A year ago… I just couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t watch one more child be left out. I couldn’t handle one more child being belittled for things they could not control: poverty, hygiene, neglect, overworked parents, lice, overtired, lack of opportunity, hunger…. I knew I couldn’t stop it all, but if we could just help one child… and then if that child led us to his family…the next step would be helping his neighbor.
It was a pretty simple plan fostered from the need to feed children from the community on Wednesday nights. We drug our friends into this great dream and they have worked tirelessly beside us as our board and confidants. Empower Youth was born. This then grew into funding camp scholarships and providing community building picnics for our town every Wednesday in our town park. We took kids on college visits and we started a leadership class for teens.
With a great team already in place at Bethel schools, we were asked in to help provide the fundraising and the outside support for their growing weekend backpack program. Cuts in the school budget had left an avenue of hope for Empower Youth and we gladly rode on in to help our schools. This allowed us to clothe children, feed children, start health and beauty closets, give Kindergarten students brand new pillows, become extended family to many students and visit them in the hospital. We didn’t set out to do all this but it happened. And through it all, our goals remain the same.
1: Eradicate food insecurity.
2: Give every child an experience of summer camp where they can be a kid or teen without worry of what is happening at home.
3: Promote leadership opportunities that will push children and teens to do even greater things than they could ever imagine.
In this year, we’ve held community fundraisers and met wonderful folks. We’ve told our story over and over again, and some beautiful people have said—“I’ll support Empower Youth!” We have been overwhelmed. We have been caught off guard with the generosity of many and had some sleepless nights with the GIANT goals of sending 132 students to camp for summer 2016 and taking on new schools for our weekend backpack food program.
We’ve cried with parents and children. We’ve also been able to rejoice with small and big successes. It has been a year of noticing the child at the back of the line and giving them reachable goals and beautiful dreams. We’ve seen physical changes in the families of our students as they begin to take pride in their rooms and their school work.
So here’s to another year of empowering youth… empowering families… and going the extra mile to give youth a future that does not include heroin, broken harmful relationships, and being a victim to their circumstances instead of a champion of their ambitions. Thank you to all our supporters: individuals, churches, companies, small businesses. Whether you gave a can of beanie weenies or have supported us with a one time gift, or have put us as a monthly financial priority–we would be nothing without you. May you be richly blessed for your compassion.