Some 204 United Methodist youth gathered in central Arkansas for the annual Ozark Mission Project that does for home repair projects in communities.
The projects tend to be “wheelchair ramps, steps, painting,” said Bailey Faulkner, the executive director of the Ozark Mission Project, that is described on its website as, “where we learn how to work with another and serve our neighbors in Arkansas, providing an experience of character-building, love, and acceptance.”
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The project turned 35 this year and is, “completely funded by donations and we are so thankful for those that invest their time and money to keep making this possible,” Faulkner said. “This [past] week alone we did over 40 projects across Arkansas and every one of them were made possible by the generosity of others.”
The project is done in three stages with the first being held last week, with the next two being June 20-24 and July 11-15.
Among the churches that participated last week were Lakewood United Methodist Church in North Little Rock. while Maumelle First United Methodist Church will have its youth attend a later session, said the church’s student minister Nick Garrison.
“We will likely be in the Benton area,” he said, but, “We have not been told our locations or specific projects yet. Campers usually don’t find out until their first work day.”
Clint Johnson, served as the project’s North Little Rock camp director and said that nearly 50 youth did a total of 19 projects, with 11 being wheelchair ramps that measured a total of 330 feet.
"Ozark Mission Project is a life-changing organization that impacts the neighbors we serve, the campers and the staff that organize the camps,” Johnson said. “For me personally, OMP is an annual way to re-fill my spiritual cup and allow me to grow closer to God.”
Johnson has been a camp director for the last nine years and last year’s project was a day camp due to the ongoing pandemic and did not have the work projects that are normal for the campers.
“For many of us,” Johnson said. “We deeply missed camp in 2020.”
Faulkner added that suspending the work projects was a necessary step.
“Ozark Mission Project works for some of the most high risk populations,” she said “Because of the pandemic we suspended any inside work projects and we pivoted to a day camp model.”
Last year’s pivot didn’t dampen enthusiasm for this year though.
In addition to the 204 last week, Faulkner said 173 are signed for the second session in June with 116 signed up for the third session.
The projects last week, and like the coming sessions, are done rain or shine, and “I was very proud to see these adults and youth working in the pouring rain, mud and sun to serve strangers and share the love of Christ,” Johnson said.
One project in Rose City stuck with Faulkner.
“We built a wheelchair ramp for a 19 year old boy named Seth,” she said. “At least three days a week the North Little Rock Fire Department had to come out and help with getting him inside his house.
That isn’t the case now, “because of the ramp we built him, Seth now has the freedom to leave his house on his own.”
North Little Rock Fire Capt. Bryan Hill told Faulkner that he was glad Ozark Mission Project was “able to help this family” and “ knowing that Seth can get in and out safely with a wheelchair ramp is important.”