When a charitable organization identifies a need and applies the appropriate energy, funding and volunteer support, a beautiful thing happens. It can change a small corner of the world for the betterment of individuals in need and the community at large. I’ve seen it happen.

I had the privilege of serving as president for the Home Builders Foundation of Metropolitan Portland (HBF), Ore., during its most ambitious project, the renovation of Cordero House, which is located in nearby Tigard, Ore., and operated by Janus Youth Programs. However, my introduction to Cordero House took place a year before I would assume that role. As an HBF board member in 2009, I organized a Christmas choir designed to bring Yuletide cheer to some of the shelters that were HBF projects. Cordero House was on the list of shelters we visited.

Cordero House was a tired, drafty old Craftsman-style house. Windows were taped to keep out the cold and damp Oregon climate. Two of the four burners on the electric stove did not work. Hot water was so scarce the boys had to shower in shifts. Hardly ideal living conditions, but the Cordero boys didn’t make a habit of complaining. Eighty percent of them had been abused, most in their family setting, and Cordero House provided a safe haven for the 12 teenage boys who lived there.

We all circled about a dilapidated piano and sang a dozen or so familiar Christmas carols.

When we were done, we were offered some refreshments and then the boys, one by one, introduced themselves. The difference between the timid, withdrawn newcomers and articulate, self-assured veterans was stark. The memories of that December afternoon would sustain many of us through the challenges of completing a project dependent on generating $350,000 in donations during the most challenging economic environment for builders and suppliers since the Great Depression.

The plan was to add an additional 1,000 square feet to the structure, which allowed Cordero House to accommodate two more boys. The full-scale remodel included a complete tear out, new infrastructure and durable finishes. The design included creation of a large multipurpose family treatment and media room, new kitchen and dining areas, increased storage, upgraded appliances, expanded rear and side porch areas to accommodate new therapist offices, and updated and expanded bathrooms. New private state-of-the-art showers and dressing areas were critical to the livability of the home. The original laundry center in the basement was relocated upstairs to the main bedroom dorm area for convenience.

Through relentless negotiations, team meetings, scheduling and mountains of paperwork, HBF achieved its goal of in-kind contributions of labor and materials in excess of $350,000 from more than 380 industry professionals representing 90 businesses. The final budget numbers resulted in an increased retail value of the facility to $770,000. The project broke ground in August of 2009.

The boys moved back into their new “home” on Saturday, June 18, 2011. One month later, the community celebrated the dedication of Cordero House with more than 150 supporters in attendance. They received personal tours of the house from 14 ecstatic Cordero boys, who were in awe of the audience they commanded, the time and attention they received, and the cumulative support of an entire industry.

As one volunteer said, “This project showed the boys that just because something is old or worn or appears to be broken, you can make something beautiful of it.” 


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