Program offers local at-risk youth guidance through home construction

Fall Creek (WQOW) – Truly hard work and dedication for local youth has paid off, and a newly-built home serves as a fresh start for those who built it.

‘Building homes, Rebuilding lives’, that’s the motto for Western Dairyland‘s "Fresh Start" program.

"The Fresh Start program in general is to help youth who have struggled in school or struggled with drugs and alcohol, or maybe have been homeless or lack of support to accomplish their goals, and we use the house as a tool to help build self-esteem," said Katie Hulbert, program manager for Fresh Start.

Kids in the program began building a home in Fall Creek in September of 2017, and Thursday was the open house.

"For them to be able to come into this, serve 900 hours as an AmeriCorps member in our program, to achieve an education award that go toward post-secondary schooling and to say they’ve accomplished something really adds to that self-esteem," Hulbert said. "To show them that they can achieve those goals that they have set for themselves."

Now the house is on the market and available to low-income, eligible families. Hulbert told News 18 the real reward is for the participants.

"They all are such unique individuals that have so much to offer to their community, to their family and to their friends," Hulbert said. "As they come through this program, they are maturing throughout the six to nine months they are with us, and they’re really working hard."

Hannah Traaseth is in the Eau Claire Juvenile Detention Center, but she’s also a part of the Fresh Start program.

"I’ve learned a lot about house repair and just stuff you really wouldn’t know about if you didn’t work in this kind of field," Traaseth said. "I’m 4-foot-7, 16-year-old girl, so you really wouldn’t think that I’d be a construction worker, so breaking the statistic was really fun."

Traaseth told News 18 the accomplishment of building a house is satisfying work, "If I can help them, I can help myself, so it’s really encouraging."

The next round of the Fresh Start program will begin in September.

"Every year, it surprises me at these open houses because they have the opportunity to talk about what brought them to the program, what they’ve gained out of it and where they’re going from there," Hulbert said.

If you’d like to learn more about Western Dairyland, or its Fresh Start program, click here.

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