THE HEART OF A SERVANT
Gary Buss believes the world would be a better place if everyone loved to serve others, so he’s doing his part.
Since 2007, Buss has spearheaded the annual Our Community in the Park Event in Madras, where the community comes together to provide a variety of free services on the first Saturday of August.
Because of his servant’s heart and his unwavering leadership, Buss is honored as the Madras Pioneer’s Community Hero for 2021.
The community project was his vision many years ago after the annual Collage of Culture ended.
“I saw something that we could do to give back to the community,” 77-year-old Buss said. “I got a group of pastors together, and a couple times a month, we would get together and we would talk about what could this look like in our community if we came together as a group of churches and blessed our community back and gave back to them.”
After a year and a half of planning, volunteers from several churches introduced the Our Community in the Park Event. That first year, as many as 1,000 local residents came for lunch, medical screenings and exams, haircuts, root beer floats, clothing, prayer, entertainment, children’s activities, vaccinations, veterinarian exams, and bike and automotive repairs.
Over the years, the event has grown to include more than 40 service booths, up to 125 volunteers and as many as 4,000 attendees.
Dawn Stecher has been in charge of the food for the event and described Buss as a humble leader with a passion for the community.
“He’s gentle. He’s non-demanding, but he’s encouraging,” Stecher said. “He’s one of those encouragers that always has something positive to say, hardly anything negative.”
Buss works year-round on the event, organizing the volunteers and agencies for the one-day event.
“He orchestrates the venues, getting the Lions Club van there and the dental van. He’s there setting up; he’s there tearing down. He doesn’t just delegate everything; he’s right there with us,” Stecher said. “He really cares about the community.”
Buss said his volunteers love to just go out and bless people.
“We just go out there to do one thing and that’s love on people,” he said.
Although the event was a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Buss and his team went ahead with it this summer. On Aug. 7, an estimated 2,500 people came out for haircuts, snow cones, bike repairs and more. The sun was shining, and kids were swinging at pinatas, jumping in the bouncy houses and splashing in the spray park.
“Our heart this year was to focus on people that just wanted to come out. So many of our people have been shut in. So many of our people have not wanted to go out because of COVID,” Buss said. “To those who were there, they had a great day. Our heart was to serve them.”
After the success of the service event in 2007, Buss, his wife and some pastors came together to form the Jefferson County Faith Based Network, which offers services to those less fortunate and now oversees Our Community in the Park Event. Buss is president of the network, and his wife founded and leads the resource center. The program has grown to include monthly networking meetings, a winter shelter, a cooling center, a food network, and a job and life-skills program.
Buss said he’s been busier than ever since he retired. He and his wife, Beckie, moved to Culver in January of 1999 after a 35-year career at Weyerhaeuser Pulp and Paper Division in Springfield. They had often visited Central Oregon to rockhound, hunt and fish, activities they still enjoy with their two daughters, grandkids and great-grandchildren. They have also been active in leadership at Living Hope Christian Center.
Buss said that Jesus is his motivation in service.
“My faith tells me that we need to give back, and we need to love on people,” Buss said. “We need to serve and be servants.”