Divide Camp is a place of refuge nestled in the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon. Each year, it hosts over 50 combat-wounded veterans, with the goal of providing hope and healing through encounters with nature and outdoor recreation.
As the camp grows, more resources are needed. In 2018, the need for a permanent kitchen facility emerged – transporting food for 50 people to the outdoor kitchen for every meal was simply too big a task. That’s when American Legion Auxiliary Department of Oregon District 6 decided to ask the ALA Foundation for help – in the form of a Veteran Projects Fund grant.
The district was awarded the grant in February 2018, and the kitchen was completed in September of that year.
“The new kitchen completely changed the way things run,” said Luke Norton, U.S. Army veteran and volunteer at Divide Camp. “It’s so nice, it’s so much more organized, and everything is right there for them to use. It’s wonderful, and it turned out beautifully.”
Norton struggled to find purpose after finishing his service in the Army. He became a volunteer at Divide Camp after his first visit, about four years ago, just after he quit his job to pursue a degree in exercise science. He was so moved by his experiences at the camp that he was compelled to volunteer.
“It gave me that purpose back,” Norton said. “Being involved in something that is bigger than myself again was really beneficial.”
Combining the personal strides Norton took while at Divide Camp and his degree in exercise science, it became an obvious fit for him to provide health and wellness classes for veterans.
“Being able to pass that knowledge on and help vets that way, physically — that is really my passion,” Norton said.
Norton is grateful for organizations like Divide Camp, and the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation, that help make these experiences a success for veterans who need it.
“Being in nature and being with other vets in the wilderness in cabins without electricity, and the additions that we have been able to make because of the grant [from the ALA Foundation], it is truly healing,” Norton said.
“The more amenities we have up there, the more vets we can handle, so we are thankful.”