2018 Playhouses

The Playhouses Project Highlights Hope for the Future

“HOPE” is a word that one thinks about as he or she learns about and sees the results of the Building Industry Charitable Fund’s annual outstanding signature project: the Playhouses. There is hope for the aging trades industry, with the addition of the YouthBuild organization; hope for the members of the BIA, whose lives are often so busy they cannot find the time to fulfill their wishes of giving back to their communities; hope for the YouthBuild young people themselves as they learn valuable skills of the trades and of the importance of serving others; and, of course, hope for the recipient families as they discover the immense benefits these Playhouses offer their children. 
According to Lynn Rippy, President and CEO of YouthBuild Louisville, the organization has been a partner with the BIA for 17 years, providing education, vocational training, leadership training, case management, and placement service to their young people. Previously to joining YouthBuild, one might have only a 4th to 6th grade level of education and perhaps been told he or she had no chance of achieving success. YouthBuild changes that overview. Each student has the opportunity for growth and change, and in addition, he or she also performs 450 hours of community service, of which the Playhouses Project is one. YouthBuild works on the project from the ground up, from beginning to end, so that the youths can then transition into actual home repair or remodel, for example. After the 10-month program, YouthBuild then supports each young person for 2 years after graduation. This program began 45 years ago in Harlem, and there are now 275 programs throughout the U.S. and in 5 other countries.

Lead builders this year, Scott Welch of Welch Construction, and Tommy McKechnie of Stonehenge Construction, each brought in his own subcontractors and suppliers to work with YouthBuild on the Playhouses. Rippy says that “this is such an exciting opportunity for YouthBuild, as the tradespeople involved get to know the youth well, which often results in later employment.” Approximately 17 students worked on each Playhouse, rotating between the classroom and the job. Women make up 40% of the current class. Rippy adds, “After the YouthBuild young people met the children and their parents, the Playhouses were literally ‘built with love,’ and our students learned so much about themselves as they performed a service for another.” Additionally, she is pleased that many graduates wish to enter the trades as a result of this partnership…HOPE for the future, indeed.

Ellie Kate’s builder, Scott Welch, Welch Builders, Inc., and her interior designer, Lisa Steinbock, Steinbock Interior Design Group, created a Playhouse to benefit both her and her new sister in the areas of social and play skills and language development. Welch said, “When Brandon Bailey called to ask me if I’d be interested in building one of the Playhouses, my subcontractors, my suppliers, and I were willing to jump in without hesitation, knowing we would be involved in something bigger than ourselves.” Welch has worked with YouthBuild before, so he knew that their participation in itself was rewarding. 

Before joining the Playhouses project, McKechnie and his team were NOT aware of YouthBuild. He speaks highly of the organization now, as he’s witnessed their dedication to the trades and understands their challenges. After he and Knight met with the families, to check out Lucas’s favorites, like Michael Jackson, music and dancing, U of L, and, of course, shoes, and his need for independence and development of social and various other life skills, McKechnie shared all of the information with his YouthBuild team, so they, too, could experience the same joy of helping a special young man. In the plans the team made, special safety features were added, like a shatter-proof large mirror for watching himself dance, and broader steps leading to the loft area (actual cubbyholes, used for storage, formed the stairs.) The loft area was constructed tight to the ceiling with a higher than usual handrail. McKechnie concluded: “It’s a safe place where his limitations will not be an issue.” In other words, HOPE for a childhood as normal as possible.

The Playhouses project is also dear to the heart of Pat Durham, Executive Vice President of the BIA. A few years back, he believed the BIA needed to get more involved with Louisville communities, perhaps doing something more than just donating a few dollars here and there. He first heard about the Playhouses from Kosair and YouthBuild–and a member who was a builder. Dave French, Louisville Gas and Electric, and Davis Boland, Boland Properties, two former BICF Chairmen, were instrumental in designating the BICF as a 501(c)3 charity, which allows 100% of the funding to go to certain projects. As a former builder, Durham constructed two Playhouses, and he remembers his friend, David Hobbs’ challenge to him: “If you agree to build it, we’ll agree to fund it.” It was a spur of a moment decision that has impacted Durham to this day.