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Unlocking potential through hands-on training

In a quiet neighborhood in Deerfield, WI, there are plenty of gorgeous, new family homes. One home located at 239 W. Nelson Street looks just like the rest, but there is something special about it.

“Everything you see here was done by the young adults with some help from supervisors,” said Steve Gardner, Build Academy Program Manager, “Look around the neighborhood, look at the houses that surround it, and you tell me the difference. There is none. They did a phenomenal job.”

The 1,600 square feet house features three bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, walk-in closet, three-stall garage, and walkout basement. Besides the plumbing, electric, HVAC, and gutter work, the entire house was constructed from the ground up by participants in Build Academy, Operation Fresh Start’s construction training program. The house went up for sale on March 20 for $469,000 with Stark Company Realtors. To date, it is the highest value house that OFS has constructed.

“By working on a house like this, you get real experience, and it puts you ahead of everyone else,” said Elijah, Build Academy participant, “You get a feel for what construction is really like, the pace of it. I learned a lot.”

Construction took place between November 2022 and February 2024 with over thirty participants working on the house. On March 7, an open house was held to celebrate its completion and the young adults, program supervisors, and partners who contributed to it. County Materials, Stevens Construction, Fabick Rents, and