A Pumpkin Center teen is dedicated to raising money to purchase a new living space for an out-of-state family that once lived in a tent.
After traveling to War, W. Va., for a mission trip last year, Margo Willis could not believe what she encountered.
Scores of residents in the town were jobless, dressed in “raggedy” clothes, Willis said, and living in rundown campers with broken windows and no heat.
They also had limited access to food.
“You could tell they had lost all their hope,” she said. “There were no businesses (in the area), and the closest grocery store was at least 30 minutes away. It was sad to see people could be living that way.”
The North Lincoln High School graduate also remembered witnessing one family using a shower curtain as a front door.
Despite the number of needs in the War community, the people remained friendly and cheerful, much to the surprise of the mission team, Willis said.
It didn’t take long for her to realize the true reason for her and the rest of her Salem Baptist Church group’s trek there.
In addition to sharing the love of Christ, praying with community members, handing out food and encouraging them to attend their local church, Willis had a heart for helping the people with their physical needs, starting with their living spaces.
One particular mom and son, 13, who had been on the run from an abusive husband and father, she said, greatly impacted her during the trip.
After discovering the poverty-stricken condition of the pair’s trailer, the 19-year-old college student knew she had to help.
“I realized why God sent me there,” she said.
Willis learned from others in the small West Virginia community that the mom and son had previously lived in a tent.
The family bought their current trailer for just $100 and had relied on a 55-gallon barrel in their living room for heat before Willis and her church provided them with a wood stove.
Willis said she hopes to raise enough money through a golf tournament she’s holding in May to not only replace the mom and son’s trailer — currently fitted with cardboard for windows — but also provide furniture and heating and power for the new home, possibly even covering the first month’s payment for the new bills.
The tournament will be May 17 at Glenn Oaks Golf Club in Maiden. Cost to participate is $55 and includes a round of golf and meal.
Willis and her boyfriend Brandon Locklin first established the fundraising sporting event last year to raise money to buy hams for families in War.
“In West Virginia, there are so many families that don’t get to have a meal every day,” she said.
After only a month of planning, the event proved successful, drawing in around $1,800, Willis noted.
This year, she hopes to raise at least $5,000.
“We are a little more prepared this time,” she said. “We’re praying God will send enough golfers to raise money for a 35-foot camper, which would be like a mansion to them.”
Over the years, Willis has been a part of numerous mission trips including travels to Mexico, New York and places across the state.
Being able to impact people and see the positive changes the mission teams initiate in others’ lives through friendships and positive messages, is what motivates her for each trip.
“God has blessed me with the ability to help others,” Willis said. “Seeing their faces — the smiles — I know I am blessed to be able to help someone.”
Oftentimes, people question why she doesn’t stay local to help people.
“Everyone asks, ‘Why do you go to West Virginia when you can help someone here in North Carolina,” and I say, ‘There is a reason God led us there,’” she said.
With no other options for assistance, the War community needs as much aid as possible, Willis believes.
“If we are able (to help),” she said, “why don’t we help someone?”
She noted she would like to visit West Virginia at least twice a year.
For more information on the golf tournament, how to register or donate, call Margo Willis at (704) 472-2308.
The teen is currently a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she is studying physical therapy.