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The hummingbirds are coming back. So are the deer: a doe with twin fawns has been grazing close to Christy Allen’s new house, built by MDS volunteers.

From her deck—constructed with a ramp since she uses a walker—Allen overlooks Cameron Lake, located on the Colville Indian Reservation, in Okanogan, Washington, where she’s lived all her life.

A wildfire destroyed her home in 2020. “My old kitchen table looked out to this lake and, at that time, you could see the flames come over the hill,” Allen recalled. “It was like a big giant monster, just taking things out in its path. It was just so fast and so hot.”

Her neighbors sent their grandson down to get her, to tell her she had to go. “We got my cat, and he took my hand, and we went out the door,” she said. “The rest of my cats didn’t make it through the fire.”

The next day, and the day after that, she kept asking: “Did my house make it? Did my house make it?”

The answer was no, and Allen still has trouble talking about it. “It’s very raw still,” she said. “I know things are material. I understand that. But i will say the hardest thing was losing the pictures of my daughter as she grew up.”

Still, she’s able to see the blessings sprouting through this disaster, the same way new green shoots are appearing in her yard. “We’ve got a garden started over here, and my daughter has been working diligently to get some grass growing and to get some beautification back,” said Allen, who is retired and lives with her daughter and her 4-year-old granddaughter.

“God sent all you angels here to rebuild, and we have a new start to life—so we’re just incredibly grateful.”

— Christy Allen

“God sent all you angels here to rebuild, and we have a new start to life—so we’re just incredibly grateful.”

MDS Project Director Joyce Royce took time to visit with Allen, reflecting on the close bond the two of them formed while the home was being constructed.

Describing Royce, Allen noted: “She can make anything happen—she can make anything and everything happen.”

Royce said that Allen is known throughout many MDS circles because volunteers shared photos and stories as they worked on the home. “Christy, you are known because of your positive outlook and because of your kindness to the volunteers,” she said.

In turn, Allen said she has made lifelong friendships with MDS volunteers. “It’s hard to describe so much goodness in people,” she said.

She’s now able to keep processing her grief over what she’s lost—and find happiness in a new, peaceful home on the land she loves.

“Honestly, it’s like my own little sanctuary—it’s just a beautiful, peaceful sanctuary,” she said. “There are just so many blessings from God right here.”


The Mennonite Disaster Service Washington Unit rebuilds homes in the greater Okanogan County community and neighboring counties under the coordination of Okanogan County Long Term Recovery Group (OCLTRG) after the Cold Springs Fire, which burned 189,923 acres and 78 homes in north-central Washington in September 2020. In Summer 2023 the Unit is finishing the last home MDS has committed to in the area, led by Project Directors Joyce & Andy Royce.
Home of Christy Allen – Cameron Lake, Colville Indian Reservation, WA
Daughter Michaela Allen & granddaughter Crystal (4 yrs)


Written by Susan Kim, MDS.

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