I wanted to take a moment to update you on these families.
From “It’s Only Sunday”, it wasn’t long until the family returned to it’s usual routine. The Mom moved back in with her husband and children. Over the Summer, the father had found work and started attending anger management sessions. While the Mom and her children stayed involved, it was noticeable that she became more and more to herself and eventually, we just didn’t see her much. In the Fall, I received a phone call from her asking for advice. Her son had been in a fight at school. He had started the fight was suspended. She was reeling and so afraid that her son was repeating the cycle he had seen at home. She grounded him and tried to get him help. Eventually, she began to send her children back to our creative arts program and they seemed to thrive. It was obvious that this Momma was doing her best and struggling. While she constantly spoke of her husband’s progress, it was hard not to notice that she wore oversized coats, often had a band-aid on her forehead or an ace bandage on her arm. For Christmas her daughter had a part in the Christmas play. Even though it was almost show time, the daughter made it for all the performances and her Mom and siblings were always in the audience. The Mom’s precious smile and giggle seemed to have returned and I was hopeful for change and healing in this family.
On Christmas Eve, the police were called to her home just before midnight. Her husband had put a chair through another TV and had threatened her life and the life of her children. This time she and her children left in a squad car.
We also wrote in May about a Mom who had been sent to jail after a drug overdose. She was pregnant and had passed out with the needle in her arm. The baby was taken and after she was well enough from having the baby, she and the baby were released to her home. For the last 6 months, she has been at home and her older children were granted visitation. She has been clean for 6 months. Over those 6 months, the children were involved in the arts program of a local church and we kept pretty good tabs on them making sure they had the money needed to go on special outings with the local church and just checking up on them as needed. Both of her older children have been thriving and doing well.
In October, the young Mom’s court date came up. She was being charged for the drug episode in May. The judge found her guilty and sentenced her to 6 months in jail. While she had managed to stay clean from May til October, the judge was not lenient as this was her third time around. Empower Youth stepped in to help the Dad with Christmas. This man was not the man I met in May. In May, I remember he was very strong in Spirit and almost frightening. But in December, he stood with tears in his eyes thanking me for just listening to him. He explained his son was suffering from horrible migraines now and he was truly worried for him. This very strong man was broken. He was worried for his son. He was frustrated with their mother. And, essentially, he had no one to care for his daughter if his son required a hospital stay.
What am I learning as the director of Empower Youth? I’m learning this is not a Hallmark Channel movie where there is a merry Christmas for everyone or where families are blended in to a perfect wonderful life. In fact at times it seems like it’s one of those movies where you are halfway through the popcorn bowl and boom the music plays, the credits roll, and you are left with all these questions!
Why am I sharing this? Because these stories are not unique.
Why do you need to hear this? Because you need to know that it’s easy to put food in a belly for a weekend through our Tiger Packs. You need to know it’s easy to feed kids on Wednesday nights. You need to know that collecting cans of Beanie Weenies while is elusive–still can be accomplished for 79cents at Save A Lot.
You need to hear this because it is going to take more than blowing up food insecurities to give these children hope. The food is the start. The food begins the relationship. Because of the food, we were able to provide Christmas. Because of the Christmas, we were able to have a genuine conversation. Now that the conversations have started, we can start encouraging parents to send their kids to camp and allowing them to make college visits. Because of the Tiger Packs, the boys who said “please stop putting tomato soup in there” will now talk to us about going to college. And, we will get them on a college campus!
Our work is cut out for us. We are in this 8 months deep. You can’t even have a fully developed baby in 8 months– right now this feels like we are birthing an elephant (fyi: it takes 21 months to birth an elephant)!
So what’s happening now:
We now pack our Tiger Packs offsite and deliver them to schools. There is room for volunteers. We also have two more schools looking at our program and asking us to expand. This will call for more volunteers and more food.
We have 100+ children wanting to go to camp this year. They will need scholarships. This is estimated at $15,000.
Empower Youth currently provides the food budget for a local creative arts program every Wednesday. This is a $600 monthly need.
Empower Youth will be having our relationship building picnics every Wednesday this Summer. Last year we served 3000 meals– we are looking for sponsors to say, “I will provide food and funds for one Wednesday meal this Summer”.
How can you help?
- You can volunteer to partner with families.
- You can share this story and the mission of Empower Youth with your company CEOs who want to invest in programs that will better this world.
- You can be a voice for EY in your church, your organization, and your employment. Chances are you know someone right now who can elevate this program financially and provide camp scholarships. You may know someone right now who can elevate this program to receive the attention of the public.
How sure am I that we are on to something big? So sure I’m ready to call the zoo! We are in this for the long haul… and when we are done, not only will we birth this elephant of a mission– but we will see it fly!
“But I’ve been, done, seen about everything
When I see a elephant fly”–Dumbo