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Give Me Shelter

Apr 13, 2012

For high school senior Kirstyn Hein’s Gold Award project, she decided to renovate a shelter and center for at-risk and runaway youth.

“What I liked about the shelter was that it served kids my age,” Kirstyn says. “I think kids my age need help, because they are at that point when they can be awesome or they can fall through the cracks. I wanted to inspire them to step up and do big things.”

Kirstyn first had to convince the organization, Connection Youth Shelter in Howell, Michigan, that she was capable of managing a big renovation project. “There were all these little bitty projects that the shelter first suggested, but we wanted a big project,” Kirstyn says.

The renovation plan resulted in 330 hours of work over five days. Kirstyn recruited and managed a team of 35 volunteers who repainted the bedrooms, fixed gutters, built a desk and closet organizers, and completely replaced the shelter’s bathroom. Fifteen companies donated materials—worth more than $5,000—to Kirstyn’s project.

Asking for donations was one of Kirstyn’s biggest challenges. “It was a lot easier when I remembered that I wasn’t representing myself, but that I was representing the shelter,” she says. “I was asking on their behalf to benefit the entire community.”

All along, Kirstyn’s driving force was the teens who live at the shelter. “I [hoped] that it was motivational to them to see a kid their own age tackling an issue,” she explains.

“This was not a project [done] completed out of pity,” continues Kirstyn, who is now 19 and in college. “It was an effort to help the community and motivate the kids to do something big, because they can. Everyone can.”