Area youths unite to promote midcoast housing options
With a half-full Smith Auditorium waiting to hear Governor John Baldacci speak at the at the Bath-Brunswick Area Youth United Conference Tuesday, Brunswick community members and Bowdoin students alike were disappointed to hear of his last-minute cancellation.
But, the show went on. Host Brett Farbstein, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of the Bath-Brunswick area, introduced numerous speakers to share their experiences and aspirations for future projects with Youth United.
The initiative promotes more youth involvement with Habitat for Humanity, and has an ultimate goal of youths from many diverse groups coming together to sponsor and build a Habitat home for a qualified low-income family. The program targets youths ages five to 25.
Bowdoin Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter Head Jen Horwitz '04 shared her experiences with the audience, citing a rewarding community service trip to Mexico she participated in years ago. "I've learned so many practical skills from Habitat," said Horwitz. The current Bowdoin Build has involved volunteer work from Bowdoin students, high school students, and community members. A family of six will inhabit the house, which is targeted to by ready May 11.
Horwitz also encouraged the audience to provide support for a new project this fall. "We must raise $60,000 and need a massive amount of energy from everyone who can get involved," said Horwitz.
Brunswick Town Council Member (District 2), Jacqueline Sartoris concurred with Horowitz that a new build in the fall would be good for the community. "This is a very positive venture," she said. "I will give all support possible because keeping the public housing issue in the public eye is important."
Brunswick Town Council Member (District 4), Douglas Rice, pointed to Brunswick's present housing state as a reason for starting a new build. "I've grown up here and seen the price for housing sky-rocket. I've seen servicemen such as firemen and policemen unable to afford housing," said Rice. He noted that the average new home in Brunswick costs $240,000. "I'd like to see housing at a more affordable rate," he said.
Doug Patrick, a leader of the Sweetser agency that provides service for children with mental health challenges, said, "Youth United has made these children part of a community." Children whom the agency has worked with have helped build homes for Habitat in the area, and raise funds for multiple projects. "The program has offered the children a great opportunity to interact with the community. We're happy to be a partner in the program," said Patrick.
Providing a perspective from a family currently residing in a Habitat house, Jorge Rodriquez, a junior at Morse High School, said, "Youth United lets people like me get together and show we can do the same things adults can do and make a difference."
Jackie Buck, an Eighth grader at Bath Middle School, spoke about her love for tech-ed. Speaking of how she first came across the opportunity to work with Habitat, she said, "I saw a character on the show Seventh Heaven doing Habitat work, so I emailed around and got involved too."
Though the final two planned speakers, State House Majority Leader John Richardson (Brunswick-House District 49), and Governor John Baldacci, were unable to attend, the event seemingly sparked new awareness of the initiative in the community.
Students interested in volunteering for Youth United can email email@example.com or sign up in the red binder at the Smith Union info desk. Students can also help raise funds for the cause by participating in the April 27 Easter Season Walk.