Workers Up To Challenge


    GRAND HAVEN — People usually get in trouble when they destroy property. This time they got a thank-you.

    Destruction is just what developers of the former Grand Haven Roller Rink had in mind when they hired a group of teenagers from a Muskegon-based rehabilitation program. A team of eight men in the West Michigan Teen Challenge program put its energy to work as a demolition team for West Coast Plaza LLC, the developers of a retail and office condominium complex in Grand Haven. The young men spent 20 days loading a dozen 30-yard dumpsters with layers of old ceiling, debris and bricks from the former roller rink.

    “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bunch of harder working guys in my life,” said developer Tony DeVecht. “You could tell that they were just happy to be there and happy to be doing something good.”

    Teen Challenge is a national live-in recovery program that helps people with “life-control problems,” such as drug and alcohol addiction. The Christian nonprofit has six operations in Michigan, including the West Michigan Teen Challenge branch in Muskegon. During their year-long residency with the program, participants perform community service on projects such as the roller rink redevelopment.

    DeVecht said he had heard about the gospel-based recovery program and donated to the organization, but hadn’t used its community services prior to the roller rink project.

    “That is the first time, and I’ll tell you, I will use them whenever I can in the future,” he said. “It was just amazing to watch them work — a true delight.”

    Considering the goal of preserving the building’s hardwood floor, DeVecht said using manual labor instead of machines for demolition made sense to him, though the cost was a little higher. The Teen Challenge team was able to complete the demolition without using heavy machines, saving the floor from harm.

    “We knew they would take care in preserving that floor,” DeVecht said.

    In addition to that conscientious effort, the Teen Challenge participants were praised for their willingness to work and learn.

    “There’s a lot of common sense to what we’re really doing,” said Bill Venhuizen, who oversaw the demolition. “Every one of them has a great attitude.”

    Though Teen Challenge does not charge for its services, a donation was made to help fund the program.

    “It’s a good economic trade-off,” Venhuizen said of giving the program funding and getting good labor for the project.

    DeVecht said he encourages anyone who can use Teen Challenge labor to do so.

    “You have to work around it a little bit,” he said, referring to restrictions the program places on its participants’ labor. “But the trade-off is it’s just a true delight to watch these young men work, because they work so hard.”

    Ellen Gutierrez, director of operations at West Michigan Teen Challenge, said the program, which is home to about 120 men and women, gets involved with projects that are good for the community or those that help nonprofits.

    “We kind of weigh and evaluate each situation,” she said.

    Local organizations benefit, but so do the participants themselves.

    “Helping with demolition, church cleanups or events such as the Unity Christian Music Festival in Muskegon gives the program participants a way to experience a working schedule and develop a good work ethic,” Gutierrez said. “So many have come from a lifestyle where they have not ever had to work.”

    Gutierrez said the program, which has participants from all over the country, has been a success in many cases.

    “What they come in like, and what they turn into — you would not imagine they ever did the things they have done,” she said. “They are just wonderful.”   

    Facebook Comments