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Our House celebrates new dormitory –

by Judith Hruz


As visitors traverse the long driveway leading up to Our House, they drive over a few speed bumps but are greeted along the way by small signs that indicate what they might find when they reach their destination.

Responsibility. Compassion. Patience. Tolerance. Diligence.

The bumps and the words are symbolic of the pathway the young men who live at the residential training facility travel as they shed the label of “at-risk” to being responsible members of the community.

Tavoughn Williams is one of them.

He returned on Oct. 5 to help Our House celebrate the opening of its new dormitory in a year that marks the 25th anniversary of the program.

Williams makes the trek from his home in Baltimore to help whenever he is needed at Our House because the program helped make him the man he is.

“I thought all programs said the same thing,” he said, “until I got here.”

He arrived at Our House 21 years ago.

There, he said, he received life skills, confidence and “hope for a future.”

He now has that future.

“Twenty-two years later, my life is still going good,” he said.

Varvie Daughtry of Washington, D.C., graduated from Our House, too, and is now a member of its staff.

He passes along the lessons he learned to the young men of Our House.

“To appreciate, to learn, to grow, that’s what I teach my young guys,” he said.

And all of those things are just the beginning.

“It doesn’t stop here,” he said. “It goes on into life.”

Our House, a residential job-training center for at-risk adolescent males ages 16-21, was started in April 1993 by Richard “Benny” Bienvenue.

The program briefly began at Camp Bennett, moved for a short time to Ellicott City and returned to Montgomery County to what has been its home – a 140-acre farm on Zion Road in Brookeville – for 22 years.

The mission has always been the same: to offer a house and a home – in the best sense of those words —to young men who needed structure, guidance and skills so that they can become contributing members of their community.

They are referred by state agencies.

The program includes five eight-hour days of hands-on training in trades such as carpentry, drywall and roofing, as well as life skills training, academics and therapy sessions in the evenings.

Most of their carpentry and construction work is done for other non-profit agencies, free of change. The trainees perform community service work, such as maintaining the Olney Police Satellite Station, and can be seen helping out at many Olney events.

The previous dorm is a former cinderblock garage, built in the 1920s. It had eight bedrooms, which the residents shared. Because they were on different floors, security was a concern.

The new dorm features two wings of eight individual bedrooms on a single floor, joined by a central “command center” that is occupied at all times.

“The fact that the boys will each have their own rooms is huge,” program administrator Patricia Castellano said last year as the dormitory was nearing completion. “It is therapeutic for them to have their own space when they want to be alone.”

The facility, which is filled with natural sunlight, features a common room, a recreation room, a counseling room, a staff breakroom, and laundry and bathroom facilities. It meets green building standards.

The cost of the building was about $3 million, which included some unexpected construction costs. Money came mostly from donations. Our House officials have been raising funds for several years.

Monetary donations and other support has frequently come from the community.

“It would take days and reams of paper to list all those who have supported” Our House, Bienvenue told the guests as he extended his heartfelt thanks for their help.

Bienvenue, who retired a few years ago, returned last year during the selection process for a new executive director.

Sheree Moore took the helm as the new executive director at Our House on July 2.

Bienvenue said Moore comes with extensive experience working with at-risk kids and holds a degree in criminal justice.


    To learn more about Our House or to make a donation, go to www.our-house.org.

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