New Nonprofit Aims To Become Safe Haven For Island's Youth

Lydia Gullicksen •

J Bsqt L4g

A new nonprofit will be opening its doors on Nantucket in September when Our House begins its mission of serving the island’s youth by providing a safe, nurturing environment with access to people and resources that can help them reach their goals and potential.

Our House will be headquartered in a 14-room house that sits on two acres of land on 5 WheroWhero Lane. Pauline Proch, the former executive director of the Egan Maritime Institute, is leading the program and said she has already received a lot of outpouring support from the community.

The idea behind Our House isn’t new to Proch. It is something that she has been talking about with her son, Cody, for at least eight years and it began in their own home.

Proch said Cody would invite friends over for the weekend and the whole family, along with his friends, would eat dinner together. She said his friends would ask if they were having dinner as a family solely because they were there, to which Cody replied saying he had dinner with his parents every night. Those experiences prompted Proch and Cody to have a conversation about family dinners.

“It isn’t possible for every family, for a multitude of reasons,” Proch said. “It’s not one demographic at all. We’re busy. Families are working two or three jobs to afford to stay on the island and, quite honestly, the luxury of sitting down together isn’t something that’s part of everyone’s daily routine. So we got to fantasizing and dreaming. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a house where everyone could do that?”

Proch said it was important to find a house as a home base, rather than a hall or a school. She wanted a place for young adults to feel like part-owners of a home.

It wasn’t until many years after its initial conception that the program started to become a reality when the WheroWhero Lane house was listed for sale.

Proch ran the idea of the Our House by her friend Tecki Shackleford the day after the home was listed for sale. Shackleford loved the idea and offered to buy the home. Proch said Shackleford and her husband Don have become guiding forces behind Our House. Both have been summer residents on Nantucket for 40 years and donated to many non-profits, focusing on education in particular.

“The true reason why this is actually happening is because of Tecki Shackleford, our founder,” Proch said. “Without her gift of the house, I couldn’t see doing this and being able to fundraise to buy property and also fundraise for programs.”

“I think this whole program is meant to be,” Proch said. “The energy of it feels terrific and amazing. The response that we’ve received from the community is just overwhelming at times because I think many people see the need. So we have had an outpouring of offers for donations, for items, for people to volunteer.”

Michael Cozort, the retired superintendent of the Nantucket Public Schools, is also involved in Our House as its program director. Ed May and Jodi Cordova will assist with the program. The nonprofits board of directors is co-chaired by Alison Monaghan and Amy Louis.

About 80 Nantucket students have already begun participating in the Our House program. Local students have been involved in the structuring of the house by offering feedback and suggestions on what the program should include and how the house should be used.

“Right from the start it has never been about what I think students should have or what they need,” Proch said. “We need to start with what they feel they would like, what is missing, what would draw them here and then bring them in, and get them comfortable and get them feeling ownership of the house.”

Students gather for dinner at Our House at the end of each day. Each student signs up for a chore and participates in the preparation or cleanup of dinner. The kids will also have a significant say in the development of a dinner menu. Students will be able to stay at the house until approximately 8:30 p.m. each night.

The rooms in the house will feature ping pong, foosball, and board games, while the yard will include basketball, badminton, and volleyball. Students will be able to hang out with friends, exercise, play games or music, create podcasts, and receive homework support as well.

Four rooms will be kept as bedrooms and offered as housing for local teachers. Each bedroom has its own bathroom. The living space and kitchen will be communal.

“We hope to help alleviate some of the housing issues and also encourage some of the teachers that are living at the house to volunteer or participate in the program a couple of nights per week,” Proch said. “I think that will be a nice way for students to see their teachers in a different light.”

The house will be used for short-term rentals in the summer for budget purposes.

On Saturday, June 25th, a fundraiser called “WheroWhero Music Day” will take place at and benefit Our House. It will run from 2-6 p.m and feature several local teen musicians including rapper Joseph Constanzo, Local Notes, Maudjeani Pelissier, Merrick Brannigan, and Expressive Movement, which is a hip hop dance group from Boston. Rocky Fox will MC and there will be food, ice cream, and games. People of all ages are welcome to the event. It is an alcohol-free event.

“I think Our House is different from other places for kids because the first thing they ask you is, ‘what would you want to be changed or added?’ Our ideas and opinions are valued, which is very important,” Costanzo said. “Also unless you play sports, teens my age really have no place to go after school. Our House fills that void.”

All proceeds from ticket sales and any remaining funds from sponsorships after expenses for the event will go towards Our House. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online or at the door.

You can learn more about Our House at here.

O R2 Pq BQ
Loading Ad
Loading Ad
Loading Ad

Current News