OKANOGAN, Wash. - Nestled at the base of the Northern Washington Cascades sits the town of Okanogan. Many may have only heard of it because it was mentioned on a weather map.
But a look past the flashing red light there's a story.
Some businesses along 2nd Street, not showcasing what they have but rather 'For Sale' signs.
"There is a tremendous need for repair projects to be done in Okanogan County," said Lael Duncan, Executive Director of the Community Action Council. "We have 200 homeowners at anyone time who are seeking some kind of assistance."
The community has struggled over the years, it was hit hard when logging tapered off and agriculture slowed. But Duncan hopes to change that.
"We really work to lift people out of poverty and teach them the lessons that they need so that they can move forward with this lives," Duncan said.
Her organization is kicking off it's 50th year in a big way. For a week between June 23rd and June 29th, 217 people, mostly teenagers, from across the country came to the rural community to lend a helping hand.
The group is part of Group Mission trips.
"The mission for us is to create a Jesus centered opportunity for kids to encounter Christ through working together," Camp Director Laura Alfani said.
They focused on projects like painting homes, building wheelchair ramps, and fixing houses.
Duncan says it costs a community anywhere between $15,000 - $20,000 dollars to put the camp together.
The most impressive thing, these kids pay a camp fee of around $400, then they pay for their plane ticket to get to where they are working. Some of them fund-raising for years to make the trip possible.
"It's a true example of faith at work, faith in action and really walking the walk," Duncan said.
"What is so important about it is it restores peoples understanding that they are worth it, no matter where they are in life," Alfani said. "If they are elderly, disabled, or low income, they're worth it."
Dale and Charlene Burdick where one of the 28 lucky families that were helped by the groups.
"The stairs had gotten kind of rotten, the boards, and we had lots of screws in them," Charlene said. "They were getting a little on the dangerous side."
The couple's home got new steps, and a fresh coat of paint.
One of the people helping, Mary Shannon Bocock, 22, of St. Paul Minnesota.
"I really like being able to come and like take a week out of my summer and do something that is going to help somebody," Bocock said. "It makes you feel really good, it just touches a special place in your heart."
The teens in Okanogan say working with the families for a week creates a special bond, something they will remember for a long time.
For more information about Group Mission Trips click here.
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