Dawn Henry

Tastings Under the Timbers Event 12/7/23!

It’s party time at The Challenge Program! Well, almost. Come join us on December 7 for our inaugural “Tastings Under the Timbers”. We’ll unveil our new furniture shop (hands down the coolest timber-frame structure in the mid-Atlantic), celebrate our trainees, past and present, and thank all who support our efforts to help youth facing barriers to employment.

To learn more please click the link below:


Barley Mill

The Challenge Program recently completed the construction of two timber frame structures for the new Barley Mill Plaza in Wilmington. Vince and crew were hard at work cutting the timbers in our shop and raising the frames on site this fall. They make a great addition to the newly constructed retail space. Thanks to Pettinaro Construction for their willingness to work with us on this project.




The Challenge Program is proud to once again partner with the Wilmington Alliance on a rehab project at 7th and Washington.   This former laundromat and liquor store was purchased by the City of Wilmington four years ago, and is being re-purposed as a gallery and community space for this West Center City neighborhood.  Thanks to TKO and his crew this project was completed spring of 2023!  

New Facility

We are building a new manufacturing facility to house our social enterprise furniture business. See the new facility announcement on Challenge Program Furniture's website herehttps://cpfurniture.org/new-facility


In 2020 the Challenge Program completed construction on two row homes at the corner of 7th and Church Streets on Wilmington’s East Side.  This complicated historic rehab features two affordable rental apartments above a restaurant called Jerry Dean’s, owned by Charly Evol Bass, a long-time East Side resident and a great client.  

"Hi Andrew, I just wanted to reach out and thank you in abundance for the work that The Challenge Program has done for Jerry Deen’s.  I can’t express enough gratitude for your staff and students, they were always professional and open for all ideas. This program has had an amazing impact not only in my life for my business, but the community as a whole.  Thanks for seeing this project through and your team in constant communication with me throughout.  I have to also add the comfort in my apartment overtop of the restaurant. It’s convenient it’s modern and the work you guys did on the design is impeccable.  So again I thank you for all The Challenge Program has done to assist me in my vision.  Jerry Deen’s is all that I could have imagined and more.  Please keep up the outstanding work."


Urban Artist Exchange

The Challenge Program is helping the City of Wilmington's Department of Cultural Affairs construct the Urban Artist Exchange, a set of kiosks built from the old Police Stables on Walnut Street in downtown Wilmington.  This open air artist studio will feature a heavy timber roof and lots of salvaged materials. Thanks to Architectural Alliance for the inspiring design and to Tina Betz for her leadership.

Urban Bike Project

We are working with the folks at Urban Bike Project (www.urbanbikeproject.com) on the fit out of their new home at 15th and Walnut in downtown Wilmington. They were just awarded a lease from the City of Wilmington for the old horse stables, and we are framing up an office, fixing some doors and windows, and putting in some security measures for their new shop. We look forward to a more extensive rehab later this year or early in 2019.

(photo courtesy of Short Order Production House)

7th and West

The Challenge Program was pleased to be part of an extensive brownfield restoration at the corner of 7th and West. This formerly contaminated property was remediated in cooperation with Wilmington Renaissance Corp. We built two sheds, raised bed planters, and cedar pergola for the lot, and look forward to witnessing the community utilize this beautiful space.

Fletcher Brown Mansion

The Challenge Program and CP Furniture built this trellis for Whiting Turner at the Fletcher Brown Mansion renovation project. It was an interesting mix of fiberglass columns and cedar rafters, designed to match the original pergola on the grounds.

Awbury Arboretum

Years ago we replaced the porch decking on the Francis Cope House for Awbury Arboretum (www.awbury.org), in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. So when they needed a storage shed to support their wedding rental business they asked us to design a traditional timber frame shed to match the Victorian architecture on the grounds. With the help of Jim Hayes we disigned a 18' x 60' shed and Vince's crew is cutting the timbers in the shop.

Discovery Center

We are once again working with our friends at DIGSAU, along with INTECH and Philadelpia Outward Bound (www.outwardboundphiladelphia.org), to construct siding panels for their new building in Philly's Fairmount Park.  These unique panels are made of charred cypress - or shou sugi ban.  There are 168 panels that will create a dramatic facade on Resevoir Drive.

Modular House

TPC has once again teamed up with New Castle County and Beracah homes to build a super efficient modular house on the Route 13 corridor near the airport. This affordable home will be made available to an income eligible family upon completion. Features will include reclaimed wood counters and vanity, tile floors and shower surround, and more custom CP touches throughout.



The Challenge Program recently completed renovations on a WPA era pool house at the historic Kosciusko Park in downtown Wilmington. In partnership with the City of Wilmington and Department of Parks and Recreation the Challenge Program gutted the small building, added two secure bathrooms and a break area, and poured new concrete sidewalks. This complicated project included a slate roof, stone repointing, custom wood window fabrication and some tile work on the interior. We look foward to the community using the building this spring.

In the Shop

Vince and crew are working on a timber frame pavilion for a client at the Jersey Shore. Built with traditional methods from reclaimed timbers, the pavilion will shelter an outdoor kitchen near the beach.


Recently Ray Rhodes, then the acting director of License and Inspection for the City of Wilmington, approached the Challenge Program about helping the City with a safe streets and safe neighborhood project. The Challenge Program has been contracted to clear out thirteen overgrown alleyways on the City's East Side. These alleyways have long been a blight on the neighborhood and a preferred place for hiding drugs. To date we have cleared five of the thirteen, and before and after pictures tell the tale.

Perry World Bench

Challenge Program worked with our old friend Don Conry to build this mahogany bench for the University of Pennsylvania. This bench features three big curved sections of steamed bent mahogany and a special slide down the stairs section for lounging. We worked with Bill Curran who did our steel fabrication, and the design for the bench was by Studio Bryan Hanes.



Recently opened in Lewes, DE. Heirloom restaurant features tables and millwork by the Challenge Program. Meghan Lee, a long time friend of CP, asked us to create reclaimed yellow pine tables, a live-edge oak bar top, and a bunch of small feature pieces throughout the space.

CP Furniture

CP Furniture is up and running! Find out about our new social enterprise and our new furniture products at CPfurniture

The Challenge Program has launched our new furniture manufacturing business, CP Furniture. Graduates from our training program are hired to work along side master furniture makers to manufacture high-end custom furniture. Revenue from the business will help support the Challenge Program training efforts. Funding for the new venture provided by the Longwood Foundation, Barclaycard US, Bank of America, Welfare Foundation, and Crystal Trust. 


KNF Ship Model

With the help from ship builder Don Conry our trainees constructed a 72' replica of the Kalmar Nyckel for their new education and maintenance building in the shipyard. Not only did this complex project bring us back to our boatbuilding past, but it was a great way to involve our trainees in all of the exciting changes happening in the shipyard.

Coffee Talk

Vibrant new tables now adorn the dining area at Brew Ha Ha in Trolley Square.  Over the winter, Challenge Program instructors and trainees have been hard at work manufacturing these custom oak table tops. 









As part of our committment to using sustainably-sourced materials, these tables are constructed completely from salvaged wood.    Some of the lumber had a former life as flooring for a barn on the property at Longwood Gardens dating back to 1768.  Other pieces were pulled from salvaged pews that originally served as seating for a church in Philadelphia.

Stop in for a cup of joe and take the new tables for a test drive next time you're in Trolley Square.

Challenge Goes to UD

On Tuesday, February 11th, the University of Delaware unveiled a brand new facility for collaborative learning.  And the Challenge Program helped make the space come to life. 

Greg Cocozza and his crew of trainees worked to construct and install hand-crafted interior divisions of space that include: doors, windows, and barn-wood plank walls that were all created using reclaimed timbers.  Additionally, they installed large glass partitions that double as dry-erase boards.  The effect is a beautiful, functional space with clean lines and rustic details.






The Venture Development Center is located at 132 East Delaware Avenue and is part of the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship.  The learning laboratory is a great resource for entrepreneurial students, allowing them to work closely with faculty, alumni, and business professionals.






Photographs courtesy of Loren Flores.

EcoHouse on NCCTV

Construction at the EcoHouse modular home in Minquadale continues to move forward with plumbing, insulation, and interior finishes.  New Castle County has been providing integral support for this project and stopped by Thursday to interview some key players from the Challenge Program.  Check out the video HERE.

Tables @ Taverna

Taverna Restaurant on Main Street in downtown Newark is now home to a group of hand-crafted solid wood tables from the Challenge Program.  Greg Cocozza and his team of trainees created several hemlock dining tables as well as two large community tables made from solid oak slabs - measuring three feet wide and eight feet long.  Finishing touches were added to the restaurant with a walnut drink bar and a series of walnut shelves.  (Photos courtesy of Lisa Georigi)

Talula’s Daily

Staff and trainees collaborated to fabricate a large, sweeping bar that now acts as a central element of Talula's Daily café and market in Washington Square.

In addition, we crafted unique shelving and a solid wood bar top to fit the welcoming décor of the restaurant.


Rail Car Restoration Featured in Delaware Today

Don Conry's work to restore the Jackson & Sharp passenger rail car #102 was featured in August's Delaware Today magazine.  Click here to read the article.


Green Roof @ Swarthmore’s Lang Performing Arts Center

Continuing our strong commitment to sustainable construction, we recently completed work on a new green roof system at the Lang Performing Arts Center at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.  This system encompasses five different roofs of different heights and sizes across the entire building.  Plant materials included rolled mats as well as plugs and cuttings. 

Since 2007, we have teamed with Furbish Company of Baltimore to install over a quarter million square feet of living roof space.  Over the course of these intricate projects, Alan Graham Construction Manager for the Challenge Program has developed valuable expertise in the green roof installation process.  The Challenge Program trainees involved in these projects have provided critical labor while acquiring desirable green industry skills.

Below is a listing of various green roof projects we've completed in the area.  They range from small applications to larger multi-roof installations and include both commercial to residential buildings.

               Barclays Bank – Wilmington, DE
               Interfaith Community Housing – Wilmington, DE 
               Queens Botanical Garden – New York, NY
               PECO Building – Philadelphia, PA (maintenance only)
               Private residence – Bainbridge Street, Philadelphia, PA
               Delaware Courthouse – Rodney Square, Wilmington, DE
               Swarthmore Performing Arts Center – Swarthmore, PA


Green roofs are often installed to reduce energy and maintenance costs.  The plant material acts as both insulating material and a protective cover for the waterproof roof membrane.  The environmental effects of living roofs are remarkable.  They  reduce impervious surfaces decreasing urban runoff and improving water quality.  Additionally, the heat island effect common in urban areas is significantly reduced. 

The installation process is quite labor intensive, involving a layered ‘lasagna’ approach:


          Plants – specialized selections adapted to hot, dry conditions and thin soil layers
          Growing Medium – typically lightweight pumice and expanded stone and very little organic material
          Filter Fabric – barrier between growing medium and drainage layer
          Retention and Drainage Layer – holds rain water and allows any excess to drain from the building
          Protection Fabric – prevent punctures within waterproof membrane from drainage material.
          Waterproof Membrane – prevents roof leaks













Green roofs are a relatively new but growing phenomenon in the United States, but in Europe they’ve been incorporated in a wide-spread manner for much longer.  From sod roofs that have been around for centuries to more modern roofs that debuted in Germany in the 1960’s they provide an impressive track record.

Children’s Secret Garden

Created in 1996, and located in the West Side neighborhood at 231 Jackson Street in Wilmington, Delaware, this once vacant lot became a destination for children to explore nature and learn about plants and wildlife.  These preschoolers visit the garden every two weeks for environmental education outings led by the Delaware Center for Horticulture and committed volunteers.  In the garden, they enjoy planting flowers, harvesting vegetables, exploring the garden, and working on arts and crafts projects. 


However, the Secret Garden has worn with age.  Upgrades to the safety, learning environment and plant life are making it a safe and vibrant environment for the four-year-olds who spend mornings in the space.


The Challenge Program is committed to crafting the built elements needed to make this garden a success.  Alan Graham, Construction Manager for the Challenge Program has led a crew of trainees to construct these elements, imparting his broad construction knowledge and providing vital hands-on experience.  This summer the crew has replaced the entire perimeter fence with uniform cedar panels.  Additionally, they designed and created a new entrance gate providing a whimsical and appealing approach from the street.  Both of these elements have improved the appearance of the garden and added crucial security for the area.  Lastly, they’ve fabricated brand new cypress raised beds which will create a formal vegetable garden in the center of the garden space. 


We look forward to adding other built elements in the coming months.  A potting bench with storage bin will be created at a low height for use with the raised beds.  A partition wall will be constructed to enclose the entrance garden and welcome visitors - accompanied by a tunnel that provides secret passage to the rest of the garden.  Lastly, a new teaching station is planned for the shaded area in the back of the garden space.  All of these elements will help create a strong structure and backdrop for the garden plantings to come.

Woodworking Fundamentals Class

We've settled in to our new shop and are holding woodworking classes throughout the year.  Please let us know if you're interested in joining us for one of our six-week programs.  No experience is neccessary!

During the course, you will learn the basics of: 

     * Understanding wood movement
     * Discerning wood species
     * Milling rough sawn lumber
     * Power and hand tool usage
     * Creating fine joinery
     * Project design and creation

Classes are held at the new Challenge Program workshop, CTEC (Construction Training and Education Center), one evening per week from 6:00 -9:00 pm.  In addition a full-day workshop will be held on a Saturday.  Each student will design and create a simple woodworking project that can be accomplished within the class timeline.

Classes are taught by Greg Cocozza. He has been an instructor at The Challenge Program for two years and learned the craft through his experience at custom cabinetry and furniture companies in Philadelphia.

The cost of the class is $185, plus a nominal materials fee.  Class size will be limited to six attendees and spaces fill quickly.  If you are interested in the program, please click the link below and let us know.  We'll notify you of future adult classes as soon as they are scheduled!


Jackson & Sharp Train Car Reconstruction - April 2013

In April, the apron sheathing was installed to the apron bow and faired into the side decks.  The platform hood sideboards were installed with platform carlines and platform hood sheathing installed and faired.
The 200 linear feet of fascia and eave moldings were milled and installed around the upper and lower deck and faired in.  The apron bow and platform hood fascia and eave were milled and installed.  The upper soffit and screen holders were milled and installed.

The platform bows underside trim was milled and installed.  Also, all nails were set, filled and sanded in preparation for the canvas roof.  The upper and lower sash were designed and procured, and a brass screen and canvas appropriate for replacement were located and procured.

Jackson & Sharp Train Car Reconstruction - March 2013

During March, the clerestory carlines were finished, which involved setting six metal frames sandwiched between twelve carlines and bolted together then bolted to the top plate with the original hardware that was cleaned and repaired.

The apron bows were finished, faired and dove-tailed into the apron signboards.  Also, all 48 rafters and 44 carlines were planed fair and straightened with the top plate, end wall and apron bow.

Six hundred board feet of 7/8 inch sheathing was jointed, planed, and milled with tongue and groove.  Sixty board feet of 7/8 inch poplar ceiling was shaped and milled for tongue and groove for the apron ceiling.  The sheathing was installed on both lower decks and the upper deck.

Anything Once

The Challenge Program was recently featured in Ashley Barnas' weekly column "Anything Once."  She spent Friday afternoon as a Challenge Program trainee, operating the forklift, milling lumber and learning from staff instructor Greg Cocozza.  Click here to read more and see and video on Delaware Online.

Content Delaware features the Challenge Program

Check out this video from Content Delaware, featuring our new Construction Training and Education Center (CTEC).

New Castle County Green Home

Plans are moving forward for the Challenge Program's first single family home built from the ground up.  We're currently working on design documents, featuring a unique "pinwheel" structure.  Contact Jim for more details...

Jackson & Sharp Train Car Reconstruction - December 2012

The signboards and platform aprons installation was finished with some 384 screws set, bunged and sanded.  Then the signboards were back screwed into the window headers with some 120 screws.

We finished filling and sanding all the siding above and below the windowsill.  Following was the install of window drip edge and window trim.

The original corner posts were cleaned and faired into the new walls and the corner post and door post trim installed.  This allowed the windowsill apron to be installed around the car.

The flooring was installed in the doorway out to the siding and relieved in way of the threshold, these were installed on one end and repairs of the second threshold were started.

The sanding and filling of nails on all of the trim, aprons, sills and corner post continues.  The restoration of the two original ends continues with resetting all nails and filling holes and gouges.

Construction Training and Education Center

We are currently building our new headquarters, the Construction Training and Education Center (CTEC), on Wilmington's East 7th Street peninsula. CTEC will be among the first LEED Gold buildings in Delaware.

Our headquarters has been located in the Kalmar Nyckel Shipyard on Wilmington’s East Side since 1992. As demand for our construction training services increased, we outgrew our old shop and realized that our trainees would benefit from a shop environment that better fosters learning. We are building CTEC on the footprint of the building we used to occupy, with an innovative design to fully integrate classroom learning into the training day.

The design and construction the new facility implements and showcases green building technology, including a green roof, geothermal heat, solar panels and recycled building materials. Trainees have been involved in every aspect of the design and construction of CTEC from reviewing the architectural documents, milling and joining the recycled timber components, assembling the steel frame and finishing the interior.

CTEC is an unprecedented combination of old-world construction and cutting-edge, environmentally-sustainable concepts: 

  • - Recycled, reclaimed, and sustainable materials are used throughout the building;
  • - The distinctive rain screen siding panels are cut from pickle barrels at the Vlasic pickle plant in Millsboro, DE;
  • - The  floor joists in the office area are salvaged from the Jackson & Sharp yard across the street from the building;
  • - The north-facing sawtooth roof maximizes natural light in the work area, minimizing energy use;
  • - The planted "green" roof will sequester stormwater and minimize summer heat gain and winter heat loss;
  • - All roof & ground surfaces divert stormwater to a series of bioswales & cisterns - where it is available for re-use in the building - minimizing the amount of water entering the Christina River


Housing Projects

The Challenge Program is committed to rehabilitating affordable housing and improving Wilmington’s neighborhoods.  We have one full-time crew dedicated to housing projects.  Our current project is a partnership with a nonprofit, the Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council.  We are completing a two-story rear addition to their headquarters in a historic row home at 601 Church Street. This is our 18th housing project.

We first renovated a row home on the West Side of Wilmington in 2000. Residents of the homes we renovate seek affordable housing for a number of reasons.  Some are first-time homeowners; others are transitioning from foster care to independent living or from public housing to self-sufficiency. With the understanding that expensive utility bills can make housing unaffordable, we use Energy Star and green building practices to ensure that our homes are as efficient and sustainable as possible. We also use reclaimed materials in all of our renovation projects.

Over the years, we have partnered with many local nonprofits and agencies including Greater Brandywine Village Revitalization, Habitat for Humanity, Wilmington Housing Authority and West End Neighborhood House’s Lifelines Program.

Jackson & Sharp Train Car Reconstruction

In partnership with the Delaware Historical Society, the Challenge Program is reconstructing an historic 1889 Jackson & Sharp train car. This car was originally fabricated at Jackson & Sharp's Delaware Car Works plant on Wilmington's 7th Street Peninsula, where our shop is now located. This important piece of Wilmington's history will be accessible to the public throughout its reconstruction.

Program Overview

The Challenge Program's core services are on-the-job construction training experience, education, case management and job placement.

Construction Training
The construction training program enrolls 18-21 year old, at-risk, out-of-school youth and teaches them basic construction techniques and skills. We believe that hands-on learning is the most effective way to teach skills to youth who do not perform well in a classroom environment, so we place trainees with functional construction crews to work on projects that revitalize and add value to the community. These construction jobs provide opportunities for on-the-job construction training, as well as a unique chance for trainees to improve the neighborhoods and communities in which they reside.

Our experience shows that credential attainment, particularly a GED or high school diploma, is absolutely essential for successful entry into the workforce. Thus, we have integrated on-the-job construction training experience with the specific academic skills necessary for trainees to successfully earn these credentials. In addition to working towards their GED, trainees obtain at least one industry-recognized credential while enrolled, such as OSHA, certified flagger or certified forklift operator.

Case Management
The Challenge Program is dedicated to working with a difficult population – out-of-school, older youth. Our two staff case managers work closely with trainees to help them navigate the barriers that hold them back, advocate for them and to ensure that trainees are stable when they leave the Challenge Program. Case Managers are here to assist with legal issues, housing, life skills, referrals to community resources, obtaining a driver’s license and all aspects of becoming a successful, stable adult.

Job Placement
The Challenge Program is committed to placing trainees in construction related positions upon graduation. Trainees and graduates are supported throughout the entire job search process, including writing their professional resume, job search leads and guidance through the application and interview process.  We provide appropriate referrals and references for graduates, as well as off-site work experiences with local contractors. We remain in contact with our graduates for a minimum of 18 months after they complete their training.


Trainee Profile: Andrew “Chevy”

Andrew “Chevy” came to the Challenge Program in 2009 eager to gain on-site construction experience. He worked on the timber fram- ing crew and our LEED certified headquarters. After completing his training, Chevy worked as a laborer for a few different companies before landing a job with Downtown Visions in Wilmington, where he has been employed as a safety ambassador for the past year.

Trainee Profile: Keenan

Keenan first came to the Challenge Program in 2009 as a 17-year-old. Regrettably, he quit after a few weeks and fell back into street life. In spring 2011, Keenan returned and asked for a second chance. He has made excellent progress working on the Jackson & Sharp train car reconstruction crew, has opened a bank account, is paying off his legal fines and is expected to earn his GED in the next year.

Trainee Profile: Shaka

Shaka dropped out of high school and after a few brushes with the law realized that his life was heading in the wrong direction. A friend introduced him to the Challenge Program because he thought it would provide the positive support and guidance Shaka needed to get his life back on track. Shaka quickly completed his GED and gained useful experience in residential construction working on the rehabs at 22nd & Carter Streets. He is currently studying criminal justice at Delaware State University and plans to pursue a law degree.

Andrew McKnight

Executive Director


Andrew McKnight is the founding Executive Director of the Challenge Program. Andrew developed the Challenge Program from its infancy as a boat building program, has forged partnerships with Delaware businesses, government agencies, contractors, and non-profit organizations. Andrew is a LEED Accredited Professional and has extensive knowledge of green building technologies. He has been recognized multiple times over the years for his work in the community, including the 2009 Jefferson Public Service Award, the Delaware Valley U.S. Green Building Council, and in 2012 the Wilmington Urban League with the Next Generation Leadership Award.

Kim Slocomb

Program Director


Kim is the primary manager of the Challenge Program’s workforce development contract.  She joined our team in 2009 with 6 years prior case management and program management experience.  As Program Manager, Kim is responsible for monitoring the Challenge Program’s contractual compliance with each of our program funding sources, and overseeing all the direct service work.  Kim also assesses the program to improve efficiency and incorporate new ideas to better serve the Challenge Program’s trainees. 

Vince Hernandez

Shop Instructor


Vince has been an instructor with the Challenge Program since 1997 and manages the timber framing crew.  He is responsible for maintaing the daily operations of our milling barn and workshop.  Vince is one of our strongest mentors, he is a talented craftsman and an excellent teacher.  He makes the work day fun and is a great role model for our trainees.  In 2012 Vince became certified to teach nationally recognized forklift certifications.

Jenaee McWhirter




Lucia Huertas

Office Manager


Becca Johnson

Development Director 


Jim Ennis

Construction Manager


Maynard (TKO) Jones