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Youths proud to make an old home livable

About 30 young people discovered Saturday what it's like to hammer nails, plant shrubs and help renew an old, tattered home.

One group of volunteers raised the walls for a garage at the home on Del Mar Court in south Modesto, while a second landscaped the front yard.

"The end product is just amazing," said Rebecca Mears, a Modesto High School junior. "People get to live here and we helped make that possible."

The Habitat Now project tries to change lives one home at a time by enlisting young people to help with construction on Habitat for Humanity homes. The organization's building sites usually are closed to those under 16. But this program welcomes volunteers ages 10 to 18.

It teaches them about home building and volunteer work and could help beget the next generation of supporters for Habitat, a nonprofit that puts low-income families in affordable housing.

"If we get people involved when they are young, we think they may continue with Habitat and be lifelong volunteers," said Nora Cassidy, a youth coordinator for Habitat for Humanity, Stanislaus County.

Cassidy was 11 when she started volunteering in Habitat's Modesto office. Now 18, she is doing a summer internship organizing the work crews for three Habitat Now building dates this summer. The home on Del Mar Court was the first; the next two are at Hope Village in Modesto, from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 7.

No power tools are used and a construction expert supervises the volunteers, Cassidy said.

Adult workers spent months renovating the Del Mar home before the young people arrived to apply the finishing touches. The two-bedroom house was in sad shape when it was donated to Habitat.

He's liking it

Gail Bailey of Salida learned of the project from an advertisement and brought her son to share in the labor Saturday. Their crew created a border of dahlias and landscaping bark to give the home curb appeal.

"I'm liking it more than I thought I would," said Brian, Bailey's 18-year-old son. "This time of year, I'm usually at home doing a lot of nothing."

Erica Engel, a Beyer High School junior, invested her time working on the garage. "It's a fun way to get together with friends and build stuff," she said.

A series of Habitat Now workdays were held during the winter and the organization decided to continue the effort this summer.

Habitat officials said youth volunteers are needed for the work at Hope Village. Volunteers first attend an orientation. At the work site, they are advised to wear closed-toe shoes, sunscreen and clothes they don't mind getting dirty.

"It helps the kids put down the games and learn what life is all about," said Mike Ruskamp, chief of construction for Habitat.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or 578-2321.

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