Welcome to Yeehaw Aloha Thrift-n-Gift!
Yeehaw Aloha … not your average thrift store.
In January 2013 Gabriel and his wife Laurel DeLong, both age 34, opened a thrift shop called Yeehaw Aloha on Isaacs Avenue in Walla Walla.
With great heart and joy, the couple takes in donated items. Everything from antiques to tools is charmingly organized for sale in their gigantic thrift store.
The fundraising for outdoor adventures for Lincoln Alternative High School students in Walla Walla, WA started in the spring of 2010. The catalyst was the lasting impact of love and hope that Young Life adult mentors had on 30-year-old local Gabriel DeLong when he was in high school. This 65-year-old international Christian ministry, whose mission to befriend kids through joyous games and the truth that Jesus is the inventor of laughter, loud music, and never-ending friendship, had never been introduced to the Lincoln student body. Adult volunteers who believed in the cause joined with Gabriel to meet kids at lunch weekly and invite them to “the Young Life party” every Thursday night, in local homes and parks.
Organizing weekend yard sales seemed to be the easiest avenue to raise the money and compassion to send these high school students to Young Life summer camp. Every year the numbers of students interested grew and so did the community support. After three years of dozens of yard sales in multiple locations $60,000 had been raised to take 50 students from Lincoln Alternative High School to have “the best week of their life” at Washington Family Ranch; 25 went on a spring break trip to the Oregon coast; 12 went sledding in the nearby mountains; 8 enjoyed day trips fishing; countless ate blizzards from Dairy Queen; easily 300 came for weekly pizza, monthly activity nights at the YMCA, and weekly home parties. These students experienced newfound joy and laughter, consistent friendship and food, a safe gathering to ask questions about God, and the security of acceptance despite many fears and uncertainties looming at home. Countless adult volunteers, teachers, business owners, local government officials, law enforcement officers and parents throughout the Northwest were rallying to sponsor a lasting impact of the love of Jesus, in these students’ hearts. Gabriel patiently earned the right to be heard, communicated in word and deed that they (the Lincoln students) are God’s greatest treasure, and wanted everyone to know, “What a gift it is to be loved unconditionally!”
Walla Walla’s population continued to grow and so did the need for youth activities and adventures. This need became especially apparent on the spring break “Loved by God” Oregon coast beach trip when sixteen out of the twenty high school students saw the ocean for the first time! This was an eye-opening realization, for the five adult leaders, that an increasing population of youth wasn’t being given the chance to see, feel, smell, and celebrate the beauty of creation! Three new questions stirred in their hearts those five glorious days at the beach: How can we better care for teens? How can we facilitate more outdoor adventures, so that the next generation can treasure exploring and preserving it? How can teens experience that God loves them and created all this beauty for them to enjoy? Yeehaw Aloha Youth Adventures was conceived shortly thereafter.
Hosting 10-yard sales in one year, birthed the idea to have a store that could fund youth adventures year round, host a safe teen hang-out, and equip students for the workforce. The Country Store, a local antique mall, caught the vision and donated a booth, to help the mission take root and get out of the elements. Lincoln students volunteered weekly to earn funds towards a week at Young Life camp in Canada, a week at a Christian camp in Idaho, and other short trips of fishing, inner-tubing, and tent camping. The weekly parties continued at the YMCA and in local homes with donations of food from Phoumy’s Thai Cuisine, Big Cheese Pizza, and the Christian Aid Center. Thankfully, Rancho Villa and Blue Mountain Storage each donated one storage unit to help contain the abundance of used items donated daily.
Through 2016 and 2017 hundreds of volunteers and a dozen local businesses pitched in to make a safe and beautiful thrift store.
The passion for youth to know their creator and to treasure creation continues with a board of directors committing to serve four years starting December 2017. The nonprofit articles of incorporation were submitted to the Secretary of Washington State March 2018 and the bylaws and were finalized in April 2018. The first annual budget was approved by May 1st, 2018. Thanks to the community’s generous support the budget also includes hiring Laurel DeLong as the Executive Director of the thrift store, two recent high-school graduates being mentored and one adult truck driver.
A little of this and that.
In the next 2 years Yeehaw Aloha A Nonprofit Corporation and Yeehaw Aloha Youth Adventures is dreaming of funds for the Grand Opening of Yeehaw Aloha Youth Adventures in March 2019, 3 tent camping adventures, 2 river rafting adventures, 1 Puget Sound sailboat adventure, 6 Snake River or Moses Lake inner-tubing adventures, 1 Lake Chelan ferry adventure, 2 sledding trip adventures, 1 Lincoln City, OR spring break adventure, 1 service trip to Portland, OR, and the purchase of a newer 12 passenger van.
Additional activities on site will include a recording studio/internet radio station, computer lab/tutoring center, culinary/sewing trades development, art studio/gallery, board games/video games, stationary bikes, ping pong, etc. Free Yeehaw Aloha Youth Adventures membership comes with being mentored 4 hours a month minimum in the operations of the thrift store, to cultivate responsibility and build resumes with work experience. The headquarters upstairs will be a safe place to have fun, get something to eat, find shelter, deepen friendships, and grow in truth and love. The monthly youth adventures will launch youth to serve the community, overcome fears, grow in maturity, and fall in love with the beauty of creation and its creator.
Long term ideas include applying for grants to hire a director of adventures, opening a second thrift store location of just books and clothes, training youth in job skills and money management, hiring two assistant store managers, a donations manager, a volunteer coordinator, and opening “Forgive Inn” transitional housing of reconciliation for youth.
We believe every town needs several free and safe options for year-round teen activities, like Yeehaw Aloha Youth Adventures. Donations, purchases, and volunteering efforts at Yeehaw Aloha thrift stores go towards the mission to fund Yeehaw Aloha Youth Adventures. Investing quality time into the youth of our town will reduce the desire for gang violence, drug use, school shootings, bullying, jail time, court services, homelessness, welfare, teen pregnancies, unemployment, and abuse. Thank you for helping us show teens that we love them and that face-to-face friendships are the most valuable treasure in the world. The future of our nation depends on the health of today’s youth.
Sponsor and Community Support Provided By:
True North Drywall
Blue Mountain Paving