EUREKA! It’s the audible exclamation for discovery. It represents the sudden, unexpected realization of the solution to a problem. The Eureka Institute in Sandpoint, Idaho, is aptly named. Committed to sponsoring life-long learning and community service opportunities, this organization is focused on helping residents of the Sandpoint area. The Eureka Institute is a nonprofit organization that began in 2011. Its purpose is to sponsor experiential and educational programming for all ages. In an effort to reach young people, including at-risk youth, the Eureka Institute has developed its Construction Basics Initiative. Through this program, the Eureka Institute helps young people explore new skills, expand their knowledge by learning valuable trades and enjoy the benefits of accomplishing something good in and for their community.
Steve Holt has been the director for the Construction Basics Initiative. He is a semi-retired builder, and he has acknowledged for years that more vocational training opportunities are needed to help young people prepare for future careers. “College isn’t for everybody,” Steve explains. “We wanted to help kids start a good career in the building trades and industry. There is a real demand for highly trained construction personnel.”
Steve has always loved teaching. With the closure of high school shop classes, he realized that something had to be done to encourage interested kids and give them opportunities to learn the trades of the building industry. In addition to teaching trade skills, the Construction Basics Initiative was designed to give at-risk youth hope in a successful future. “We help the kids learn that they can work hard and then stand back and see what they’ve accomplished. Many start the program with fear and a real lack of confidence. Then, as we teach them some simple skills and knowledge, the kids just shine. We’ve changed a lot of lives in the last few years. It’s been incredibly rewarding,” says Steve.
Initially, The Eureka Institute hosted Camp Eureka for kids. This summer camp ran for 16 years and was a fun, outdoor camp for youth. Founders of the Eureka Institute felt it was good but wanted to do something even more significant. They wanted to offer more unique educational opportunities to young people and at-risk youth. Specifically, they wanted to provide vocational training usually not available to youth, teach the success and satisfaction that comes after hard work, and create unique opportunities for youth to give back to their community. With these goals in mind, Steve gathered a dedicated board of directors and turned a corporation into a nonprofit organization. The Construction Basics Initiative was born and quickly gained traction. It became evident that it was serving a need for both interested young people and the community. “It has been so exciting to see it coming to fruition in the last couple of years!” adds Steve.
Organizers of the Construction Basics Initiative work with 100 youth per year on average. Through grants, donations and fundraisers, they provide supplies needed for building projects. Mentored by experienced tradesmen, the young people in the program gain skills through hands-on learning as they complete projects benefiting the community. The number of projects varies from year to year. Last summer, the Construction Basics Initiative youth and their mentors built an entire home. This year, they are building four bus shelters. They are currently writing grants to fund another 10 shelters over the next 10 years. These, and other much-needed projects in the Sandpoint area, have been completed through the Construction Basics Initiative. These learning opportunities have given young people the chance to feel the satisfaction of hard work and achieving success while they also gain a sense of giving back to the community. “It’s a win-win for everybody,” Steve explains.
Steve and other organizers of the Construction Basics Initiative work with members of the community to set up projects. Then, they ask local schools to recommend students, including at-risk youth, who are interested in the building industry. The end game for the Eureka Institute is to create a full time vocational training program for youth and young adults.
This kind of service in the community and development opportunities for young people cannot be done without significant funds. Among grants, donations and other fundraisers, the Sandpoint SummerFest is a major fundraising engine for the Construction Basics Initiative. Sandpoint Summerfest began 20 years ago as fundraiser for the Eureka Summer Camp. It has now evolved into a critical component in providing funds for the youth building program.
This year, SummerFest will be July 13-15. It has been a family and community event for more than two decades. It is a weekend of family oriented arts, culture and music festivities. “People love bringing their kids. It’s a safe place for families. Come out. Enjoy good food and music. Bring the kids,” suggests Steve. He adds, “Sandpoint SummerFest is about bringing people together for a good cause.”
The Eureka Center opens its gates at 3pm on July 13 to begin festivities. Families and all community members are welcome to come and set up their camps. Live music begins around 6pm and will play through the evening. Local, regional and national talent will be showcased, with a variety of styles including reggae, rock, bluegrass, hip-hop, blues and jazz. Saturday will be filled with activities for all ages. Early morning yoga, disc golf, movement and music classes, songwriting workshops, crafts, educational opportunities, great food and beverages, and kids’ activities will be available throughout the day. More live music will fill the evening and, finally, Sunday will culminate with the Tim Parnow Memorial Mountain Bike Ride.
The Sandpoint SummerFest is an opportunity for the community to celebrate and connect; to share its diversity and creativity. All proceeds from the Sandpoint SummerFest will fund the Eureka Institute’s Construction Basics Initiative. Visit their website at Eureka-Institute.org to purchase tickets and learn more about Sandpoint SummerFest. See how you can get involved in the good the Eureka Institute is doing through their Construction Basics Initiative. EUREKA! Be part of the solution. Explore. Expand. Enjoy.