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Students help build room for teachers autistic son
Gainesville High teacher recruits help to work in middle school teacher's basement
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Carr Kaufman

Some call it community service. Others call it charity.

But for those who are a part of it, they call it as they see it: the right thing to do.

Students from Gainesville High School have recognized what that means and have spent more than 25 hours making the life of a Gainesville family just a little bit easier.

Four construction students at the high school, under the guidance of their teacher, Darrell Lucas, started a project in a Bradford Street basement that will carry more weight, long after they graduate, than any grade ever could.

Over the past two weeks, Lucas and company have been customizing a basement apartment for Carr Kaufman, the 13-year-old son of Gainesville Middle School teacher Haynes Kaufman.

Carr is "severely autistic" and has spent the last three months in a residential treatment facility.

He came home Thursday to new living quarters — specially designed for him.

"It has just been an unbelievable act of selflessness," said Haynes. "I cried when (Lucas) told me he'd be willing to do this. It was really an answer to prayers."

Her son is subject to violent and destructive behavior when overstimulated and has a history of breaking anything from windows to kitchen cabinets.

The new space takes away those dangers and provides Carr a place where he will feel at peace.

It is simple and minimal — exactly how Carr likes it.

"It's going to be nice for him to have a very minimalistic space without a lot of distractions," said Haynes.

None of which would have been possible without Lucas and his students.

"I don't feel like we're doing anything special," said Lucas. "I just feel like it's something people need to do ... it's the right thing to do."

His wife works at the middle school with Kaufman and told him about her family's reunion with Carr.

After visiting the house and checking the basement, he knew what he had to do.

So, he recruited some volunteers from his class and they got to work, framing pipes, running electrical wire and putting Plexiglas over windows.

"These are the best kids you'd ever want to know," Lucas said. "They jumped at the opportunity to help — they never thought twice about it.

"They have done a fantastic job."

The hard work and the knowledge that a family's everyday life is enriched because of their efforts are comforting to the high school students.

"It feels good," said Carlos Rebollar, a senior. "I could be spending time doing nothing, so this is a good way for me to help out instead of being useless at home or something.

"I just felt like it was the right thing to do."

They have been remodeling every day after school.

With help from the community, the Kaufman family provided the materials and let the crew go to work.

It completed the two-room basement apartment Wednesday night, just in time for Carr's arrival.

The work, the students say, was well worth it.

"When (Lucas) told me about it, I felt I was called to do it by something more than just him," said Luis Fajardo, a senior. "I just felt like it was something I was just supposed to do ... it just felt right."

The satisfaction the students and teacher get from lending their time and energy to help out a neighbor is immense, and members of the crew say they are glad to be a part of the project.

The Kaufman family is definitely glad they were.

"I did not know how we were going to make it work for Carr," said Haynes. "Now I feel like Carr is going to successfully cohabitate with us."

 

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