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Texas teens lend helping hands

All across Oklahoma this week, including in Duncan, Marlow and Comanche, hundreds of teens proved that there are still many who believe people should be good to each other  freely giving days working hard to help even strangers  for no other reason than it's the right thing to do.

About 1,500 young people and adult volunteers representing the Central Texas Conference Youth in Mission (CTCYM) traveled to towns like Tonkawa, Durant, Claremore and Blanchard to scrape and paint weather-beaten walls, clear yards of overgrown brush, clean out garages, repair roofs, build wheelchair ramps and do other jobs for elderly Oklahomans and others unable to take on the sweaty work themselves.

In Stephens County, Doreen Vassuer, who helped to organize efforts, said 128 kids in grades 6-12 and adult mentors formed a dozen teams to take on jobs ranging from tearing out and replacing a cracked and crooked sidewalk to clearing out an older woman's oven-baked attic.

The CTCYM volunteers did everything. They even paid for their own materials. Spending several nights in Duncan, they slept on floors or on cots set up at the local First United Methodist Church. Duncan Middle School was offered as a place for them to take showers.

After evening meals, the volunteers spent time in worship and fellowship  a highlight of the week for Tristan Hartley, 17, of Corsicana, Texas. The young man, already on his sixth mission trip, said the work, though always hard, isn't what's most memorable about such trips. Rather, it's meeting other kids and people, seeing how their work is so appreciated and simply "getting closer to God."

Though it was his first mission trip, Tyler Tittle, also from Corsicana, expressed many of the same feelings. The 12-year-old said he's done hard work in the past, helping his dad, but doing it with no strings attached for people he'd never met before made him feel good inside. Though the week was hot and the work dirty, he said he'd no doubt like to do it again.

"It's fun and it's helpful for people who can't do it for themselves," he said.

Residents thankful

Clara Powell, 78, was among those who were helped. At her home in one of Duncan's older neighborhoods, a team of teens and a couple of adults cleared out a "forest" in her backyard, experiencing a close encounter with either a raccoon or a skunk  reports were mixed. They also mowed, replaced boards, painted, cleaned the garage and did other jobs that hadn't been done in years. Powell, who pitched in to help whenever she could, said she was so thankful that she'd signed up for help after finding out about the CTCYM group's plans while attending a community meal recently at a local church.

The Lawton Constitution

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