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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
It’s been a lengthy process, but the young men at Our House will move into their new dormitory any day.
Program administrator Patricia Castellano said Our House received all its permits except for one, which required soap in the bathroom dispensers and some work on the toilets.
“We are ready to move in as soon as we get the final approval,” she said.
Our House is a residential job-training center for at-risk adolescent males ages 16-21, located on a 140-acre farm in Brookeville. The supervised and structured learning environment operates 24 hours per day, year-round.
The young men, in need of specialized help and a new start, 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 almost any Olney event.
The existing dorm is a former cinderblock garage, built in the 1920s. There are eight bedrooms, which are shared. Because they are on different floors, security is a concern.
The new dorm features two wings of eight individual bedrooms on a single floor, joined by a central “command center” that will be occupied at all times.
“The fact that the boys will each have their own rooms is huge,” Castellano said. “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.
“We are looking at applying for grants and fundraisers to pay down our debt,” Castellano said.
Our House has received some corporate donations. Marriott provided window shades for all of the rooms and Ruppert Landscaping in Laytonsville donated landscaping.
The bedrooms are furnished, but furnishings throughout the rest of the large building are scarce. Castellano said they welcome donations, but state codes require the items meet certain specifications.
“It’s important for the boys to have a nice place to stay and nice things,” she said. “It helps their self-esteem and makes them feel better — that they’re worth it and not ‘throw-away’ kids.”
To help, contact Patricia Castellano at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Our House or to make a cash donation, go to www.ourhouse.org.
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