Stockton opened its doors to America’s first Sikh Temple, also known as a Gurdwara, nearly 105 years ago on October 24, 1912.
Not only is the Gurdwara a place of prayer for the Sikh community, it’s also a place people in the community can go to for assistance. The type of assistance the Stockton Gurdwara provides came to light last week on Feb. 12.
It was on that day during a California rainstorm, one of which has become common in recent months, compared to past seasons, that officials were concerned about the Oroville Dam, where a spillway was in danger. Although the dam remained intact, the spillway was affected and part of it collapsed.
The Oroville Dam is in Butte County, which made its way into news headlines in 2015, as Butte County endured several forest fires that spread throughout the county. Butte County is about 118 miles north of Stockton. The Oroville Dam holds water from Lake Oroville and controls the water flow to the Feather River.
It is also the tallest dam in the United States.
Erosion in the main spillway of the dam caused a hole about the size of a football field and around 40-feet deep, this part of the dam couldn’t be fixed in time. There is also an emergency spillway that was used for the first time ever.
This prompted the authorities to issue an evacuation of over 188,000 people that live in the estimated path of water spillway.
During the evacuation, authorities warned that residences may face a wall of water, much like a tsunami, in the worst-case scenario if they were to stay home.
It was after that evacuation notice when at least a dozen people drove from the evacuation area all the way down to seek refuge at the Stockton Gurdwara.
Sabreena Gadiok, a Delta College student and member of the Stockton Gurdwara believes that Stockton Gurdwara serves a very important purpose in helping the community.
“The purpose of a Gurdwara can most casually be seen as a community center. It provides a platform for people to help one another through communal contributions. It is through this we see the outpour of support that NorCal Gurdwaras saw this last week,” said Gadiok.
There are endless positive outcomes from helping others.
“I think the community feels more accepted when they get an opportunity to help those in need. It helps people understand what the Sikh faith stands for. It helps people see Gurdwara’s as a safe place and somewhere they can rely on. And I think it gives the Sikh community a sense of purpose, something they know can physically see bringing change and improvement to the community. When the community sees the help it can provide, it encourages them to do it more often,” said Gadiok.
Speaking with Jaspreet Singh, a truck driver and frequent visitor at the Gurdwara, he said he is welcomed when he visits.
“It is like home, I come here today from far away and I eat and rest. Then I can go,” said Jaspreet Singh.
When asked if there was anybody at the temple from the Oroville flood as of Feb. 20 Gurpinder Singh said “everybody left home already.”
Gurpinder Singh said of the flood victims: “I think they all left last week. They were only here for a couple of days, but on Sundays we have a lot of people that come on that day, so maybe they were here again.”
Gagandeep Singh is thankful to call the Stockton Sikh Gurdwara home.
“I love it here, it is home to me and my family. It is the oldest Gurdwara here in Stockton, my family comes here,” said Gagandeep Singh, as he bent down and touched the ground with his hand.
When asked about the sense of pride they get from helping others, a group consisting of Jaspreet, Gurpinder, Gagandeep, and Amandeep Singh just smiled, as if to say actions speak louder than words.