Deconstruction work salvages young lives

Staff report


Local people got a firsthand look this week at the benefits of deconstruction, a process designed to remove valuable items from homes scheduled for demolition.

Students between age 18 and 24 were in the Idora neighborhood on Youngstown’s South Side as part of Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp.’s Green Jobs Training Program.

The program, which began in late February, is designed as part of a salvage rather than demolish initiative, said Kenya Roberts-Howard, YNDC senior program coordinator and project coordinator of Green Jobs. The program recruits students in the city who are dedicated to redirecting their lives.

The students worked on deconstructing a home at 496 Ravenwood Ave. earlier this week.

“We began Green Jobs as a way to be friendly with the Earth, as well as the community,” Roberts-Howard said. “We’re teaching the students how to recycle, reuse materials that would otherwise be disposed of and provide them with an opportunity for long-term employment.”

YNDC, a neighborhood- development organization, brought in deconstruction expert Dave Bennink of Re-Use Consulting to teach students how to deconstruct houses profitably.

Bennink was voted Building Deconstructor of the Year last year by the Building Materials Reuse Association and serves clients in 41 states and three Canadian provinces.

Youngstown has presented a challenge for Bennink because Ohio’s disposal fees are low in comparison with those of surrounding states.

“The dump fees are so low other states will bring their trash into Ohio and dump it in their landfills, which makes it hard to make deconstruction cost-effective,” Bennink said. “If I can make it work in Youngstown, I can make it work anywhere.”

Deconstruction is valuable because it creates jobs that wouldn’t otherwise exist, it provides affordable material to low-income homeowners, and it is better for the environment, Bennink added.

When material is salvaged rather than manufactured, it uses 11 to 13 times less energy and creates three to five times less greenhouse gases, he added.

“We save natural resources, recycle used materials and keep waste out of landfills,” Bennink said.

The materials removed from the homes scheduled to be demolished provide an affordable option for homeowners to make repairs to their own homes.

“Half a dozen people from the neighborhood have walked up to me this week and said, ‘I need that fence, that door or those windows.’ The people who live here can’t afford to purchase new material. This is an affordable home-repair option,” Bennink said.

Bennink’s training process includes classroom time and hands-on training. He focuses on safety training, teaching the technical aspects of how to use various tools and showing the students how to properly remove material without damaging it.

Monique Talley, 21, and Jordan Burnett, 20, both joined the program to earn their GEDs and gain the experience they need to receive employment in order to care for their children.

Brian Spade, 22, chose to join Green Jobs Training Program after YouthBuild, a program he participated in for nine months, was cut due to a lack of funding.

Spade serves as the assistant to the instructor and has already lined up a summer job with YNDC. YouthBuild is expected to receive funding and be re-established in the fall, YNDC officials said.

Spade is poised to become part of the program’s staff in the fall because of his experience in YNDC programs and his ability to work with participants, Roberts- Howard said.

“I like getting my hands dirty. Green Jobs teaches you a trade. You learn something that will help you make money,” Spade said. “I agree with trying to salvage materials. There are a number of houses that are boarded up. We clean up the neighborhoods within the community.”

“This experience has given me hands-on training and it keeps me out of trouble,” said Terrence Howell, a 22-year-old participant. “It is pushing me toward either college or joining some work force. I’m thankful to YNDC for this opportunity.”

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