HOUSE OF THE CARPENTER (HOC) is located on Wheeling Island and serves people from the tri-state area meeting a variety of basic needs. The hunger ministry includes a food pantry, USDA Commodities, a community garden, farmer’s market, cooking and nutrition classes, potato drop and mobile food pantry. The thrift store offers clothing and household items. Utility assistance is provided in addition to a budgeting class.

A financial management program is in the process of being developed. In addition to the summer camp program for children and youth, the HOC offers a strings ministry teaching guitar and violin lessons, and a drama program during the after school hours. Work teams are active with our home repair program.

Christmas Kids serves over 500 children each Christmas. Currently under development are specific ministries to children and youth in tutoring and literacy, grandparents raising grandchildren program, and ministries designed to work with other non-typical families.

As a mission project the House of the Carpenter is engaged in the traditional Ministries of Mercy of a food pantry, backpack program, thrift store, utility assistance and home repair projects.  These programs serve over 1,200 people a week.  While these will always be important, the ministry is developing more Ministries of Transformation seeking to empower our neighbors as they develop skills to improve their own lives.  Some of these are cooking classes, financial management classes, the Building Bridges Afterschool program, Literacy camp and Kids in the Kitchen.

This summer the HOC launched a pilot Pre-work Program.  This ministry involved 7 middle school students coming to the HOC 4 days a week.  The first step was to learn basic employment skills of showing up on time, come dressed for the job at hand, learn to work with other people and be accountable for what you do.  Some days the group helped around the HOC in the thrift store, food pantry or on a home repair project.  Other days they shadowed various careers and vocations throughout the Ohio Valley.  They visited a construction site, a broadcast studio, an attorney’s office including the court room, hospital, fire department, military recruiter, Northern Community College, West Liberty University and many others.  In each setting they learned about the vocation and the training/education necessary to work in the field.

One of the best learning days was visiting a car dealership.  Our partner for the day walked the participants through the work of car sales, the mechanical repair, parts and auto body departments.  He then took them to the sales lot and invited them to select the car they would like to have.  Once selected the staff walked them through the process of applying to buy a car including what a car payment would look like.  The staff then showed them how much the payment would increase if they had poor credit.  They explained to the group ways to avoid developing poor credit.

This was an eye opening experience that was beneficial to the students when they met with a VP from a local bank that taught a class on money management to them.  The class included basics of balancing a checkbook, opening a savings account, paying bills and managing credit.  Then each one of the participants was helped to develop their own resume, and then with the help of a local Human Resource Department, do a mock interviewed for a job.  It was a very intense 4 weeks for the participants.

The results were phenomenal.  The program began with 1 of the 7 might be interested in college but didn’t know what type of major or job to focus upon.  At the end, 7 of 7 were looking at college and made comments indicating a desire to know more about broadcast journalism, the legal field maybe as a police officer or as an attorney, something in medicine because the hospital fascinated me, and maybe I should teach to help others learn some of this too.  One of the boys in the program came in with the goal of playing pro ball.  After a discussion on injuries and surgeries he commented that he was still going to play pro ball but he needed a backup plan so he was going to do something in medicine.  Learning about the injuries caught his attention and he wanted to know more.  He also realized, as he put it, “My grades suck so I will have to do some work there.”  One of the girls had a habit of looking at her feet when she spoke to you.  After doing her interview and working through the program she commented on her exit interview that the biggest thing she learned was that, “when I talk with people I should look them in the eye and what I have to say is important enough that they should be listening to me.”  A couple of the students have adjusted their freshman class schedule to include some STEM oriented classes.

Of course, with any job there is payday.  At the end of the program the participants received a stipend of just under $500 for their participation.  Our one request was that they open an account in a local bank through the WV Saves program which means the bank will not charge them any fees for the account.  We didn’t specify how much needed to be deposited into the savings account but that some of the money had to be placed into savings.  4 of the 7 deposited the entire check.  1 kept $10, another kept $20 and the third kept $30.  He almost seemed apologetic as he explained that he was keeping so much because he was traveling to play in a baseball tournament this weekend and it would be the first time he would not have to ask his mom for money to go.

We believe this ministry is truly transformation and all 7 want to come back next summer to help mentor the next group to go through the program.  We anticipate that we will repeat this program in the summer of 2017 and in January 2017 we will launch our Leadership Academy for High School Students.  It will be a year long program on learning, developing leadership skills, life skills and good decision making skills.  It will include a mentoring aspect as well as a service component.

We spent $5,000 to pay the stipends, provide work shirts for the participants, meals each day and transportation costs.  It is a small investment to help a child find a passion for something that gives meaning to their education, that inspires them to do the work in school and gives them hope for a future.  It is a small cost to open a door that might help these 7 children move beyond poverty in the next 10 years.  We look at it as a ministry of investment in the lives of children and youth.  It is something that a local church could commit to doing for youth in their own setting.  If you would like more information on the process, you can contact the House of the Carpenter and we will help you get started.