SWEET HOME, Ark. (KTHV) - There are plenty of service projects and missions trips around the state. But many have characteristics that set them apart from others.
One group based in Conway takes the concept of "summer camp" to a whole new level.
The Ozark Mission Project offers a helping hand to those in need right here in Arkansas. But the volunteers are youth giving up their summer vacation to take part in these "camps."
It started back in 1986 with one camp and 35 participants. Now, they host 12 camps every summer reaching out to support their neighbors.
Paintbrushes, buckets of paint, paint rollers and about a dozen volunteers are all coming together to paint a picture perfect home for Lois Parker.
"Oh it is heavenly. I have enjoyed these children so. They are so beautiful. They are mine, I have accepted them all," says Parker.
The Ozark Mission Project chose to fix up Parker's home this summer.
"They painted my entire house," Parker adds.
Youth and adults work together to do projects like painting homes or building wheelchair ramps.
Mary Dunlap started helping at the Ozark Mission Project's summer camps more than five years ago. Her years as a camper inspired her to continue working as a staff member.
"I get to lead a third of these youth and adults. And I take them out on job sites and I just kind of guide them as I go," Dunlap explains.
These campers, Dunlap says, aren't just giving up their summer vacation.
"They pay their way to come here. The camper fees help pay for all the materials that we provide to the neighbors for free. And then all the food and all that kind of stuff," Dunlap adds.
This is the fifth year Conor Brown's been to camp.
"I've built wheelchairs. One time we laid linoleum tiles. We've built a deck and we're painting a house this year," says Brown.
Brown says he doesn't mind giving up his summer to help others.
"It may be fun to run around and play games but it's just like the look on the neighbor's face once you've painted their whole house, that keeps you coming back," Brown adds.
And for volunteers like Dunlap, she says it's like working with family.
"It's all about the neighbors. The people that we work for, we call them neighbors. We love them. We love these people. These kids are awesome. They have the biggest hearts in the world," Dunlap says.
"I have fun with these children, yes I do. We have a good time. I'm [going to] miss my children. I mean they mine you all, they mine! I claimed [them]," Parker says.
The Ozark Mission Project hosts camps in 13 cities in Arkansas including smaller surrounding communities. There are three camps each week for a total of 12 during the summer.