Youth United breaks ground on new home

This year’s Wilton Youth United home-building project is already underway.
Over the summer, the chapter of Fairfield County Youth United — part of a national youth group focused on the Habitat for Humanity outreach program — began building on a home for a family of six in Bridgeport.
“It is exciting,” said Margie Holcombe, volunteer Wilton Youth United leader. “We broke ground in July on the home on Maple St. for the family that will be residing there.”
As part of the Habitat for Humanity program, families receiving a home must put in 500 hours of “sweat equity,” which the organization defines as “the hours of labor our homeowners dedicate to building their homes and the homes of their neighbors, as well as the time they spend investing in their own self-improvement.”
Holcombe said although the family receiving the home Wilton Youth United is currently working on has already “donated more than their requisite 500 hours of sweat equity before they acquire an interest-free loan on their new home,” they are still working alongside the volunteers.
Last year, Wilton Youth United built a home at 983 Kossuth St. in Bridgeport for a father and his teenage son, who moved in July 2014.
“They were thrilled and grateful for the opportunity to have a home in a safe neighborhood,” said Holcombe, “and the [Youth United] kids were able to see a full project to completion from start to finish.”
Wilton Youth United is comprised of elementary, middle school and high school students — the bulk of which, Holcombe said, are in middle and high school.
“Students who are 12+ may be asked to paint a fence, plant a garden, paint siding, build step stools or make bookcases,” said Holcombe.
“Students who are 16+ actually work with supervision on a home and get experience in laying installation, placing siding on a home, nailing lumber, demolition, painting, cement application and all types of chores.”
There are also activities for Wilton Youth United members of all ages, including making gingerbread houses, stools and bookcases, donating books for the bookcases, an annual car wash and annual holiday craft.
Holcombe said Wilton Youth United also works on various group events and fund-raisers with Wilton High School’s Habitat for Humanity Club.
Although the number of events and fund-raisers varies each year, said Holcombe, Wilton Youth United strives to do at least one local activity each month.
“Regionally, we participate in Hoops for Habitat in March, World Habitat Day and we’ve had a couple of members attend the national conference,” she said.
Holcombe said in addition to raising funds for the home-building project and working on projects for the family and house itself, Wilton Youth United also strives to make the community aware of the needs for adequate housing in the area.

A new year

Wilton Youth United had 35 members last year, said Holcombe, who hopes to see the group grow this year.
Although Holcombe said it would be nice to have 40-50 students “who can occasionally work on a Saturday to dig up the ground or hammer a nail,” the group may only allow 10-12 students on the site due to supervision needs.
She said those not on the site could still help with many of the larger group events.
This year’s first Wilton Youth United meeting took place at Holcombe’s home on Sept. 21.
“We covered the national, regional and local scope of Youth United and the types of activities that would be part of the program,” said Holcombe, “like the Oct. 10 5K run/walk in Bridgeport and the national conference in November.”
Attendees also received forms and discussed ideas for this year, she said.
Holcombe said Wilton Youth United does not have “the rigid requirements of other programs.”
“Participation can be more sporadic for many members who have various commitments,” she said.
However, allowing members to “jump in when they can” sometimes leads to challenges, said Holcombe.
“Sometimes we have too many students for the work day slots and sometimes we have too few,” she said. “It fluctuates.”
Despite such obstacles, Holcombe looks forward to seeing “the kids’ faces when they complete any construction-type of activities,” she said, “because you know that they don’t normally get the opportunity to work with these materials.”