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A volunteer’s dream becomes reality

By: Donna Fisher, Solar Oven Partners

Larry Presenting To Advisory Board

A mission team chair at Canyon Lake UMC, Larry Burkhead, left, was a dedicated SOP Volunteer-in-Mission, mourned since his death from mesothelioma in August, 2016. Burkhead served on the SOP Board during the last years of his life. Photos courtesy Solar Oven Partners.

Larry Burkhead had a dream—a place where West River United Methodists and friends could fabricate components for Solar Oven Partners  (SOP) in hands-on volunteering closer to home.

On Sunday, September 25, Solar Oven Partners and Open Heart United Methodist Church in Rapid City, South Dakota, will host the grand opening of such a place with tours, a pick-up lunch, music and greetings by SOP Director Marjorie Evans-de-Carpio. You can help promote the event with this poster

“Since Larry was a possibility-thinker by nature, he made wise motions on topics such as workshop upgrades and workshop location. He would be very pleased the reflector workshop has relocated to Open Heart UMC in his home turf of Rapid City!” says board member Karen Workman.

In 2019 the SOP board learned that Open Heart UMC was eager to offer under-utilized space. “They’re proud of their history and excited to see their building put to good use,” says Reverend Michele Slott. “They’ve always been caring about food insecurity, about children and families in poverty, so having the workshop here is a good fit.”

Adam Burnison

Adam Burnison, Open Heart UMC member and a skilled machinist, is the workshop manager who orders materials, keeps equipment in shape and trains volunteers.

Adam Burnison, a member at Open Heart UMC, and Pastor Michele will manage scheduling and help groups plan workshop sessions in cutting, marking, bending and punching aluminum for reflectors. Attention to detail and willingness to learn are the qualifications for reflector workshop volunteers. “If you can trace with a permanent marker or operate what looks like a big paper cutter, you are in business,” says Pastor Michele. “Marj trained me, but my favorite job is putting on our Solar Oven sticker, like a seal of approval!”

Involved in the Non-profit Church Leadership program, Slott has set high goals as part of her graduate-level project.
“I’m hoping to book at least 24 individual groups between October 2021 and October 2022. We want at least 12 trainers who can work with groups, including six already trained from our church. Now we need groups of trainer/supervisors from other United Methodist Churches.”  Reaching out to corporate and community groups as well as churches in the region, she hopes to do at least six speaking engagements and six walk-through tours in the next several months.

Gene and Scott cutting reflector

Trainers Gene Mason and Scott Sherman of Open Heart UMC polish their reflector skills. They have involved some members of Circle of Friends, a ministry to adults from Black Hills Works, in learning to use workshop equipment. Circle of Friends can provide snacks and meals when groups come to volunteer.

Mission committees, men’s or women’s groups, youth groups, a family team, friends from a service club—any group may volunteer, Slott says.

To book Pastor Michele for a speaking engagement or tour, contact her via e-mail here. To book a workshop or learn more details, fill out the online form here. You will receive a phone call within two business days.

The September 25th grand opening is only part of SOP’s Dominican Voyage Across the Dakotas this fall.  SOP Director Marj Evans De-Carpio travels to communities across the Dakotas (and even in Minnesota) from September 22-October 3 to raise awareness and gather support for this uniquely Dakotas United Methodist mission. See her schedule and promote her visit using the downloadable materials here.

Diana Auwerter working At Open Heart UMC

Open Heart UMC member Diana Auwerter can help train your group members on following the template they will trace on aluminum sheeting for punching grommet holes.

Visit the SOP website to learn how your church can join this ministry at any of its three workshop locations in Raymond, Montrose, or Rapid City, in South Dakota.

Solar Oven Partners offers many ways to be involved and help fund this unique and successful Dakotas Conference mission. Make a major mission impact without leaving the Dakotas, thanks to the many ways you can volunteer with Solar Oven Partners.



Dakotas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church 605.996.6552 1331 University Ave. Mitchell SD 57301-0460 US 43.69689310 -98.03291320 122 W. Franklin Avenue Ste 400 Minneapolis MN 55404 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 W University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000