'The House that DJJ Built' presented to owner at dedication ceremony

"It's like a Christmas gift that you always wanted, that you couldn't afford, and you got it," said the mother and new home owner.

COLUMBIA (WACH) - The South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) completed the first "House that DJJ Built" initiative Wednesday morning with a presentation to the owner of the new home.

The house was presented to a single mother of a teen with special needs Wednesday. The home has wide doors, a wheelchair ramp, and a handicapped accessible shower to meet the needs of the family.

"It's like a Christmas gift that you always wanted, that you couldn't afford, and you got it," said the mother and new home owner.

A table full of house warming gifts were displayed on a table at the ceremony.

DJJ has partnered with the Central South Carolina Habitat for Humanity since October 2011. The "House that DJJ Built" is a Habitat House built under the partnership with the support of the Friends of Juvenile Justice.

Incarcerated teens began working on the home in December 2011. It was finished in January and lifted over the razor-wire fence on Monday, January 23.

â??I can only imagine the anticipation of the young volunteers as they saw their handiwork suspended in the air and gently placed on wheels in preparation for transporting (the house) to its permanent location,â?? wrote Johnathan T.M.Reckford, chief executive officer, Habitat for Humanity International, in a letter to Roy Kramer, executive director, Central South Carolina Habitat for Humanity. â??This was such a wonderful symbol of hope for the young lives on the other side. A part of them â?? their sweat and hard work â?? was lifted that day, as well.â??â??

After the house was moved to its final location, select youths from DJJ began assisting with final construction and landscaping for the home while under supervision.

Officials with DJJ hope to build many more homes behind the fence.

â??We look upon our partnership with Habitat for Humanity as building houses, rebuilding communities, and reclaiming youth who are on the brink of re-entering society,â?? said DJJ Director Margaret H. Barber. â??Never has South Carolinaâ??s juvenile justice system pursued such a distinctive initiative," Barber said. â??However, it just makes sense because one of our objectives is to provide job skills that will help prepare our youth for the workplace when they leave us. Also, we are providing housing to a deserving family, and DJJ has gained the attention of supportive partners."