LEAVENWORTH COUNTY, KS (KCTV) -- For Carrie Ritchey, the small white church atop a hill in the Little Stranger Township is more than a building.

"It represents a community," Ritchey said. "A community that has been here for more than 100 years."

Settlers from Farley, Mo. founded the church in 1868. It thrived and grew with the settlement until the Spanish Flu struck a blow to rural communities.

By the time that pandemic had passed, things were different.

"The community had changed, the war was ending," Ritchey explained. "It just didn't open back up."

The church sat vacant, rarely used for more than a century. Its only occupants were the occasional club or Sunday school. Over time the paint peeled from the walls and the floor started to give way.

But the foundation stood strong. Ritchie noted the structure's good bones.

"It's very sturdy," she said. "They knew what they were doing."

Ritchey and her neighbors have been determined to fix up the church for years.

Jim Sloan, like Ritchey, grew up in the township. His ancestors attended services there. 

"Things can be reinvigorated and reborn and kind of come back to life," Sloan said.

Over the last few years Ritchey, Sloan and others have been part of a group of volunteers raising money to rehabilitate the church, fixing what they can on their own.

Ritchey said the COVID-19 pandemic helped them find laborers who were available to help.

"Since it was outdoor work in a pandemic, they were thrilled," she recalled. "So was I."

One crisis shut the Little Stranger Church's doors. Another may help open them back up.

"History doesn't repeat itself but it rhymes," Sloan quipped.

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