My first two observations after arriving at the 15th annual Carpentry Challenge...1) It is ALOT colder than yesterday; and 2) There is ALOT going on here.
The level of planning needed to put on this event became apparent early on, as construction pits were marked off with caution tape, the DJ tent was set up, what seemed like miles of extension chords were plugged into generators and stretched out across the Home Depot of Methuen parking lot, and programs began arriving not only in the usual vans, but also with U-Haul trucks filled to the brim with construction equipment. The fact that 12 programs from across Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island were participated is a testament to the hours and hours of planning done by April Lyskowsky, the staff of YouthBuild Lawrence, and Jennifer Kelliher of the MYBC.
The Carpentry Challenge is a Coalition institution, and Home Depot has been our host site each of the past fifteen years. I could tell the students were excited to put the carpentry skills they learn building affordable housing in their communities up against those of the other programs. By about 10am, when the power tools were fired up and crews of YouthBuilders went about building three walls to be judged for speed, accuracy, and safety practices at the work site, I had dubbed the Challenge "The Super Bowl of the MYBC calendar". For someone like me who lacks a construction background, it was hard to imagine the excitement surrounding building three walls in a Home Depot parking lot. That is, until I saw teams building three walls in a Home Depot parking lot. Trust me. One moment, crews were working on the ground, nailing boards together. The next, there were standing structures in most of the pits. The precision and intensity they worked with was incredible to say the least.
In the end, YouthBuild Brockton took third place, host site Lawrence grabbed second place, and, for the third time in four years, YouthBuild Fall River took top honors at the Carpentry Challenge. Congratulations.
As I said above, there was ALOT going on at the Carpentry Challenge today. For the first time, a service project accompanied the traditional Challenge element. Beginning around 10a, students got to work building handicap accessible picnic tables to be donated to VA organizations in Massachusetts. While students from most programs in attendance took part in this project, I have to give a few shout-outs. Greg Earls of YouthBuild Lowell was on hand to oversee a team of students in the service project, and I personally saw him work through lunch, cleanup, and most of the awards presentations to ensure that every table his team of volunteers started was finished by days end. The same can be said for the students of YouthBuild New Bedford, who were unable to participate in the Challenge but went all out on the service project. And as the day was wrapping up and most other teams were busy tearing down their walls and cleaning up their work areas, Peter Hinrichs and a handful of volunteers from YB Boston and YB Springfield built a table from start to finish.
That is the thing about volunteerism: individuals aren't doing it to be noticed, but as these few names and faces I listed above illustrate, someone always notices. Nice work and a big thank you to all those who participated in the service projects. Veterans groups were on hand to receive the tables, and here's to hoping for many warm, sunny days this summer so they can be enjoyed.
A few more thank yous before I grab some much needed rest:
Kristen Nelson, our grant officer from the Mass Service Alliance was on hand for a site visit. For all the reasons listed above, I hope the day was as memorable for you as it was for me. Without MSA funding, we wouldn't be able to conduct these projects throughout the week to the same scale and effect.
The staff and students of YouthBuild Lawerence and Lowell, who coordinated the Challenge and service elements and had a long, long day setting up and tearing down long after the other programs were on the road home. Hope you all were able sit back for a moment and enjoy the fruits of your labor today.
Finally, to everyone who participated. We'll see many of you tomorrow at the Worcester Carnival event tomorrow, organized by students in the MYBC mentoring initiative. We expect at least 50 youth from after-school programs to attend, and I'm sure they are looking forward to some of the games and activities you have planned.
Photos below, care of our AmeriCorps Week photographer, Jamilyn Gordon of YB New Bedford.
Day Two, Lawrence: 26 Volunteers (18 Full Time members, 3 Alums) served 117 hours total
Week Totals: 63 Volunteers, 283.5 hours
Tomorrow's Weather.com Forecast: Cloudy skies. High 61F. Winds N at 10 to 20 mph.
-Paul, your VISTA blogger