Restoration Hope Northwest (RHN) recently announced its intention to go to Okanogan County to assist in the construction of new homes for those who lost theirs in the Cold Springs Canyon Wildfire that began on Labor Day of 2020.
RHN, which describes itself as “a local, faith-based, humanitarian organization,” is a nonprofit based in Chehalis that seeks to provide aid to disaster victims. It was founded by a group of Christian men in 2015.
RHN has been involved in assisting Okanogan County residents in recovering from wildfires since the largest wildfire in state history, the 2014 Carlton Complex fire, struck the area. After the fire, a rancher was connected to a group of Lewis County residents, who were given the opportunity to assist in the construction of new fencing in 2015. About 60 people participated in that first trip, which was primarily focused on clean up efforts.
RHN has since worked on about 200 projects and has developed a niche for using heavy equipment. The group generally travels once or twice a year, usually in the spring and fall, to Eastern Washington. The places they provide help range from as far south as Coulee City, located about an hour east of Chelan, to as far north as the Canadian border. The number of volunteers that go on the group’s trips has ranged from a dozen to as many as 70 people.
Every participant in the group’s projects is a volunteer and everyone is responsible for footing their own bill.
Volunteers stay in a variety of living situations while they work. Some stay in one of three churches in the area, while others stay in RVs or hotels. Volunteers are allowed to come and go while working on the projects, or stay the whole time, which can range from a long weekend to a couple of weeks. But regardless of how long they’re there, the group says, there’s always something to do.
“If you stand around, it’s a choice,” said Dave Schroden, a member of RHN.
RHN has been partnering with a group based out of Pateros called the Okanogan County Long Term Recovery team (OCLTR). The groups have worked to develop plans for recovery construction projects. The OCLTR serves as a coordinator of sorts for the projects that RHN assists with, helps organize living arrangements for volunteers and works to raise money for their efforts. The OCLTR doesn’t just work with RHN. In the past, help has come from a variety of sources, ranging from Americorps to Mennonites from Pennsylvania.
The OCLTR gave praise to RHN with team member Kathy Power saying, “We are so blessed to have them back. … They’re awesome. You can’t measure their kindness. They give up their time to help these people rebuild their lives. Through their amazing kindness they give them hope for a better future.”
As part of RHN’s mission as a faith-based organization, there is no litmus test for the people they help. Many people in the region they go to are either uninsured or underinsured, according to the group. The group has felt compelled to return every year to offer aid.
Current plans for assisting in the recovery from the Cold Springs Canyon Wildfire include bringing in large equipment, such as excavators and dump trucks, to assist in clean up. They will also help construct new homes for victims of the fire. The group’s upcoming trip will focus on finishing a project from a previous visit that aided in the recovery from a 2020 fire.
According to the group, last year’s big project included the construction of five miles of fencing after ranchers lost about 1,000 miles of fencing in a fire.
During the last week of April, RHN volunteers will go to Okanogan County to complete the projects they began last September. During that week, the volunteers will work to construct new septic systems and connect the newly built homes to utility systems.
RHN is supported by donations from the Lewis County community. Donations can either include money or supplies.
Some of their biggest donors include The Farm Store, Tyler Rental, Cascade Trader, Gear Box, GC’s Truck Stop, Pape Machinery, NC Machinery, Site Development Incorporated, Schroeder Construction Inc., Reichert Distributing, McLaren Lewis, Paradise Farm’s, Miles and Son’s Truck and Equipment Repair, and George Gill Construction.
RHN is currently seeking donations and volunteers to help with their mission. For those interested in assisting RHN in their projects or to donate, contact Dan Boes at 360-520-5037 or visit their website at https://www.restorationhopenorthwest.com/.