The property at 201 N. Iowa Avenue is vacant. But someday, it provide a home to a local family in need.

That's the goal, anyway, of organizers of AC YouthBuild.

Affiliated with the Boys and Girls Club, the 36-week program pays at-risk 16- to 23-year-olds $125 per week to learn construction skills and, if needed, prepare and test for a GED.

Having participants build a house would be a first for the program, which already partners with Habitat for Humanity to give participants hands-on practice, program director Ernest Harper said.

"Last year was the first, so we were a little behind. But in year two, we were able to learn from year one, and get to point that this is a reality now," said Harper, a retired Atlantic City High School principal.

YouthBuild's first cohort helped renovate the kitchen at the Boys and Girls Club headquarters 317 N. Pennsylvania Ave. and reconstruct the club's satellite at 215 N. Sovereign Ave, said Markus Denson, the club's executive director.

That's the place Youth Build calls home. On a recent morning, about two dozen young men practiced their skills on sheds outside.

"It's all about learning on the job, and skill work, with a team to monitor the situation," said Denson, who came on board a year ago.

At first, Harper and Denson planned to have students tackle a dilapidated house on Indiana Avenue.

"We (were) looking to revitalize these houses as part of the Youth Build initiative," Denson said. "Kids have learned construction and carpentry skills, (so) part of the point is to get hands-on experience revitalizing homes."

Atlantic City Council agreed in July to donate 711 N. Indiana Ave. But upon further inspection, Harper realized that the house was beyond repair for his students.

"We were looking for a house to rehab and refurbish, but (that one) was beyond our capacity to fix in terms of expenses and materials, so it would have to be torn down to the beams and started all over again," Harper said.

So Harper met with city officials, and they have since settled on an empty city-owned lot on Iowa Avenue, just north of its intersection with Arctic Avenue.

Harper said earlier this week that he plans to sign the deed for the property today.

The finished product will provide a home for a family in need. But because funding is tight, it's unclear when construction will begin.

Harper said he hopes the house will be built by the third program cohort starting in November.

"One of our missions is to give back and focus on families who need us the most. We'll just research it and find a family that is needy and would benefit and has some sort of connection to the Boys and Girls Club," Denson said. "We'll be able to get that experience plus put a needy family in that home."

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