Dunnellon Project LIFT, a nonprofit organization that provides education, mental health care, and vocational and life skills training to at-risk teens, is closing its doors at the end of January due to funding shortages.

Project LIFT was founded in Martin County in 2010 and expanded to Dunnellon and Belle Glade in 2018. It will retain two administrators from the Dunnellon location, according to Regional Director David O’Brien.

The Dunnellon location served 35 male teens since July 2018 and held three graduations. The students who graduated had previously dropped out of high school and received a diploma as well as vocational training, mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment through Project LIFT. It’s Project LIFT’s aim, through unique counseling and mentoring strategies, to “assist vulnerable teens in the shift from self-destructive behaviors to developing habits that will lead to success in life.”

Project LIFT’s funding was primarily through donations and grants. Volunteer vocational instructors helped the students repair mechanical items such as bicycles to sell for funds. Students learned from mentors on fields such as auto mechanics, carpentry, culinary arts, medical fields, computer repair, painting, landscaping, horticulture, welding, and small engine repair.

In a press release, Project LIFT thanked all of the funding and community partners as well as those who donated, volunteered and mentored for the organization.

“The investment that was made in these at risk kids cannot be overvalued,” O’Brien said.  “They have transitioned from youths on their way to jail or drug addiction to strong young men who will hold jobs, raise families, serve their country and someday tell the story about how this community cared for them in their time of need. 

“For that, we are all grateful.”

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