Montgomery County Community Action

Montgomery County Community Action

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Community Action Partner Organization Begins Construction on New Dormitory

Our House, a Community Action Agency partner organization, has begun construction on a new dormitory to serve the program's participants.  The Brookeville organization provides a residential program for at-risk young men.  Participants, who are referred by state agencies, receive vocational training, life skills training, academics, and mental health services.  The new dormitory will expand the program's capacity from 16 to 24 participants.

Our House Website

Construction is expected to begin in early January on a new dormitory at the residential program on its 140-acre Brookeville farm, which will allow it to expand from 16 to 24 teens and young men.
Our House has been changing the lives of at-risk young men for more than two decades. Soon, it will change even more.
The turnout at Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony — more than 60 people came, about double what was expected — speaks to the program’s success.
Speakers included Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Calverton, who first visited the program 10 years ago.
“Benny and his staff have figured out the secret recipe for what young people need in this world—love and discipline,” Kaiser said, referring to Richard Bienvenue, its founder and executive director. “I’d love to see this program replicated across the state, but it seems that magic ingredient is Benny himself. He changes the lives of these young men, who become productive members of society.”
The crowd included representatives of businesses, community groups, the Olney Chamber of Commerce, Scout leaders, elected officials and other friends of the program.
“I knew this day would come. I just didn’t know when,” Bienvenue said. “We started this about five years ago during a recession.”
Although he had to navigate a long process to secure a zoning variance and several other applications and permits, the biggest challenge was raising the $2.7 million for the project.
Bienvenue said that thanks to many generous donors, Our House is within $600,000 of that goal.
The builder is Scheibel Construction of Huntingtown. Bienvenue said the company was selected, in part, for its willingness to allow the residents to participate in all aspects of the project, which was important to him.
“It will be part of their legacy and what we are training them to do,” Bienvenue said. “Every contractor and subcontractor has agreed to work with our guys, even though it will probably slow them down.”
He estimates the dorm will take about nine months to complete.
The building, which will feature sleeping quarters, offices and a lounge, will be built to green standards.
“It costs more, but saves in the long run,” Bienvenue said. “It is the right thing to do and as an educational institution we want the guys to understand why this is important.”
The residents now sleep in a former cinderblock garage, built in the 1920s.
The old building will be used for classrooms, and a few of the bedrooms will be saved for graduates in need of a temporary place to stay.
The supervised and structured learning environment operates around the clock, year-round.
The residents, ages 16 to 21 and in need of specialized help and a new start, are referred by state agencies.
“Our House is a valued partner of the Department of Juvenile Services,” said Eric Solomon, a department spokesman. “They offer a unique program that includes vocational training, which is very beneficial to our kids as it provides them with essential training for the future.”
The highly structured program includes five eight-hour days of “hands-on” training in trades such as carpentry, drywall and roofing, plus life skills training, academics and therapy sessions in the evenings.
Most of the residents’ carpentry and construction work is done is done for other nonprofits, free of charge.
Each Saturday, the trainees perform community service, and they also help out at many Olney events, having earned appreciation and respect from the community.
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