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Teens pitch in on Sharpsburg Habitat for Humanity home for J-Serve Day

| Sunday, March 30, 2014, 10:00 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Lee Baumann, construction manager for Habitat for Humanity for Greater Pittsburgh, instructs a group of volunteers helping refurbish a Sharpsburg home Sunday, March 30, 2014.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Volunteers clean up the kitchen in a Habitat for Humanity home in Sharpsburg on Sunday, March 30, 2014. The volunteers were part of J-Serve Pittsburgh, where Jewish teens from across the area fanned out to help a variety of causes.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
A list of things-to-do hangs from a window in a Habitat for Humanity home in Sharpsburg on Sunday, March 30, 2014.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Micah Ackerman cleans a bedroom in a Habitat for Humanity home in Sharpsburg on Sunday, March 30, 2014.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Shira Itskowitz relocates a roll of insulation in a Habitat for Humanity home in Sharpsburg on Sunday, March 30, 2014.

Jared Stufflebeam was one of a dozen teens who repeatedly climbed three flights of stairs in a 100-year-old house in Sharpsburg on Sunday, working to prepare it for new owners.

They carried lumber and construction materials down from the third floor, so carpeting can be installed next week by other volunteers helping Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh to refurbish the house.

“The Jewish believe that we need to repair the world. That's what we're doing today,” said Stufflebeam, 18, of Squirrel Hill. “It's a firm way of doing something great.”

He was one of hundreds of Jewish teens who volunteered for a variety of causes at 25 sites as part of J-Serve Pittsburgh, a Jewish teen service day in its ninth year, sponsored by the Agency for Jewish Learning in Shady­side and its teen advisory committee. They served numerous nonprofits and worthy causes, addressing homelessness, hunger, senior care and the environment.

“This year, the teens not only recruited 300 of their peers in sixth to 12th grades, they also raised nearly $13,000,” said Lisa Sobel-Berlow, J-Serve coordinator at the agency. “Every year, J-Serve gets stronger as a program because our teens become better leaders and more passionate.”

“I did this last year. It's a really nice program,” said Adina Kisilinsky, 16, of Squirrel Hill. Last year, she volunteered at a local women's shelter. She decided to contribute again “to give back to people who live in my community, and clean up and spruce up this house for the family that will be moving in here.”

Volunteers came from the city and surrounding areas, including Butler and Westmoreland counties.

Other Habitat volunteers have been working on the house for nine months, said Lee Baumann, the organization's construction manager, who expects work to be finished by May 1. It will house a large family that emigrated from Africa, which will purchase the home from Habitat under its program to put families in need into housing they otherwise might not be able to afford.

Families who qualify must volunteer their time working on the houses, at least 360 hours of “sweat equity,” like a down payment on the mortgage they will pay to the organization.

Thousands of volunteer hours have been spent on the house, painting, installing drywall — everything but plumbing and electrical work, which must be inspected, he said. The house, built in 1903, is one of the largest of the more than 80 that the area Habitat organization has refurbished since its inception in 1986, Baumann said.

John D. Oravecz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7882 or joravecz@tribweb.com.

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