A Different Kind of Summer Vacation
HOPE Crew Helps Historic Barns
Located on the coast of Northwest Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has long been a favorite vacation spot for families throughout the state. The picturesque shoreline area, named “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by ABC’s Good Morning America in 2011, boasts many attractions including wineries, water-sports, shopping and camping. But last month, a group of young people made this familiar June pilgrimage with a different kind of summertime activity in mind: historic barn preservation.
Kevin Summers, of SEEDS Youth Conservation Corps, led a five-member crew on a project to rehabilitate the historic Goffar Barn within the Port Oneida Rural Historic District of the Lakeshore. The barn, which dates back to the 1870s, was in desperate need of repair, so SEEDS connected with craft expert Steve Stier of the Michigan Barn Preservation Network and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to realize Michigan’s first HOPE Crew project. The enthusiasm this youth corps brought to the job was instantly palpable.
“Steve was pretty excited to see young people who care about a historic barn -- as excited as we were to be a part of HOPE Crew,” says Summers. “To have young people there is a really cool experience, and really energizes the whole group.”
Unlike many of the young people vacationing at Sleeping Bear Dunes, most of the corpsmembers working on the project had never been to the lakeshore, despite living just a few miles away in nearby Traverse City. The opportunity to work on the Goffar Barn project also afforded these young people the opportunity to explore the area, both historically and aesthetically, for the very first time.
And, for most members of the corps, historic preservation was as new to them as the Lakeshore itself.
“Working on the HOPE crew has taught me many new skills and opened my eyes to a number of professions that I would have never considered pursuing,” says Shelby Christensen. “I can't wait to someday bring my grandkids out to the Goffar Barn and show them all the hard work this crew and I have done.”
“Everyone involved was focused on making it a total experience for the students and corpsmembers. So, they were doing work, but also learning skills that they probably wouldn’t have learned anywhere else,” says Summers. “Students learned to appreciate the work that went into making those barns, and also the historic value of them.”
Summers and his crew were connected to the National Trust through their partnership with The Corps Network, a network of more than 100 youth and conservation corps across the nation. For the HOPE Crew program, SEEDS was a natural fit.
“SEEDS is one of The Corps Network’s most prominent programs in Michigan. They have a history of providing innovative and high-quality job training to young people, making them a good fit for the HOPE Crew model,” says Tess Richey, Development Assistant for The Corps Network. “Through the restoration of the Goffar Barn, SEEDS connected their Corpsmembers to local history and to the national movement of young people serving in HOPE Crews to preserve places of historical significance throughout the country. The Sleeping Bear Dunes project -- with its integration of workforce development, community service, and stewardship -- represents everything a Corps experience should offer.”
“ When the National Trust is there, showing us that other people around the country are doing the same thing we are, it feels like it has real momentum and feels like we’re part of a movement. I think that really got them excited.”Kevin Summers, crew leader for SEEDs Youth Conservation Corps
In addition to the job training and experience working with a preservation craft expert, being a part of the HOPE Crew program provided a great deal of value to corpsmembers in terms of helping them feel a connection to something larger.
“Being connected to a national program for these guys was pretty important,” says Summers. “It gave us the ability to say it’s not just us here locally, but there are all these people who also think this is important work on a national level. When the National Trust is there, showing us that other people around the country are doing the same thing we are, it feels like it has real momentum and feels like we’re part of a movement. I think that really got them excited.”
For this group of young people with a passion for carpentry, and a newly discovered love for historic preservation, this hands-on experience rivaled any summer vacation enjoyed on the Michigan lakeshore this year.
To see Kevin’s crew in action, check out this short video they produced that documents their rehabilitation of the Goffar Barn: