A new driveway for Central Valley Christian School, located in western Oregon, means expanded outreach potential and serves as a reminder to the school of God’s faithfulness.
When the Oregon Department of Transportation erected a center barrier on Highway 34 about two years ago right beside CVCS, it made the school building difficult to access. People trying to get to CVCS from the east on Highway 34 would have to either take a 4-mile detour to access the school from the west or make a dangerous U-turn half a mile up the road. It was essential that the school find a better, safer solution.
The first challenge was obtaining the land to build a new driveway with access to a frontage road near the school. After discussion with a neighboring farmer who owned the land CVCS needed, they agreed to swap sections of their properties.
Once the school had the land, they still needed to raise funds to cover the cost of construction. Ralph Stathem, a retired engineer and constituent church member, volunteered to help the school with logistics. The driveway would have to be 20 feet wide due to fire code and city construction requirements as well as more than 1,000 feet long to connect to the frontage road. The county road department’s initial construction estimate was about $80,000. The school did not have the money for this expense. Stathem shares, “When you’re talking an $80,000 project for one of our little schools, that kind of spells impossibility."
Thanks to the assistance of a county engineer who advocated for the school in an email to ODOT, ODOT was willing to consider solutions. They offered to purchase the school’s deeded access to Highway 34 for the estimated costs to construct the new driveway. Since it was no longer safe or easy to enter or exit the school property directly via Highway 34, removing their old driveway in exchange for funds to build the new roadway was a great option. The construction estimate had grown to just under $144,000, so to have the building costs funded was a miracle for the school.
The school had to surmount more difficulties with permit negotiations and legal fees, but fortunately they received thousands of dollars of financial help to cover these additional costs. Additionally, members in the community and lawyers connected to the Oregon Conference donated hours of volunteer time to assist the school. Throughout the long, often frustrating process, Stathem reflects, “My goal and my prayer all the way along the line was, ‘How can we represent Jesus in a positive way to these people?’”
After persevering through the obstacles to be able to build the new driveway, as of August 2020 the school’s new access point was completed. When parents had to take the circuitous detour, says Les Kelley, CVCS principal, it was “not good for recruiting." He could not say, "Oh, it’s easy to get to our school.’”
Now that the school has a safe, simple entrance, it is more accessible to the community of Tangent, where CVCS is located. The school hopes to reach more families with the gospel. Stathem says, “Something that’s really impressed me as I’ve gone through this is that I see our driveway as being a road bringing children to Jesus. And if we were to name it, I think an excellent name would be Andrew Lane because Andrew was the disciple so often who was bringing somebody to Jesus.”