Empower Youth

Food for the Soul…

People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do. –Dorothy Day


Over this past year, Empower Youth has witnessed so many pebbles cast into the pond of poverty… We have seen the ripple effects of a donated ranch. We have seen the ripple effects of a donated van. We have seen the ripple effects of a donated tractor. Huge splashes that at times almost drown you by the undertow.

603 bags went home last week. Along the way, some were bartered for friendship on the bus ride home, a few were confiscated by parents immediately at the door, and some were hidden in the rooms of students. Maggie’s bag was hidden in her closet under a pile of clothes. She told her teacher on Monday, she always hides it there because then when Dad leaves for work she can pull out her favorite snack and share it with her little brother. She’s in charge of him when Dad is gone. Mom has been gone a long time. Maggie’s teacher sent EY a note and asked if we would send her extra Ramen next week cause that’s her favorite. She said she makes her brother eat the vienna sausages so he will stay out of her Ramen.

We love our property. We love our van. We love the tractor. But they are all tools.

If I can’t get Maggie that extra package of Ramen, those things mean nothing. Empower Youth works because we empower teachers to build a different kind of relationship with their students. In a world where schools have had to take on the task of testing and teaching for those tests, the weekend food bags give a natural check point. The weekend food bags can make things personal and in the case of this teacher can break her heart all over again for Maggie.

This week, I’m dropping off a secret stash of Ramen.

There is so much work to do. I am thankful for the many pebbles our teachers throw in everyday. I am thankful for the many pebbles ministers, company leaders, and volunteers are throwing in everyday.

Pebbles and ripples: This past week, more than one church has stepped up their game for the children of Southern Ohio. We’ve had stockings delivered, gifts received, trees loaded with tags for donations, announcements made. One church has put their neck on the line through an entire sermon series and linked us in to their work. The work of Empower Youth couldn’t happen without this community support.

Pebbles and ripples: Company leaders as well as small business and home business owners have made sacrifices on our behalf. Some giving up time from their busy schedule so we could just come and tell our story. Other companies have paid their volunteers to help us distribute Christmas gifts and build up more weekend food bags. In a week, Multi-Color will be distributing the “Dream Big” pillows to most of our kindergarten students.

This week, cast your pebble. Watch for the splash zone.

We are calling you up!

Empower Youth is not just about empowering youth through weekend food bags and leadership challenges. It’s also about immobilizing an army of students and adults to a call to action. It’s about asking folks to look at the person in front of them in the check-out lane a different way. Empower Youth is about taking a pause when you see a baby covered in dirt being held by a mother with a cell phone newer than your own.  Empower Youth is about looking past the new ball cap with the tag still on it to see the sunken eyes of the little boy it covers. An Empower Youth advocate pays attention, builds trust, and then slowly helps bridge the gap.

Empower Youth is not two people. Empower Youth is not a leadership board of 5. It’s not one packing team of 18. It’s actually beginning to be hundreds of people–coming together, packing bags, raising funds, speaking with confidence that every dime raised is going to help students in need have the opportunity to become better.

Kenziekenzie is a student I am able to mentor at Grant Career Center. This young lady has really got it together. She definitely has a heart for those around her. She started her own collection this past week at Grant. They are collecting hoodies for us to give to students this winter! What a joy to receive her message last week. She stood up. She spoke out. She made a difference in her own back yard.


mike nelsonOver the last year, Mike Nelson has become a brother to my husband and I. He started out as our “Lowe’s guy”. Little by little over the last few months we have found ourselves contacting him for more than just advice on the ranch. We’ve checked up on him and you know, he’s checked up on us. Even more incredible is the love that has grown inside of him for Empower Youth. This week he even made a surprise visit to the ranch to see a team in action packing in the very barn he remodeled with his team. Today he started his own facebook movement. He challenged his friends and family. Friends that we could never reach. Family that we don’t even know. He didn’t just ask for five to join him… he called them all out. All 1200!

gift tag idea


aabethelWe sent out a simple challenge to local businesses to add some tags on behalf of Empower Youth to their tree. These tags ask folks to bring in items for our weekend backpacks as well as for folks to donate $15 to sponsor a child for one month. In less than an hour, Advance Auto Parts of Bethel, messaged us saying they would help us!  They are more than blowing dust off the box of decorations from the back room. They are breathing life into their community!


So what can you do to be our advocate?

If you like to do a sneak attack, ask your friends and family to meet you at Chipotle at 1227 W Ohio Pike Unit 1, Amelia, OH 45102 on December 3 from 4-8p. They eat. We get half the profits. You can tell them why you love Empower Youth.

Are you in charge of the holiday party for your work or organization? Perhaps you could suggest going out to MadTree Brewing Company at 3301 Madison Rd. Cincinnati, OH 45209 during the month of December instead of your usual place. Mad Tree has asked us to be their Charity of the month. The fundraiser is not based on if you drink but they have provided a place to “pitch” in some donations!

Churches like Bethel Assembly of God, Community Christian Church, Saltair Church of Christ, Bethel United Methodist Church, Mt. Carmel Christian Church, Riverhills Christian Church, and Connect Christian Church are all doing special things as advocates for Empower Youth. How did it start in those churches? Someone spoke up. Someone told the story. Bethel Assembly has provided turkeys for families, Community Christian collected special food items, Saltair and Riverhills are putting up a gift trees, BUMC is working on stockings, Mt Carmel has a special youth stocking project, and Connect is unleashing a call to action that will give all year long!

Your school can help too! The student body as well as the teachers and administrators of Lynchburg-Clay schools have made quite the impression on us! Their first delivery of almost 200 bags will occur the week after Thanksgiving but they have already had fundraisers on our behalf. We are looking forward to this new partnership. Grant Career Center was instrumental in helping complete our pillow project by tie-dying more than 300 pillows! They were all in from head to toe! Bethel-Tate Girls Softball team helped us by stuffing pillows into those tie-dyed cases and pairing them with some cute stuffed animals. A great team effort for sure!

Ready to step up? Put it in writing! Then take the bold step!

Modern technology… Monday blues

The phone… again. I just really need to get this office work finished. The number… I don’t even know it. If I pick it up, what will they ask me? What will they need? Can I even help?

Facebook messenger…oh the wonders of technology. I have 3 messages that just popped through, but if I even look at them and don’t have an answer, the people who sent them will think I don’t care.

Email… sorting through again to find that one email of someone who wanted to volunteer but I didn’t have anything for them at that time but now I do have something for them to do… where is it? Oh wait, maybe it was a facebook post.

Texts… 37 today. I can’t even.

3 people awaiting donations to be picked up. Each one requires a truck… or a cleaned out van.

In the meantime, I’m going to drink more coffee.


This is my Monday. I’m sure I’m not alone. In fact, as I drink the rest of the pot of coffee. I can feel this sob welling in my throat. Because, I realize all those things, I can mute. I can turn off. I can walk away and it will absolutely not effect whether I have electricity, a home, food, or medical help this week.

As those messages build up, they have nothing to do with my Christmas or the turkey I’ll be cooking for Thanksgiving.

I’m not the one with cancer. I didn’t lose my home last night. My daughter didn’t call from where she has been hiding out and tell me she is pregnant. My son did not get accused of a crime he didn’t commit.

The bills I’m most worried about have nothing to do with my child eating. The medical appointments I’m struggling with today, have nothing to do with me.

…but this is why Empower Youth is more than a food program…


Our goal has been to build relationships to make life changes. Relationships are messy. Relationships put faces on unrecognizable phone numbers. Relationships come with timelines… not deadlines.

Wide gaps are hard to fill so we just keep building across with one small board at a time. One board, support for that board. One more family, support for that family through other families. One school, support for that school through a community.

What I’ve noticed, for every one board, we are able to support eventually there is trust built and the folks we are helping start putting down boards on their side of the gap. That’s the way you bridge gaps in poverty… each side has to keep building out. Each side has to keep trusting… and that means…

…I have to answer the 37 texts.

…I need to find someone to pick up those donations.

… I have to be ok when I can’t come up with an answer when all the person really needs me to do is say I see you. I hear you.


How can you help?

Grace. I could really use some. We do triage and long-term care and some days the emergent takes over the agenda. Facebook messages are easily lost. Texts get buried. Please email us so we can be better stewards. They all still come to my phone. I will still get them in a day.

If you have called or emailed in the last two months and you have not been answered sufficiently, please resend that email to toempoweryouth@gmail.com.

If you wanted to do something special for Empower Youth through your church or community group and we missed getting back with you, please resend that email to toempoweryouth@gmail.com.

If I asked you to do something for me and I never followed back up, please email me at toempoweryouth@gmail.com.

Creativity. If you have a creative way of telling the story of Empower Youth that will challenge your company, church, or other group to volunteer or give– do that. Would you like to put up a Christmas tree with tags of needs for us at your work? at your church? We will even make your tags! But maybe you have an incredible idea like Mt Carmel Christan Church Youth and want to do stockings– do that. Or perhaps, you are like Saltair Youth and decide to buy a Thanksgiving meal for us to give on your behalf– do that. Email us at toempoweryouth@gmail.com.

Money.  Honestly, that will help a little… actually alot. Click here to drop a fast buck or two… right now our food budget is $7500. We take in about half that a month. Our milk is $1155/month. If you click this link, you can donate immediately and pay for one child to receive a bag this month. You may even want to stick your neck out and ask your company to do a matching gift up to $500.


This isn’t a very snazzy campaign letter or fundraising appeal letter.

That’s cause it’s not. It’s just my heart, broken, exhausted…

…patched with the hope and assurance that together, we can all empower youth.


I really do love you– I’m not playing,

Lori Conley

Executive Director

Empower Youth



EY Ranch Ribbon Cutting in the books!

It was a fantastic Friday afternoon full of joy and happy tears as Empower Youth and Community Savings Bank came together to cut the ribbon officially on the Empower Youth Ranch. The crowd of dignitaries, volunteers, friends and curiosity seekers was amazing and we are grateful for everyone in attendance.

This day was a culmination of hours of work from countless volunteers. Right up until the last minute we had people spreading hay, making food, and putting up signage. We are thankful to be placed in this spot of the county and are excited to see how the Empower Youth Ranch can model to all how to fight the war on poverty and apathy. Together we make a difference. Everyone helping each other. Everyone caring for their neighbor. Everyone becoming so uncomfortable that instead of posting on facebook or twitter, they pick up their gifts and talents and use them to change lives.

As we head in to winter we will be buttoning up the ranch to prepare for the huge things coming in the Spring and Summer, however, we will still be fighting the fight every day. We will still be packing the bags in Peachie’s Place. We will still be teaching leadership classes. We will still be finding resources to send even more students to summer camp and on college visits.

The donations and volunteer work of our friends in Clermont, Brown, and Highland County are keeping us moving forward. Thank you for all your support. Lets keep at it– filling in the gaps and changing lives!

We also used our ribbon cutting as a way to launch our Peachie’s Peaches Fundraiser. We displayed 150 envelopes marked with money amounts of $1 to $150 amount. You pick the envelope you want to give through, fill it with that amount of money and either mail it to us or post your money to us through paypal.  We still have envelopes left to be picked. If you would like to give to Peachie’s Peaches which will help stock the food in Peachie’s Place please go to DONATE NOW!  To see the current peaches on the tree, click this link.  Of course, you are welcome to give your own amount 🙂

So far, from the peaches that were taken, when the donations are mailed or posted through paypal we will have raised $3551. The remaining peaches will bring in another $7774.

Check out our facebook page for up to date information. Our work changes and moves quickly– so like us and be informed. https://www.facebook.com/empoweredyouth/

Here are just a few pics… more are on our facebook link.





American Modern

American Modern has been deep in the muck “literally” of our property almost since the day we received it. Since receiving our property, many hard working people from this great company have been “standing by our side” which makes sense–since that’s the company’s motto.

American Modern has long had a commitment to community and we are excited to have their different departments come on board and work with us at the ranch. This year we also were recipients of a $1000 donation from the American Modern Women’s Networking Event. This could not have come at a better time as we are taking on even more schools this year.

We have had three different departments make plans to work on the farm this year and one came twice! American Modern also helped us with our major parking fundraiser by sending groups two days. What gluttons for punishment!! Actually, what amazing servants!

We love American Modern and are proud to call them our friends. Look below to see some of the amazing working they have done for us. We are sure wherever they go, they make an impact!


Connect Christian Church

In the Fall of 2016, Connect Christian Church came alongside Empower Youth to help support our weekend backpacks in Amelia Elementary School. At this point we were serving 25 students a month and Connect answered our call for help with this brand new school. Connect began supporting 15 of our students at Amelia on a monthly basis. This support confirmed that this new school was indeed the direction we needed to go.

Since beginning our relationship with Connect in 2016, we were able to use their resources and teach a leadership class in Amelia Elementary during the winter and spring of 2017. These classes proved to be as exciting for the students as for the students of AE looking on. We look forward to beginning the classes again soon in this school. Former children’s minister, Joey Rolen was instrumental in this effort and we are grateful for his vision.

Moving into the spring of 2017, Empower Youth received the 15.25-acre farm. What a huge blessing and undertaking. The horse farm had been in disrepair for more than 2 years. Connect Church had been watching our progress and jumped in to help us on their third annual Rise and Build Serving Day. The interim Children’s Minister, Melissa Hess took on the task of organizing this great day. (See a theme? Children’s ministry is sort of a big deal at Connect Christian Church.) This was especially meaningful to our Executive Directors as this was the first Sunday that Lori Conley began serving with Empower Youth in a full time capacity and no longer working as a part time Children’s Minister. Connect began the work day with a very special time of dedication for the ranch and a prayer for the Conley family.

Over 175 people poured on to the farm on September 3 changing the place for the better. This group also packed our very first set of bags for the new year! What a great celebration! We are so thankful that Connect Christian Church connected with us to reach the youth and young families of Appalachia Ohio.

If each picture was worth a thousand words of thanks, it wouldn’t be enough!


The Crossing

In the Fall of 2015, the Elders and Leadership team of The Crossing Church began monthly support for our weekend backpack program. The commitment and encouragement from that support came just in time as up to that point we had only one individual and our Executive Directors pouring into Empower Youth financially on a monthly basis. The generosity of The Crossing to us and to two other backpack programs were the difference makers in Clermont County for our first season as a not for profit organization.


After their initial commitment from a church wide giving campaign, The Crossing Church then came back to us in November of 2016 and committed to monthly giving out of their general budget. We realize the huge step The Crossing took in believing in Empower Youth from the start and are forever grateful.


Over the last couple of years, we have been able to help send students to camp and direct them to The Crossing when they have expressed interest in a Batavia church. The Crossing has been out to our packing facility at the Red Barn to pack our weekend food bags to get a taste of what their support is doing. We look forward to continuing our relationship with The Crossing for many years to come!



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