Breaking Students Out Of Generational Poverty


Three years ago, a Dad brought his son to visit a local church in Bethel. As the brand new children’s minister of this small church, I was more than excited to take a plate of cookies to the home of my first new visitor. I was so happy to see that the home was within walking distance of our church– a perfect location for a family who wants to be involved in church programs. As I walked up to the rather ill-kept Cape Cod home, I soon realized not one family lived here. Actually, there were four different family names on the little plaque by the door. This one family home had been divided into four small apartments. Unfortunately, the name of the family I had come to see wasn’t even listed. As I walked off the porch, an older gentleman inquired who we were looking for. I told him and he pointed to the side of the house. Sadly, there was a small set of steps leading to a cellar with a plywood door. This was where my new prospects lived. I knocked on the door which gave with each rap of knuckles and my heart sank. The family wasn’t home and I left the cookies on the door handle that wasn’t much more than a cabinet handle. The door was locked by a padlock. With that visit, I began to see that ministering in Bethel was not going to be a milk and cookies ministry. Cellars have no windows. How do you share the light in such a dark place? This ministry just got complicated and was more than a small church could fund.

Bethel has a 38% poverty level. Heroin and other drugs have hit Bethel hard leaving families broken and scattered. Youth are watching their parents work minimum wage jobs and still not be able to make it. Worse still, many students watch parents caught in a cycle of assistance where the family is actually better off getting government help than going to work. Living here, children do not dream of big jobs or careers. Living here, children eat well for the first three weeks of the month and starve the last week. Living here, children rely on free lunch through the school year and rely on their neighbors during the summer. Living here is not living.

Out of desperation to reach into the lives of youth who are living in or walking the edge of generational poverty in Bethel, Ohio and surrounding communities Empower Youth was created. This 501c3 non-profit organization is in place to bridge the gaps that churches and educators are stretching to fill. The goal of Empower Youth is simple: provide resources to families and children to break through generational poverty. We want to provide avenues for nutrition, creative arts programs, and leadership development among the youth so that they will want to break out of generational poverty and be able to support themselves when they reach adulthood. It is impossible to hit a target you have never seen so a major effort of Empower Youth will be to show the youth of Bethel what they can become by providing scholarships for leadership development, summer camps, and by forging mentoring relationships.

Care to help? Volunteers for our Summer feeding program and mentors for our fall tutor club are needed. We are in great need for funds. This program outgrew our church budget in December 2014. This prompted the structuring of Empower Youth as an entity separate from the home church base. We are seeking donations to allow us to cover a June – December 2015 budget of $11,000.00. We are a grass roots entity with all money going directly to the children and youth of Bethel. We have no administrative costs.

Please email to volunteer or to make a donation. Or you may mail a tax deductible donation to our home office PO Box 351, Bethel, OH 45106.

Thank you for your consideration.

Lori Conley

Empower Youth

Executive Director

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