HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Tucked away along Buffalo Creek Road in Huntington is a tiny home village, a greenhouse and a picnic area for local youth transitioning out of the foster care system.
The village was created by Stepping Stones Inc., a child welfare and behavioral health provider, along with multiple community partners such as Wayne County Schools, Green Bronx Machine and Newman’s Own Foundation.
A recent ribbon cutting ceremony took place to celebrate the eight tiny homes built and other programs that have been created to aid youth transitioning into adulthood.
“This has been a beautiful patchwork quilt sewn together by many caring adults with love for young men on their journey to independence,” said Stepping Stones Inc. Executive Director Susan Fry.
The homes are to be occupied by young men ages 17-23 transitioning into adulthood. Four homes are already occupied, and Fry said the others will be filled in the near future.
Fry and others who helped along the way, whether it was through financial, physical or moral support, participated in the ribbon cutting.
Stepping Stones broke ground on the tiny home village in 2018, and the first home was completed in 2020. Students from Wayne High School helped draft the blueprints for the first home that were used for the other houses, and students from Tolsia High School built the first home.
Jessica Kern Huff, local basketball coach, philanthropist and creator of the Jessica Kern Foundation, spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony. She told attendees the work put into creating the tiny village comes from efforts to make the world better for the young men who would be living there.
Huff encouraged the community to continue to give back so the next generation learns to do the same, making the world better while doing so.
“It is important that with our efforts, our time, our words, our spirit, our joy, our empathy, our hope, that we give back to young people and allow them to know that it is now their obligation to make this world a better place than what we had when we were growing up,” Huff said.
Stepping Stones President Don Perdue said while the tiny home village has come a long way since the first discussions, the work is not done yet.
In addition to the greenhouse teaching those living in the homes about gardening, financial literacy classes available and other programs already in use to help aid those transitioning from the foster care system into adulthood, plans are being discussed to expand even further, Perdue said.
Fry said while organizers are still early in the planning process, discussions are ongoing about reopening a local campground to give the tiny home village residents another option for employment and culinary programs, which includes the possibility of a local food truck.
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