“We’re now able to offer a number of services to the community in need – buildOn volunteers have made that possible.”
– Reverend Dr. Geoff Hahneman
An uncommon scene arises in the basement of the beautiful Victorian building adjacent to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut. High school students are gathered on a chilly Saturday morning to sort donated clothing at the church’s Clothes Closet, a ministry that was only made possible through the ongoing volunteer support of buildOn.
In 2005, the historic church building, had fallen into complete disrepair. There were five holes in the roof, plaster was falling from the walls and the building had been scheduled for demolition. St. John’s parishioners wanted to renovate the space, but they couldn’t do it alone. In Bridgeport, where 40% of all children live below the poverty line, the need is great and the volunteers are few. But, the buildOn students stepped up to help.
“buildOn was an essential part of saving this building,” says Father Geoff. “The students scraped plaster from the walls, cleared out debris, and painted so that we could show the space to people.” Their work helped St. John’s secure a $100,000 grant from the diocese to fund the renovation.
The Clothes Closet, which served 450 families in 2011, is just one of many services now housed in the building. Others include a daycare for mothers learning English, a food pantry, and free tutoring for 8-14 year olds – all run by buildOn students.
Over the last few years, Father Geoff has seen a major revitalization happening at the hands of the area’s urban youth. “Service is something we all need to know, but I’m glad that the high school students are learning it at that age,” says the Reverend. “buildOn has been wonderful and we wouldn’t have been able to serve the community as much without their help.”