteering, he says.
Although he earns money for his work at the assisted living facility, he is touched by the affection many residents show him.
“Some of the ladies say, ‘We’re all your grandmas,’” he says.
Whitehill’s mom, Sherry, says that when she visits him at work, some residents fuss over her. “’ Oh, you are James’ mom,’ it’s like he’s a celebrity,” she says.
Community service is a family value with the Whitehills. The rest of the family is involved in church ministries, and it’s a family tradition to serve Thanksgiving dinner at SnowCap Community Services.
The family did a mission to Mexico to build houses when Whitehill was 14 years old. They also used to volunteer at the Multnomah County Animal Shelter, but the Covid pandemic interrupted that service.
Whitehill has been homeschooled his entire school career. He counts history as his favorite subject.
Whitehill is happy that he could be homeschooled but would have liked to play a sport at the nearby high school.
However, his mom explains that the COVID-19 pandemic came in the middle of his high school years, making it impossible for Whitehill to start a sport.
His family wanted to make sure he got a high school diploma, so they are using a curriculum that will give him that sheepskin. Although only 16 years old, Whitehill is technically a senior in high school and will graduate this year.
He plans to enter an apprentice program for becoming and electrician, plumber or other trade technician, but those programs require students to be 18 years old. So he plans to spend his waiting year continuing his volunteer work and working at least three days per week at the assisted living facility.
Although his school work, volunteer jobs and paid work leave him little free time, Whitehill like to play video games, Ultimate Frisbee and play the piano.
Whitehill’s mom Sherry notes “A lot of people say you can’t change the world, but you can change a little corner of it. James does a lot of that.”