Out of the ashes of wildfire has come opportunity
Andrey Ivanov has a good problem. The success of his Flash Love effort getting local youth to help their community was significant. That led to him creating the Spartan Challenge, primarily focused on giving young men some discipline, self confidence, and purpose. Four classes later, parents and families are urging him to expand the program.
How to pay the costs of expanding the Spartan Challenge? His program needs roughly $5,000 per month for food, boots, equipment, insurance, and supplies. Ivanov donates his time, as do the many former military members who volunteer as instructors. But as word spread on the success of his program, new opportunities have presented themselves.
Ivanov tried fundraisers and even formed a moving company. There were a lot of different pathways and possibilities. But there is opportunity in many places, if you’re willing to look for it.
Ivanov is a man always thinking, “what if” or “how can I.” He wants to help build young men and young women who are an army for good; people of faith who become the good samaritans in their community.
“Starting with a good foundation is critical,” Ivanov said during a drive this week by the Oregon State Correctional Institution (OSCI) just east of Salem. “You’ve got to offer these young people hope and safe shelter. They have to be provided a chance to use their God-given talents in a way that lets them care for themselves while becoming part of a larger community.”
He pointed out that the average age of a young man incarcerated at OSCI was 22. “We’ve got to break the cycle and circumstances that put them there,” he said.
The 2020 fire season was devastating around the Pacific Northwest. Ivanov and this reporter witnessed the damage as they traveled east on the Santiam Highway. Much of the town of Gates, Oregon was destroyed, including the property of Colby Lamb. He lost a home and a huge workshop. He is slowly trying to rebuild.
A friend of Lamb knew about the Spartan Challenge and their small army of volunteers and youth. Ivanov was amazed to find a citizen with a heart of gold, who was hoping to find someone like Ivanov and his heart to work hard and serve his community. He asked if the young men would like a business opportunity; a way to fund their efforts.
Capitalism is all about providing a service or a product that people not only need, but are willing to pay for. Lamb needed his land cleared of burnt timber and lumber to rebuild his home and workshop. Ivanov had manpower who needed to learn new skills, and to raise money. Out of the adversity of the fire, a new friendship and partnership was born.
Several days a week, a group of young Spartans head to Gates and the Lamb property. Waiting for them is some heavy duty equipment and hard work. Two expensive saws are used to cut the burnt trees into usable lumber.
“That’s a $47 dollar piece of lumber,” Ivanov exclaims as one 2×6 comes off the machine. He grabs the top and takes it back for another run-through, creating a 2×4 he can sell as well. Most of the cut lumber will need to be further finished with a planer.
He points out a beautiful 16- to 20-foot slice of a tree, bark still on the bottom. “We can sell that to a bar that wants to create a bench; or to someone else looking for a beautiful, natural wood table for triple the price,” he says.
Ivanov’s business model will allow some of the young people he’s helping to earn a commission on what they sell via the internet, and still leave his Spartan Challenge a profit to fund activities.
The 2020 fires in Oregon destroyed homes, property, and thousands of acres of trees. Andrey Ivanov and his Spartan Challenge crews are turning burned trees into usable lumber, helping to clear the land and provide resources to continue their activities. The goal of the Spartan Challenge is to give potentially troubled youth a path for success, instilling self confidence and giving them skills for life. Video by John Ley, edited by Andi Schwartz.
A mini shelter sat on the property. It could be a homeless shelter, or permanent small housing for a single mom. The young Spartans built it, with help from engineers and people in the construction trades who pitched in with ideas and suggestions. The original structure was 9-feet wide by 21-feet long. It was constructed on wooden beams in a way that it could be loaded onto the back of an 18-wheel truck and trailer, and transported anywhere.
They have come up with a second version as well. This is 12-feet wide and 22-feet long. It too could be used as shelter for a single mom, as it’s very affordable to build and heat. The units will be ADU compliant.
The young Spartans are learning construction skills. They can work off the cost of their Spartan Challenge course. They can continue adding to those skills while helping others and potentially make some money.
Ivanov is hoping to acquire some acreage for his personal use. But he envisions the ability to put some of these mini homes on parts of his property and offer shelter for those less fortunate. The possibilities are endless, whether they are used for a short time, or a longer-term rental. The goal is to find ways to offer shelter to the less fortunate.
He’s working on creating 19 different business models that these people could choose to follow, on a path for success. There will be support groups and mentors along the way.
These structures could be used as temporary structures for the homeless, as the region deals with this vexing problem. Ivanov believes these could be made with all that is necessary to function as a “home” for $35,000 if he continues to get access to burned timber.
His plans don’t stop there. He’s also investigating ways to help replant new trees. The seeds of change, of opportunity, of hope will grow for future generations to prosper.
Ivanov has many youthful supporters. Mark Dubinsky is about to graduate from high school. He thinks he wants to become an architect. But regardless of those possible future plans, he delights in helping other young people make it through the Spartan Challenge. He fills many roles, but today he was hefting humongous pieces of timber to the cutting machine.
By the end of April, Ivanov hopes to have all Lamb’s timber cut and the land cleared. He’s already found a source for more burnt timber. The owner of a trucking company approached him about helping this worthy cause and is scouting new opportunities.
“When these young men finish their time with us, be it 10 weeks, 10 months, or several years, they’ll have skills and the confidence necessary to make a difference in our world,” Ivanov said.
Ivanov is all about making a difference, one person at a time.
Out of the ashes of disaster and tragedy, has come opportunity.