Staff Member Jim Scarpetti builds trust and teaches in demand labor skills to at-risk youth.

Over the Last 5 years, Project LIFT has taken an innovative approach to turning around Martin County’s at-risk kids, converting them from drains on society to sober, productive contributors.   With a focus on both substance  abuse counseling and vocational training,  Project LIFT has a model that works!

First, staff and volunteer tradesmen get the kids’ attention and build trust by working side by side on automobiles, carpentry, screen printing, boat building and other projects.  In the process, the Project’s mental health counselor and Executive Director, Bob Zaccheo starts peeling back the layers to get to the root of where these troubled teens went wrong, and then builds them back with the necessary skills to become sober, productive members of society.

Project LIFT’s model is rooted in 3 key components:

1.  Trust Building – Project LIFT gains trust with the kids from day one.  Turning wrenches and working on skills that are both interesting to the kids and desirable within the labor force is a great way to show kids that there is an alternative to the life they are currently living.  While learning the skills, the kids earn a nominal paycheck to get the feeling of working for a living.  It’s the first step in the paradigm shift in turning takers into givers.  In addition to the skills training, each session is ended with a family style meal where the participants and staff sit together eat, and talk about the issues of the day.  For many kids in the program, this is the only family sit down meal they have ever really experienced.  While most kids come in with a substance abuse problem, it is more often than not a symptom of a bigger problem – most commonly an unstructured family.  While Project LIFT will never replace a family, it often instills the significance of the family unit, and some of the traditions that a strong family unit will establish – none more important than the family meal.

2. Sobriety – Many of the participants have been using some form of drug or alcohol from a very early age.  A main goal of the program is to show these kids how they can excel in life once they embrace sobriety, and view life with clear eyes, a clear mind and an open heart.  Project LIFT prides itself in a sobriety rate over 85%.  Most programs have a sobriety rate closer to 15%.  The results are staggering and are dependent on the Project LIFT model for success.

3.  The Give Back – The kids of Project LIFT will work on projects including the rehab of old donated vehicles.  Once ready, the kids help to choose a family in need of transportation to give the car to.  This process is the final step in the paradigm shift in turning the kids from takers to givers.  They see first hand how their hard work helps others within the community.  The end result is both inspiring and contagious.

Project LIFT has been operating on a shoe string budget for the last 5 years.  Even so, its successes have not gone unrecognized within the 501(c)(3) community and the juvenile justice system.  As a result, Project LIFT now works with more at-risk teens than any other program in Martin County.  And its time to expand.

Over the next year, Project LIFT plans on relocating to a facility that can better address the needs of this growing organization.  In addition, the Project hopes to hire 2 additional therapists to work along side of Bob Zaccheo and within the Project’s model so that even more kids can reap the benefit of this incredible opportunity.  Finally, Project LIFT is looking to standardize the projects so that each child can have a uniform experience building the skills most desired in the Martin County labor force.  If you would like to take a look at what Project LIFT is doing, or are interested in helping out,  Click HERE