The planning process for the Youth Employability & Success (YES) Community Service Program began last December. According to Jahkesha Abraham, KRA Program Manager, SCWorks’ in Lower Savannah, SC, “We wanted to enhance our youth program by adding a permanent component that would fulfill one of the YES Program Elements, which is to provide leadership development opportunities that include community service and peer-centered activities to encourage responsibility and other positive social behaviors.” Abraham continued, “Evelyn Stanley, one of our KRA Career Agents, contacted four community agencies… Cooperative Church Ministries of Orangeburg, the Habitat for Humanity Store, the Orangeburg Goodwill, and Edisto Habitat for Humanity…to determine how and when our YES students might be able to volunteer time to the support the agencies’ mission and goals, as well as our own.”
Stanley added, “I spoke with a representative from each agency, and all of them have opportunities capable of fulfilling our community service requirement, which is a minimum of 20 hours and is mandatory for our GED students. We sent letters out to all the YES participants, informed them of the volunteer opportunities available with each of the four agencies, and asked them to make a selection.” Stanley continued, “Based on a lot of factors, including each student’s availability, we chose Edisto, a Christian ministry that builds houses in partnership with low income people in need of decent housing, as our first volunteer effort. I learned that Edisto builds four houses a year right here in Orangeburg: one is already completed, two were scheduled to be built between March 2nd and April 27th, and the forth next Spring.”
On March 2nd, Abraham, Stanley, and two GED students…Ryan Parker, 22 and Deon Warren, 18…arrived at the construction site…as did volunteers from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and the Albemarle Corporation…and assisted in building exterior walls, erecting trusses under the front- and back-porch roof boards, installing roofing felt, etc. Stanley informed us, “Friends and members of the families who will reside in the homes must collectively invest a minimum of 350 sweat-equity hours. The hours that KRA volunteers will be applied to the families’ requirement. Knowing that made us feel even better about what we were doing!”
Abraham reported, “ Everyone was amazed that by the time we left that first Saturday, the house had been framed! On March 9th, Ms. Stanley returned with GED student Breanna Carter, who is 22, and helped in ‘building and standing’ the exterior walls into the cement foundation, installing Styrofoam, wrapping Tyvek, taping joints, and other jobs related to roof gabling and sheathing. The students enjoyed a very rewarding experience! Not only did everyone learn a lot about residential construction, but also about responsibility and teamwork.”
Stanley concluded, “On March 23 and April 13, we will return with more GED volunteers to install vinyl siding, clean the house of debris to prepare for dry-wall installation, apply coats of primer and finishing paint, and clean the floors prior to the installation of the tiles. On April 27, we will attend the dedication ceremonies when the keys to the homes will be turned over to the families, who were pre-selected…as long as 2 years ago…based on very stringent criteria. They had to have lived in Orangeburg County for at least 6-months; meet acceptable application, interview, and credit check standards; have income of at least $1,000 a month; demonstrate the ability to assume the 25-year principal-only mortgage, taxes, and insurance within 2 years time; and have attended classes on budgeting, home ownership, utilities, etc. These families are well-deserving of this great opportunity to obtain a piece of the American dream…home ownership.”
*Funded by the Lower Savannah Council of Governments, the YES Program serves young jobseekers referred by local SCWorks Career Centers. The program supports youth facing significant challenges in gaining employment by providing a mix of services, including intensive case management; group and individual career counseling and planning; short-term pre-vocational services; and formal employability and work-maturity skills training. The YES program recruits and partners with local public- and private-sector employers to develop jobs and/or specialized training opportunities, including apprenticeships, occupational-skills development, OJTs, and entrepreneurship training.