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Stepping Stones breaks ground on tiny home village, greenhouse

December 21, 2018

HUNTINGTON - The Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation, Toyota Motor Manufacturing-West Virginia and UniCare Health Plan of West Virginia partnered with Stepping Stones to break ground Thursday on a tiny home village for transition-aged youth aging out of West Virginia’s foster care system or at risk of homelessness.

When complete, the village will provide residents safe housing, access to recreation, art and community activities, career education, mentor opportunities, life skills coaching, and technical training and support.

The ceremony held on campus at Stepping Stones served as a tremendous milestone in the program’s journey after several successful community planning events to come up with a detailed plan of action for the project, Executive Director Susan Fry said. She called it a “monumental day for Stepping Stones.”

A hydroponic tower garden, or vertical gardening system, and greenhouse will be constructed as part of the Stepping Stones tiny home village and was made possible by an $80,000 donation from UniCare. The facility is expected to be completed and in operation by summer 2019. Youth who are enrolled in the Stepping Stones program will operate the greenhouse as a part of the simulated workplace curriculum. The garden farm and greenhouse will provide fresh vegetables year-round. Stepping Stones youth will grow food not only for themselves, but also others as excess vegetables will be donated to the area’s homeless and recovery community.

Stepping Stones also received a $15,000 donation from Cabell Huntington Hospital and an additional $7,500 from Toyota. Fry said those donations “should be enough” to fund the construction of one tiny home.

While bigger companies have provided the funding for the jump-start of the project, Wayne County students from all three high schools in the county have been involved with the design of each tiny home that will be built. About 130 Tolsia, Spring Valley and Wayne high school students attended the ceremony Thursday.

Fry said Stepping Stones hopes to have two, possibly three, tiny homes built by April 2019. Inmates enrolled in the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Diversion and Transition will construct some of these homes. This experience provides inmates with job training, skill development and opportunities for moral rehabilitation while giving back to the community. Tolsia High School students will construct the third home.

Spring Valley senior Hunter Donahoe designed several different models of tiny homes with his classmates and said that his involvement with the project has tremendously changed his outlook on the education he is receiving.

“It’s completely different than our normal curriculum. I’ve never been able to take what I’ve learned and actually use it to benefit my community. I think my entire class agrees that this project has been the most beneficial project we’ve ever done,” Donahoe said. “It has changed the way I look at education - no matter what I pursue, I’ll always be able to give back to my community.”

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