NORMAN — Like most young people, Cassie Duncan looks forward to summer. There are only a few weeks left for the recent Norman High School graduate to catch her breath before she heads off to Oklahoma State University next month, but there is much more than relaxation on her agenda.
With about 100 other youths between the ages of 11 and 18, Duncan is a member of this year’s Youth Force Cleveland County. Multiple Youth Force missions are held in various parts of Oklahoma throughout the summer. Duncan’s church, Goodrich Memorial United Methodist, is hosting one of the events in Norman.
Youth Force kids, along with adult volunteers, came from six United Methodist churches in Oklahoma and one from Texas.
For the past week, teams — called God Squads — have been building ramps, free of charge, at the homes of eight people who are elderly or have disabilities that make using stairs difficult or unsafe.
The work is hard, especially in the heat, but Duncan says her faith pushes her to keep going. She likens the experience to her daily jogs.
“I force myself to get up at 6 a.m.,” she said. “In the middle of the run, I’m thinking, ‘why do I do this?’ But by the end, I’m sprinting. The sun is just coming up and I can watch it rise, and I think, ‘this is why.’ At the end of the week in Youth Force, when I see how happy the people we’ve gotten to help are, that’s the most important thing.”
Duncan has participated in Youth Force every year since seventh grade. The volunteers choose a different project every year. It can be anything from building walls inside a house, to retiling roofs, or working on floors to stabilize the home.
One of the youngest Youth Force participants, AJ Laizure, of Norman, is 12 and will be in seventh grade at Longfellow Middle School in the fall. It is his first time in Youth Force, and he plans on doing it again next year.
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