Thanks to the MIT Hobby Shop and a group of dedicated students, several families living in the Project Hope shelter in Boston will have a sturdy storage unit for their belongings.
Project Hope is a multiservice Boston agency dedicated to helping families move past poverty. It provides low-income mothers with access to education, jobs, housing and emergency services. Over the past month, the Project Hope Shelter has been refinished, repainted and generally revamped as part of WCVB-TV Channel 5's Extreme Makeover: Hometown Edition.
The Project Hope makeover, which aired in November, renovated the entire Dorchester shelter, including 11 bedrooms, two bathrooms, two family rooms, two play spaces, a meeting room, four offices, a hallway and three flights of stairs, all in two weeks. Only storage was missing, said Kenneth Stone, director of the MIT Hobby Shop.
It seemed like an ideal project for the MIT Hobby Shop, Stone said, and although the MIT portion was not completed in time to air, the students who worked on the project did so sporting blue T-shirts from Extreme Makeover.
"It could be just a door or a frame, but to someone else it means so much," said junior Folkes "Eddie" Rojas, a nuclear engineering major, as he finished the edges of one of the unit doors.
The project was an opportunity to do something good and also to do work he loves. "The Hobby Shop gives me the chance to produce a finished good," said Rojas, who had worked construction in the past. He said he finds comfort in working with wood. "You have to learn the wood and know it. Each piece is unique."
Junior Ian Moyer, a mechanical engineering major, was drawn to both the cause and the project itself, he said. "It seemed really interesting and I like to be able to create things," he said. "When I am in the Hobby Shop, I am applying all of the ideas I learn as theory in my classes."
Hobby Shop Director Kenneth Stone said he was not surprised by the dedication he saw from the six students who collectively worked more than 20 hours over three days to put the units together. "It has been much easier because of the help from the students," Stone said. "MIT students are so amazing. If they have a spare hour, they will just come down and pitch in."
Much of the work was completed over Thanksgiving break and the several days that followed, said Stone.
Once complete, each of the six birch storage units will be 2 feet deep by 8 feet high. Stone hoped the project would be complete by the end of this week so that installation could take place before finals start on Dec 18.
Stone and a few of the students planned to travel to the shelter in vans, unload the units and construct them on-site.
"It really is a wonderful project," Stone said.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 13, 2006 (download PDF).