Youth Force teens help rebuild homes and lives in Okmulgee, Oklahoma

OKMULGEE, Okla. - Hammering. Scraping. Painting.

What a way for a kid to spend the summer, and not even get paid for it.

But 16-year-old Leah Cottrill wouldn't have it any other way.

She's from Blackwell, and part of an organization called Youth Force.

"This is my 7th Youth Force and I really loved it from the very first one, cause we'd go out and help wonderful people and learn their stories."

And recently, Leah and other kids from across the state made their way to Okmulgee, to learn Mary Lee's story, and to help make her crumbling house a little safer.

Mary's ailing brother has moved in, so she can take care of him.

"My old house needed, a, I call it a facelift," Mary told us.

Youth Force directs several teams of seven kids and two local adults with carpentry skills.

One hundred forty-five adults and teenagers spread out to 16 different homes around Okmulgee.

With the help of donations from area churches, they spend a week making home repairs.
"We got volunteers from all over town to help us on each site," Stacie McLain says.  She helped organize Youth Force in Okmulgee.

She can tell it's making a difference.

 "I think just the spirit that we've brought into town, knowing that these are all volunteers and that we want to do great things for our town."

At Mary's, those volunteers are replacing molded, rotted out siding.

But Leah and all these volunteers aren't just mending houses, they're healing hearts.

"It gets emotional by the end of the week. You make such good connections with people and then having to leave it, but having to experience it, it's just overwhelming."

And it's the overwhelming kindness shown to her this week, Mary says, that she'll always remember.

"This is a blessing to me, and to them too. They're going to get their reward, too."

But just seeing the joy and appreciation in Mary's face, Leah says, is all the reward she'll ever need.

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