(Left) Rosalee Mohney leaders a discussion during November’s Laity Immersion experience in Okanogan County. (Right) A junk pile of rusty, metal rest in between the hills in Okanogan County…but also close by are a few new homes slowly being rebuilt.
By Rosalee Mohney | Photos by Jesse N. Love
Volunteers build homes, providing a safe, warm physical environment. Importantly, they provide hope for a community that needs so much. A new home gives back hope, helps return stability, and the beginnings of a brighter future.
In the middle section of The Pacific Northwest Conference is Okanogan County – beautifully filled with canyons, rivers, small towns, and open range. The people are industrious, self-sufficient, stalwart, and ‘good, down to earth’ folks. It’s the beauty of the land, plus the less hectic lifestyle, that has attracted many to move there.
Much of this changed during the summers of 2014 and 2015 when wildfires raged over 1.3 million acres of the vast area. Farmland, forests, range land were destroyed. Towns were threatened and schools were disrupted. Over 500 homes were destroyed plus barns, cars and trucks. Ranchers lost cattle and other livestock; consequently, livelihoods were severely altered. The emotional impact of those horrendous days is still very real as people struggle to rebuild lives and bring stability to their communities.
One survivor, Bill, is spending his third winter living in a small, fifth-wheel trailer with insufficient heating. He was alerted to the fire during the night and saw a firestorm coming. So he grabbed a few things, his dogs, and quickly fled. He had moved to the area to be near his parents and recover from two car accidents several years apart that left him in constant pain; he found work and was beginning the recovery process. Then the horrific fire wiped him out. He has felt overwhelmed at times and says, “At times you don’t understand.”
Now, however, there is hope. Through the donations of money, labor, and materials, he can now see the foundation that has been poured for his new, two-bedroom home. Walls are being pre-assembled in Western Washington by volunteers and will soon be trucked to his site for assembling. Bill hopes to be in his new home this year – he can see his recovery becoming reality!
Volunteers are the back-bone of the rebuilding of these homes. Volunteer teams of men, women or youth have come from across The Pacific Northwest Conference as well as Oregon, Idaho, California, Arizona, and Oklahoma. The cooperation between team members is wonderful, the Rebuild staff does their utmost to help them, and the teams know the results of their work are appreciated beyond words. Would they volunteer again? Overwhelmingly, they say, “Yes” they would like to return. They know they are doing important work.
If you can pound a nail; wield a paint brush; install a kitchen cabinet or hang drywall, you are invited to become part of the call to go where help is needed. Today, the most important thing is that homes are built well, and as quickly and efficiently as possible. Your help is needed today and in the months to come. Thousands of hours of volunteer time have already been given; however, the job is not yet complete for much is still to do! Christ told us to help each other, how can we, as Christians do any less!
How can you help? UMVIM (United Methodist Volunteers in Mission) Teams are needed to contribute their skills for the Rebuild: Up from the Ashes project. Volunteers are needed to help finish the homes once the framing is complete. To volunteer your time and talents, develop a work team or want more information, please contact Rosalee Mohney, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-870-1456. Your work will be appreciated beyond measure. Let’s go help someone!
Hope in the form of a new home! From twisted metal and an unusable foundation to a move-in ready two-bedroom home – all done through the dedication of caring volunteers like YOU! Be a blessing to someone!
Rosalee Mohney serves as the UMVIM Coordinator for Wildfires and Co-Lay Leader for the Seattle District. Like PNW UMVIM on Facebook!