Young people with a penchant for activism have been hard at work repairing homes in Ardmore this week as part of a statewide volunteering effort.
Youth Force, a volunteer force of 7th through 12th grade students, sends volunteers to communities across Oklahoma for one week during the summer to repair damaged homes and other buildings. The United Methodist Church started the organization in Oklahoma City in 1988. Today, there are about 70 churches involved.
“When remodeling, we try to focus on insulation, siding, roofing, and reconstruction of damaged property” Ardmore Co-director Keith King said.
Volunteers making up the 30-person “God Squads” working in Ardmore have come from several Methodist churches from all over the state from the other Youth Force groups in Oklahoma. The other forces in Oklahoma include churches from Oklahoma City, Norman, Ada, Stillwater, Altus, Lawton, Guymon, Henryetta, and Fredrick among others.
Amy Givens, a youth pastor from United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, has been part of the organization for 20 years. Like many adults, she started with the program as a teen and has stuck with it.
“I did it for several years as a youth and then as long as I’ve been a youth director at a church, I’ve taken our students to Youth Force.”
This is the program’s first time in Ardmore. Givens said during last year’s work week in Ada, students from First United Methodist Church in Ardmore participated. This year, the local church is housing the volunteers during their stay.
“We have seven different houses with 11 projects going on,” Givens said. “They started working Monday morning.”
Her team replaced the siding on a house, repaired the roof and rebuilt the porch, adding a wheelchair accessible ramp to the structure. She said aside from the roofing, teenagers did all of the work.
“We may have a couple of adults who will stay and finish that tonight,” Givens said. “You have to be 18 to stand on the roof, so we’re about at the point where we can only have adults here.”
Applications are distributed through the churches and they consider individuals that are recommended by community businesses. The leadership team representatives from the churches involved meet in April to decide the amount of house remodels that they will be able to complete during the upcoming summer.