News / USA

    Salvage Firm Reclaims Past, Builds Futures

     Workers from Second Chance remove all usable material from a log cabin scheduled to be torn down. (J. Taboh/VOA)
    Workers from Second Chance remove all usable material from a log cabin scheduled to be torn down. (J. Taboh/VOA)
    A deconstruction crew is removing all of the usable material from a  two-story log cabin which is scheduled to be torn down. The men work for a nonprofit organization in Baltimore, Maryland, which specializes in salvaging windows, appliances and people's lives.

    Second Chance, Inc. resells materials from buildings which are slated to be demolished. The company hires and trains the most disadvantaged members of the community to do the work, giving both the workers, and the material, a second chance.
     
    Second chances

    At the cabin in a quiet neighborhood near Washington, D.C., the Second Chance crew carefully extracts the wood floors and wall panels, removing the interior doors and frames, the kitchen cabinets and all the kitchen and bathroom appliances.

    “We’re giving new life to older material which may in a lot of cases wind up in a dump and never be reused,” says Jim Russell, project manager for Second Chance.

    While the business gives materials a second chance, it also believes in giving people that opportunity as well. The nonprofit uses sites like this to train people in the art of deconstruction.

    Russell says the workers have faced challenges in life and often just need a helping hand.

    "They come to Second Chance for that opportunity,” he says.“We bring people in and teach them a skill to enable them to learn a little bit about construction; the way a house is built,” says Russell. “And if you know how it’s built, you know how to take it down properly, safely.”

    New beginnings

    Clarence White, one of the men hired and trained to do this delicate work, is learning how to safely and skillfully remove the lumber and stone, and take apart the kitchen and bathrooms.

    For White, working with Second Chance has been a life-changing experience.

    “Beforehand I was selling drugs, doing all the wrong things," he says. "I went to prison, I came home and was looking for a job and a lot of jobs weren’t hiring me. Second Chance provided that opportunity. They believed in me and I went from not feeling confident, feeling like I can’t get a job, I cannot do this, I cannot do that, feeling limited, to feeling limitless.”

    In addition to job training, the company also provides life skills workshops.
    Second Chance
    Second Chancei
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X


    White has opened a bank account and moved into his own place. But more importantly he says, “I’m able to provide for my daughter and give her a better life.”

    Another benefit for the men working at Second Chance is the bond that’s created between those who have gone through similar life challenges, and the feeling of camaraderie that has generated.

    “I love working with all these guys," says Joshua Watson, who's been working at Second Chance for nine months. "They’re like brothers. I’m going to get married in a couple of months and all these guys are going to be my groomsmen.”

    New foundations

    Once the men have completed their 16-week training program they are guaranteed a job with the company. However, according to project manager Jim Russell, many move on to other opportunities.
    The Second Chance Warehouse in Baltimore, Maryland, contains everything from doors and floors to furnishings and other household items reclaimed from homes slated to be restored, renovated or demolished. (J. Taboh/VOA)The Second Chance Warehouse in Baltimore, Maryland, contains everything from doors and floors to furnishings and other household items reclaimed from homes slated to be restored, renovated or demolished. (J. Taboh/VOA)
    x
    The Second Chance Warehouse in Baltimore, Maryland, contains everything from doors and floors to furnishings and other household items reclaimed from homes slated to be restored, renovated or demolished. (J. Taboh/VOA)
    The Second Chance Warehouse in Baltimore, Maryland, contains everything from doors and floors to furnishings and other household items reclaimed from homes slated to be restored, renovated or demolished. (J. Taboh/VOA)

    “We’ve got guys who have become apprentice electricians, some of them have gone on to become truck drivers, some of them have come to me and asked me for guidance on maybe starting their own home improvement business, and if I can help them out in any way, I try to.”

    But the task at hand today at the log cabin is to prepare the first stack of materials to be shipped out.

    Eventually, the wood flooring, wall panels and doors, along with kitchen and bathroom appliances, will be trucked to the Second Chance warehouse in Baltimore. They will join chandeliers, antiques and small household items to be sold at a big discount to people looking to renovate a room or build an entire house.

    Those sales help fund the job training program.

    Mark Foster, the founder and president of Second Chance, which has trained more than five dozen men since it began in 2003, believes his employees recognize this may be their best chance at a new life.

    “The training program here is not just about how to pull nails,” he says. “It’s about how to be a productive member of society, how to get some skill sets that you wouldn’t have had before.”

    “Materials are certainly important to us as a society,” adds Foster, “but the people are really the thing that should drive us the most, giving those people opportunities that they otherwise wouldn't have.”

    As the last of the log cabin is removed to make way for a new home to be built, Clarence White looks forward to building on the foundation of his new life.

    "I can see myself being a happy old man one day,” he says. “Before I couldn’t see it; now I see it. It’s a good thing. It’s a great thing.”

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.