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Challenge Program Furniture received $500,000 in federal dollars, still needs roughly $1 million to complete shop

Delaware’s Senators joined members of the Challenge Program to announce $500,000 to support its new furniture shop in Wilmington.

Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper spearheaded the funding in the FY2022 Appropriations bill to expand the shop’s annual revenue, allowing it to provide more job opportunities for underserved student workers.

But Challenge Program Executive Director Andrew McKnight says pandemic related-supply chain issues turned a $2.9 million project into a $3.7 million endeavor, so there are still gaps in funding.

Delaware’s Labor Secretary Karryl Hubbard says the Challenge Program is worth the investment since it does more than just job training.

“The Challenge Program provides care and hope for many of Wilmington’s teens and young adults," Hubbard said. :The trainees that participate in the program, many of whom face multiple barriers, have made the affirmative decision to choose success. Trainees spend their time learning new skills and building buildings in some of our communities that suffer from the highest rates of violence and poverty.”

Shaheem Adams has worked with the Challenge Program since 2019 and sees himself sticking around to see the shop through to completion, and one day even run it.

“This place has really embraced my character, it built my character more to be such a great worker, my work ethic is up to a T," Adams said. "I love it here, this is a great place to work at, to influence all the younger adults that come in and experience what I experienced when I first came.”

The new facility showcases green building technology, including a green roof, geothermal heat, solar panels and recycled building materials, and involved trainees in every aspect of the design and construction.

Other partners include the Delaware Workforce Investment Board and Barclays Consumer Bank.

Barclays Chief Executive Director Denny Nealon says they are open to figuring out how to close the financial gap for Challenge.

Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.