A few years ago Sunnyside's Jerry Haak and Herman Te Velde began working together to form a group now known as Transformation Sunnyside.
The pair wanted to help the community by providing positive change through prayer and leadership, according to Ed Werkhoven. As the group has grown, it has begun seeking ways in which leaders can be trained to act in a servant leadership role, he said.
He said the duo provided presentations throughout the community and at one such presentation, were approached by Roberto Matus.
"He expressed a desire to become involved with Transformation Sunnyside...he had an interest in community development," said Werkhoven.
Matus, who has worked with the Salvation Army for a number of years, said he looked for community organizations within the Lower Valley willing to work on community development. "But, there was a void until I found Transformation Sunnyside," he stated.
Werkhoven said the addition of Matus added organization to Transformation Sunnyside, and the group's commitment to serving the needs of the community grew. The group has hosted conferences and provided a number of presentations since Matus began working with them.
This coming July 25 and 26, the group will host another conference, featuring evangelist Ed Silvoso. The two-day conference will be provided to the community in both English and Spanish to better serve those wishing to help develop the community through involvement.
Werkhoven said Transformation Sunnyside has monthly meetings. At the meetings, the group discusses avenues in which it can best serve the community.
One such way is encouraging community members to become more involved in the schools, according to Werkhoven. He said the group holds monthly prayer walks through the schools, and has received positive feedback from staff members since the prayer walks began.
"They have told us they have already noticed a difference in the atmosphere and the conduct of the students," he said.
Another difference some staff members have attributed to Transformation Sunnyside's efforts has been 100 percent parent participation at one of the conferences, according to Werkhoven.
He said Transformation Sunnyside primarily wishes to work with other organizations in existence. He said the group believes in adding to the services provided, making it easier for those groups to achieve their goals.
Matus said the group believes in creating a "...community wide effort toward change as a faith based relational organization." Its focus is developing the community.
He said the past approach of other organizations involved identifying the needs of a community. The approach of Transformation Sunnyside is that of identifying the assets within a community.
"We want to identify the gifts, skills, talents and abilities of individuals or groups in the community," said Matus.
By identifying those assets, the group then has hopes of serving the community by utilizing each of those gifts for the purpose of affecting positive change, he stated.
"We are hoping to reach out to members within the marketplace," Matus stated, saying finding leaders from within the community willing to support others in the community will help with providing a community-wide approach to meeting the needs of the Lower Valley.
"We know it is sometimes difficult to get people from various backgrounds to work together," Matus noted. He stated the overall goal is to gather those who become involved with Transformation Sunnyside and help develop a multi-cultural community effort toward reaching the organization's goals.
Be it developing collaborations, teamwork or an overall respect for one another, the anticipation of the group is that the leaders will work together toward one common goal...bettering the community as a whole, according to Matus.
He said it is important for people of different cultures living within the same community to find commonalities, rather than differences...using those commonalities as tools, rather than barriers.
After developing a community partnership among the leaders, Matus said Transformation Sunnyside would like to serve as a hub of resources and leaders within the community.
"Some groups of the model we are using have taken three to five years to accomplish the goal of developing servant leaders," he said, stating the Sunnyside group is aware the changes will take time.
Matus added, "The community contains people who are capable of the transformation of Sunnyside envisioned by Transformation Sunnyside.