Rena Bunting stood surrounded by her family on a dusty corner lot in Airway Heights looking at the foundation for her new home. Behind her, hamburgers were sizzling on a giant grill and what looked like a group of high school students were playing hacky sack.
“We are all dressed in black today,” said Bunting, “because today is the death of our old, crummy life and the beginning of our new, much better life.”
The Buntings are the recipients of a new home built by First Story – a nonprofit organization founded by Hayden Homes – and Spokane YouthBuild, which provides on-the-job training for at-risk youth in Spokane County.
Rena and Kurt Bunting and their three children, Lacy, 14, Ally, 12, and Trina 8, have been moving from home to home for a long time.
“My kids have never known the stability of having their own home,” said Rena Bunting. “They’ve always lived among walls someone else has already touched. This is an amazing gift.”
Bunting said the home will be ready in time for her children to start the new school year in Airway Heights.
The hacky sack players turned out to be teenagers from YouthBuild, a program that’s part of Educational Service District 101. They were all there for the wall raising – and the hamburgers – on May 16.
Manda Edwards, program manager, said YouthBuild is available to low-income youth who don’t have a high school diploma or a GED and are between 18 and 29 years old.
“We hire them in groups,” Edwards said. “We do outreach, and our most successful outreach is actually in Craigslist.” The youth spend 20 hours in the classroom, working on life skills, math and professional development, and 20 hours doing construction at the site, every week.
“They earn a stipend of $350 every two weeks while they are in the program,” Edwards said. “And we track them for a full year after they leave us.” Edwards said almost 100 youth have participated in YouthBuild during the first three years of the program. About 85 percent of youth in the program reach their goal of getting a GED or a high school diploma.
“We have a high percentage of homelessness among our students,” Edwards said. “When they are done with our program, nothing keeps them from continuing on to college.” Currently, 24 YouthBuild graduates are working on college degrees.
The Buntings got a zero down payment, zero interest, 30-year loan toward financing the home.
Hayden Homes is the primary partner in the project, said Shon Rae, executive director of First Story.
“Also, 95 percent of the traders and suppliers who work on the home with us have made donations of materials and services,” Rae said.
As for the Buntings, they can’t wait to move in.
“We drive by probably every day,” Bunting said. “It’s been a blessing to meet all these wonderful kids who are building a home for us. It really is a gift.”