Thousands of volunteers toiled in the sweltering Baltimore heat. Vendors and contractors donated supplies, raw materials, food and water. And within a week the television show Extreme Makeover Home Edition in partnership with Excel Homes and the Maryland Community Builders Foundation completed the largest home ever built on the series for eight deserving and grateful young ladies from the Boys Hope Girls Hope group home for at-risk youth.

“This is wonderful, this is a once in a lifetime deal” said Dwayne Thomas, 16, who is a resident in the organization’s home for boys on the same street as the new building. His younger sister Destine, 12, is one of the eight young girls who will reside in the 11,000 square-foot home located on Fleetwood Avenue. Thomas has lived in the residential facility for six years and is excited that his sister will now be afforded the same opportunities that have been provided to him. “I’m so glad to be a part of this and be able to help out where I can” he said.

Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore has been trying since 2007 to build a home for girls and Kate Davis, the organization’s business manager is as thrilled as anyone to finally have that plan come to fruition.

The organization is privately funded and relies heavily on grants and donations from corporations, foundations, and individual donors. “The majority of our donations come from individuals that have heard about our program and care about our kids” says Davis, “and that’s just unbelievable.” The program currently boasts a 100 percent graduation rate from high school with recent graduates matriculating at colleges and universities across the country. “We provide education, meals, and clothing, everything that a functioning family would be able to provide their children” she said “and we also provide services for the families to stay involved with their children to help them reach their full potential.”

Shamia Boone, 18, donated her time to help with the project. “I was a young child and it was a struggle,” she said, “so to have someone to come in and build an entire home for you, a warm place and to have people actually help you, it’s great! I see people every day in group homes and some of them don’t have the warmest place to live and this is a great place.”

The roof had not yet been installed when the rain poured down, which caused major delays in the schedule. Materials inside the home were damaged and had to be removed and replaced, but volunteers pulled through to complete the home in time for the reveal on July 18. The girls were in Los Angeles during the build and returned to Baltimore to their brand new home.

James Lee, 62, who works for the Department of Juvenile Services, decided to spend his vacation donating his “muscle and back.”

“It’s been fun, it’s been exciting” he said. “Any adult should present themselves as role models because these kids are our future and if they are going the wrong way then we need to be able to redirect them and offer any kind of assistance to redirect them.”

The modular home will feature several handicap accessible bedrooms and bathrooms for staff and residents as well as a pre-built elevator shaft should they need or have an elevator donated at a later date. Large windows, high ceilings and plenty of open space and natural light create what Steve Saffell, the director of architecture for Excel Homes, calls a “hybrid modular design” an innovative concept in the modular construction industry. Builders have also ensured the project is environmentally friendly by re-using shipping materials, minimizing waste, and installing a solar-powered heating system.

It’s about hope and success says Paul Minorini, president and CEO of Boys Hope Girls Hope International. “Now the hard work begins. Now we need to generate the resources and support to make sure that these girls have the environment they need to succeed.”

Melissa Jones

Special to the AFRO