News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 14, 2010

High schoolers lend hand in rebuilding Deborah’s House

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Volunteering youth took a once-condemned property by storm Saturday morning, assisting a local not-for-profit shelter the homeless.

“We’re hoping to have an open house in June,” Muriel Ryan said outside the property known as Deborah’s House at 2808 S. 11 1⁄2 St. Ryan, co-founder of Family’s By Choice, proudly waved to the freshly painted walls inside the home about 1 p.m. Saturday. “How’s it look now?”

The 3,000-square-foot house, which the organization used to shelter single mothers and their children, was condemned last August after tenants severely damaged the property. Months and volunteer labor later, the house is beginning to look normal again.

“Flooring,” she said of the next phase of remodeling, adding that this time the house will be completely floored with kid- and spill-proof laminate. “We have laminate for the whole house. So if it can’t be swept or damp-mopped, it won’t be in here.”

Glen Cook, faculty adviser for Terre Haute North Vigo High School’s National Honor Society, brought 30 juniors for a morning of painting and cleaning.

“I think we got about five gallons of paint put on and a whole lot of trash taken out,” Cook said of his group’s efforts. “And getting ready for the final phase. I think that’s coming soon.”

Cook’s son, Daniel, a junior at Terre Haute South Vigo High School, also contributed to the effort. Daniel, a Boy Scout in Terre Haute’s Troop 38, has selected Families By Choice as the recipient of his Eagle Scout project.

“I had known Muriel through church and knew of this organization,” he said of the large shelving units he’s constructing for the property. Daniel estimated he and 19 volunteers have spent about 49 hours on the work to date, with the painting of the shelves still remaining.

Families By Choice provides transitional housing for families in need. Ryan said the group currently has about 14 people under roofs and will expand once Deborah’s House is completed. Tailored for single mothers and children, Deborah’s House has a partner property, Timothy House, which hosts men 18 years and older as they transition out of foster care. The program model matches older house supervisors with younger parents with children in the hopes of providing a mentoring program as they transition into full-time jobs and personal residences.

Ryan said the organization was recently awarded $4,000 in grant money from the Indiana Youth Institute to go toward administrative and developmental support. The group will participate in the April 18 Homeward Bound Walk at Indiana State University, an effort to combat homelessness in Indiana.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or