Ozark Mission Project (OMP) brings church youth groups around Arkansas to communities to help rebuild and improve residences. The Texarkana OMP is led by camp directors and volunteers, Michael McQuerrey, Sandy McQuerrey, and Lincoln Combs, and is based out of the First United Methodist Church in downtown Texarkana, Arkansas. Volunteers paint houses, construct wheelchair ramps, fences and clean up houses and yards.
The Junior High and High School level students come from different churches across the state to participate in these missions. Texarkana volunteers are sent to other areas such as Little Rock, while youth from other areas come to contribute to Texarkana projects. Overall, there are 13 camps and a total of 1,000 kids who volunteer.
Combs distributed applications to the VA, Alzheimer’s Alliance, Harvest Texarkana and several home health agencies. Sandy and Michael McQuerrey, OMP directors, coordinated with Deanna O’Malley to link up with different non-profit organizations. Once applications were received, Combs selected 13 sites for this mission. Eleven groups will organize three, two, and one day projects for the campers. Junior High kids work on three-day projects, while senior students focus on the larger 5 day projects.
“What’s amazing is that you can take a group of 6th graders, and Sandy who has no construction experience , but she takes them and helps build a wheelchair ramps. Some are difficult and have to meet ADA standards. It’s amazing that they accomplish it,” said McQuerrey.
“We have young kids who pay money to come work and sweat,” laughed Sandy.
“Most campers become campers for life,” added Combs.
The kids they are interacting with these “neighbors.” They arrive in morning and then get lunch, neighbors are invited to eat with them and then they do a daily devotional. It’s not a requirement for applicants to be of faith, but they are invited to participate.
Combs explained that most of the work is free of charge, with little to no contributions. “We allow anyone to make a donation, but no one is expected to. Everything is provided unless it’s chosen to be provided for us by the homeowner.” The campers are paying the $245 and a portion of that money is the budget. However, the budget isn’t large, so the rest comes from private donations .
“I think what’s been wonderful is that the church actually took the project on. We don’t know why it stopped coming here but we were receptive to bringing it back,” explained McQuerrey. “We presented the idea to a group of twelve and they were excited about participating and the minister wanted us to get permission from missions committee and they thought it was a wonderful idea. Then finally administrative board said yes.”
We start preparing in March or April but should’ve probably started even earlier in January. The directors explained that every community group from the church has been involved in some way , 100% participation.
For example, “Demaris Mills and George Mills have coordinated all the food for this thing . I think they have about 10 people helping,” said Mrs. McQuerrey.
The youth groups work from 9:00a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to complete the projects.
For more information regarding the Ozark Mission Project, visit: Ozark Mission Project