Fourteen volunteers tore out carpets, ceiling tiles and a wall Saturday in the basement of a Roseburg shelter for homeless teens and their families. The cleared out space at Casa de Belen will be converted into a teen activity center for residents.
The basement had been a teen center before, but has been used only for storage since it was damaged by water sprinklers four years ago. After its renovation, the room will have study spaces, computers and one or two pool tables.
“What they’re going to do in there now is going to be the Hilton compared to what it was before,” said Casa de Belen house supervisor Aaron Towne. He said students will have to maintain their grades to use the room.
Most of the volunteers were from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. Some were part of the Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s Project Leadership group and some were shelter residents.
The volunteers said they wanted teens to have a place where they could study and spend time with others their own age.
“We want to help them be productive and let them know we do care about them,” said Thrivent member Fran Mueller.
Casa de Belen resident Dustin Benedict helped haul out shelves, tables, a television and a crib to be donated to the Salvation Army. Benedict is 20 but said he hopes he will be allowed to spend time in the teen center anyway.
Benedict said he bounced around between friends’ houses after he left home at 17. He said the six months he’s been at Casa de Belen have changed his life. He is looking for work and plans to start school at Umpqua Community College this spring. He wants to study biology and graphic design.
“I’m making a big turnaround,” Benedict said.
Jess Miller, a member of Project Leadership and the facilities director at Umpqua Community College, helped tear up carpet Saturday morning. He said he was happy to help homeless teens.
“It’s great. I think the pride I have in it is the fact I’m here with a group of Christians that is doing something special for a group of people that are trying to better their lives,” he said.
Eugene resident Rick Brathovde helped Miller pull up the carpet. Brathovde, a Thrivent member who helped build houses at Eugene’s Opportunity Village homeless camp, said Thrivent members hope to plant a seed that encourages more community members to get involved helping people who are homeless.
“We look at opportunities where good people can get involved and make a difference. We don’t need to wait on the city or the county to step in and do what’s right,” he said.
Mueller also helped with the Opportunity Village project.
“We felt the need in Douglas County was just as great and teenagers really fall through the cracks,” Mueller said.
Her husband Bob Mueller said tearing out a wall in Casa’s basement was a good way for a retired person to spend a Saturday.
“I know from experience that giving back to the community keeps your mind and body healthy and it’s a good cause,” said Mueller, a former therapist who worked with geriatric patients at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Thrivent Financial associate Helen Hanson said members of the nonprofit organization have helped out Casa de Belen in the past, renovating a nursery, kitchen and residents’ rooms. They also offer a budgeting class to residents.
Towne said he was thrilled so many people turned out Saturday.
“All the people here are volunteers. They’re here just for the purpose of helping teenagers,” he said. “For me personally it restores a faith in human kindness.”
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.