More than 200 students and staff members joined over 80,000 volunteers throughout the greater Philadelphia area to serve the community in honor of the 17th Annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service.
YouthBuild Philly partnered with Opport-UNITY, a local organization offering construction training to ex-offenders and people in addiction recovery, to rehabilitate their new training facility. The facility is located at the historical Engine Company No.11 building on South Street. Prior to the desegregation of the Philadelphia Fire Department in 1952, Engine 11 was Philadelphia’s de facto African American firehouse.
“Today is the beginning of a long-lasting relationship between YouthBuild Philadelphia and Opport-UNITY Inc. Training Center,” said William Webb, Executive Director of Opport-UNITY Inc. Training Center. “Our vision is to engage people made up of a disenfranchised community who were once deemed useless by some in society. We train them in the field of construction, and they become will serve as a ray of hope to the community. We are grateful to have these youth involved in our work.”
YouthBuild Philadelphia students – all former high school dropouts – are working toward their diplomas and engaging in hands-on vocational training. Over half of the students engage in a construction training program by rehabilitating homes for low-income families. Today, YouthBuild students worked with staff and students from Opport-UNITY in an ongoing rehabilitation process by cleaning and painting the Willie G. Williams Multipurpose Center, an approximately 10,000 sq. ft. building. YouthBuild plans to continue making improvements to the building over the next year.
“At YouthBuild Philadelphia, we believe that everyone deserves a second chance at success,” said Don Pinkey, Director of Building Trades at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School. “Like YouthBuild, Opport-UNITY offers people a second chance through hands-on job training. We could not have a better partner in service on this important day for our community. This project is also an opportunity for our students to use their construction skills to work on a building with great historical significance to Philadelphia’s African American community.”
YouthBuild Philly is dedicated to volunteer service and reconnects youth to their community through civic engagement. In the past 19 years, YouthBuild students have rehabilitated over 75 homes for low-income families, refurbished more than 2,500 computers, and provided thousands of volunteer hours to long-term care facilities and community organizations. YouthBuild Philadelphia was honored for its many years of involvement in the MLK Day of Service by the Eleventh Annual Harris Wofford Award for Active Citizenship in 2009.
See more photos of the project on Flickr here, and coverage of the event in the South Philly Review here.