Our House, Inc. Received by:
Paul Newman, Newman's Own
For more Information, please contact:
Our House, Inc.
19715 Zion Road
Brookeville, MD 20833
Richard Bienvenue teaches at-risk young men to use hammers and nails to build a brighter future for themselves.
How it Began — A Teacher with a Bigger Mission
Richard was working as a special education and carpentry teacher with at-risk young men when the idea for Our House came to him. "I taught them construction in the daytime but they went home at night and that was a downfall," says Richard. "After doing it for a couple of years, I realized that if you want to really want to reach the kids, do it in a residential setting. Take them out of their environment and put them into a loving, nurturing, caring environment."
Structured Programs for Structured Lives
Richard began Our House in the early 1990s. The young men in residence ages 16 to 21start their days at 6:15 a.m. doing carpentry work until 4 in the evenings. After dinner, they have academic and life skills classes and it's "lights out" at 10 p.m. Saturdays are spent on community service projects like painting houses, feeding the homeless, and they've even adopted a highway.
"They've been told they're stupid, been told they're dumb and all of sudden within a day or two they're beginning to install a window or roofing shingles," Richard says. "Now they're beginning to think maybe I'm not as bad as everybody told me I was when I was growing up."
Meeting Personal Goals
Students must pass a carpentry exam, a life skills exam, and their academic goal in order to graduate. Residents at Our House typically spend a year and a half in the program. Graduates not only have construction jobs waiting for them — 87% of those who have been through the program are currently employed— they also have high school diplomas.
Richard says, "When a student understands that knowledge can never been taken from them, that gives them a sense of power. And that's terrific for youngsters who have never felt power in their whole lives."
Home Depot and Stanley Works
To help build a second student residence so Our House could enroll more young men, Stanley Works donated $10,000 worth of carpentry tools and Home Depotwanted and donated $10,000 worth of building supplies.
Check in with Our House, Inc. — See what they've accomplished with the Use Your Life Award!
Published on August 15, 2000