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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

“Our House”- Saving one young man’s life at a time

The program that I am highlighting in today’s blog is special to me in so many ways. If you act on no other blog that I have posted I ask you to respond to the program in today’s blog. As a former foster parent I know the struggles that older foster youth have in making their way in life. That is why the work of Our House resonates so much with me.

Our House was started by Richard Bienvenue (Benny to all his many friends) in 1993 at a summer camp location to teach carpentry skills to young men in foster care and juvenile justice programs. The program moved in 1994 to the Taylor Manor property in Ellicott City and that is where I got to know Benny. To talk to Benny is to become committed to his vision and mission for Our House. He is truly one of those people whose commitment is inspiring. I have tried to stay in touch over the years and support his program in various ways.

In 2002 he was able to purchase a farm near Olney to expand his services to more youth. If you ever want to see an inspiring local program that is changing young men’s lives a visit is worth the trip. Located in a rural setting just off Route 108 you cannot help falling in love with the location and program. A dorm housing 15-20 youth and a house that houses the staff for the program are just the beginning of what you see. A pond for fishing and a garden add to the idyllic setting.

The program has results that other youth programs would envy. Working with some challenging youth who have had a rough time growing up the program has a success rate of 80%. Success defined as graduating from the program, finding a job and successfully transitioning to adulthood. So far Our House has served as the path to achieve that to over 250 youth. Not all youth go on to do carpentry, especially with the housing building trades in a downturn, but they are successful in working in the elder care, retail and food service fields.

The program gives back to the community because most of the carpentry work that the program does is with non-profits and other human service programs. That is how I met Benny when the Office on Aging used the program to do repairs on older persons homes. They built many handicapped ramps for Office on Aging clients. In addition Benny has the youth doing community service projects on Saturdays. Giving back to others is an important part of the learning process for the young men.

Benny has received many awards for his work including Oprah Winfrey’s “Use your life Award.” A listing of the program’s award can be seen on their website.

I want to get to the important part of this blog. Benny is presently raising funds to build a new dormitory to expand their program to serve 24 young men. He has successfully raised over a million dollars to date but is still less than half way to the funds he needs for the dorm. You if know of a funder that is looking for a successful program to fund let them know about this program.

Now I know that most people might not have knowledge of potential funders mentioned in the last paragraph but there is something I really want everyone that is reading this blog to consider. Our House always needs the following items:

1) Construction materials

2) Drop cloths

3) Tools

4) Tool Boxes

5) Insulated work gloves

6) Sports equipment

7) Work boots

8) Gardening tools

9) Leaf rakes

10) Wheel barrels

11) Shovels

12) Garden rakes

13) Chain saws

14) Auto mechanic tools

15) Lawn mowers

16) Weed wackers

17) Watches

18) Overnight bags

19) Suit cases

20) Battery alarm clocks

21) Gift certificates for fast food

If you have any of these items that are in good shape and are willing to donate them to Our House you can call them at 301-519-1019. Even though I encourage you to visit Our House, if you have items to donate that are in good usable condition I will be picking up items this weekend to take down to Our House next week. If you want me to pick them up just email at duanestclair@gmail.com to arrange a pick up this weekend.

If you belong to any group that is looking for a service project to collect and donate any of these items seriously consider Our House. And make a visit to see this program. You will leave inspired as I was. Tell Benny you read about the program in this blog.

Followup story in the Sun this morning on the issue of homeless individuals at the Mall

Columbia Association public meeting on the Aquatics Master plan is tonight at the Hawthorne Center in Hickory Ridge at 7 pm.

Neighbor Ride fundraiser tonight Mamma Lucia of Columbia
4 pm to 10 pm
Dine-In, Carryout or Get Delivery
10% of sales will go to Neighbor Ride
Gateway Overlook Shopping Center
6630 Marie Curie Drive
Elkridge, MD 21075

1 comment:

Jessie said...

I wrote this fund-raising piece, gratis, for Our House a few years ago. http://www.scribd.com/doc/45239382/Got-a-Spare-Million-Our-House