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Vermont USDA Staff Help Restore a Hurricane-Damaged Teen Shelter

Robert McDonald, Housing Program Director and Molly Lambert, State Director USDA Rural Development on front steps of Mountainside House Teen Center in Ludlow VT.  USDA staff helped repair the building as part of June Homeownership Month activities.

Robert McDonald, Housing Program Director and Molly Lambert, State Director USDA Rural Development on front steps of Mountainside House Teen Center in Ludlow VT. USDA staff helped repair the building as part of June Homeownership Month activities.

There are several definitions of home. The one I think best fits the Mountainside House Teen Center in Vermont is “A familiar or usual setting: a congenial environment.”

The Center is part of the Windsor County Youth Services supporting kids and young adults aged 16 to 22 for periods of up to 18 months, through their Transitional Living Program (TLP). It is a home for boys that provides structure, aids them in completing their education, learning job skills and becoming involved with their community.

Eight teenage boys were living at the Center the day Tropical Storm Irene tore into Vermont. Their home was severely damaged by flood waters that filled the basement and rose more than a foot in the main living space.  The boys were transported to the safety of a local church high on a hill just before the water came rushing into the center.

In a matter of seconds, the home that had been their safe haven was taken away.  Their world was turned upside down and they were left with the feelings of disbelief and shock at the destruction around them.

Almost a year later, on June 8, 2012, Vermont USDA Rural Development staff joined the Gilman Housing Trust and four other NeighborWorks® organizations for a day of Irene clean-up efforts in Cavendish, Vermont, and surrounding towns.

Susan Poland, Rural Housing Specialist and Michael Bard, Area Director USDA Rural Development removing carpet on third floor of teen center.

Susan Poland, Rural Housing Specialist and Michael Bard, Area Director USDA Rural Development removing carpet on third floor of teen center.

Ten USDA staff, along with dozens of other volunteers, participated with shovels, rakes and a lot of muscle and heart to get the work done.   At the Mountainside House Teen Center, the feeling of camaraderie, purpose and accomplishment was felt by each participant who reclaimed the flower garden, lawn and yard, pulled up carpet, painted, and repaired a bathroom floor.

April Langley, program manager; the Center staff and the boys themselves pitched in to assist with the work being done. There were feelings of joy, gratitude and hope that maybe by this fall, moving back home would be a reality.

Celebrating National NeighborWorks® Week and USDA Rural Development’s June Homeownership Month with our partners and the teen center will be remembered in everyone’s hearts for a very long time.

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