This week we sent home 617 bags. In order to touch that many lives significantly it takes stories, partnerships, and game-changers. We are now in Bethel-Tate Schools, Grant Career Center, Amelia Elementary, Fayetteville-Perry Schools, and Lynchburg-Clay Schools. The stories compel us to try harder. The partnerships encourage us to keep going. The game changers give us hope that as the vision and mission increase there are more folks standing in the gap, ready to change lives!
That’s one of our best metrics for seeing if we are truly making a difference. Over the last year, we have enjoyed hearing different stories of children, volunteers, and emerging leaders who were impacted by some facet of the work of Empower Youth.
Just today after delivering pillows for Dream Big at Fayetteville-Perry schools a teacher told of how this past year, she could tell a genuine improvement in the behavior of a 6th grade student who had received our bags. Once a rambunctious hungry young man every Monday, he began to come into class just rambunctious 🙂 She could tell the food on the weekends and the accessibility for this young boy to care for himself had impacted his life in such a way that he could participate on Mondays…and a good Monday makes a good week.
Then there’s our Rose going to college as part of her senior year. Rose did the unbelievable. She’s an intern from our summer program who only stayed a short time due to changing foster homes. This past week, she reached out to us because she had been placed in her own apartment as part of a foster transition program. She needed a ride to her college orientation. The joy of watching her walk on that campus was overwhelming but so was the sadness as I realized she did this all alone. She registered, got her books, and would be going to her apartment having not a solitary relative or friend to celebrate her accomplishments except for me who she just met through our short internship.
My husband was especially impacted by a young mentee this year. This teen boy reached out to Scott to come visit him before surgery. This mark of true comaraderie and family between my husband and the young man has been a highlight of our year. However, the sadness of the situation was also overwhelming for when the boy’s dad was asked if he could recover after surgery at his dad’s home, the dad acted like he couldn’t hear the questioning. The grandmother said “its ok, he can come to my house”.
We’ve made many new friends this past year and hope to continue making more friends and strengthening the relationships we have.
This time last year, we had never heard of that property on 125 that we now call our home on the ranch. This time last year, we were bracing for the task of raising funds to feed a little over 300 children. Yet, a friendship that had always been cordial was beginning to flourish into a beautiful partnership. What a game-changer! Nearly every time I step on our ranch, my insides gush– “this really happened, this is really happening!” Community Savings Bank has blown us away by not only giving us the ranch but by the incredible gestures of individual board members supporting us with the necessary funds to keep the lights on and the taxes paid! Our partnership is not just corporate– it’s personal! We count CSB folks and John Essen as dear friends.
We watched in awe as four companies embraced Empower Youth sending great volunteers and supporting our programming with finances and gifts in kind. Lowe’s, American Modern, Elite Biomedical, and Multi-Color are all in when it comes to Empower Youth. From sending folks to park for our ATP Tennis Parking Fundraiser to making monthly financial commitments. These companies together have sent nearly 200 volunteers to work on the ranch or in other capacities for EY. Multi-Color once again provided all the pillows for our schools as well as sponsored a picnic. Elite Biomedical is a picnic sponsor and gives monthly to support our community goals. American Modern has sent team after team (nearly wearing us out thinking of projects) to do everything from tearing down lean-tos to delivering Christmas gifts. Lowe’s tackled the work on Peachie’s Place bringing in the labor and the supplies to make it a beautiful working tribute to the spirit of our Food Program!
Our partnerships have even gained us partnerships! Thanks to the Clermont Chamber of Commerce and Heather, Melia, and Joy working their magic– we have gained great new friends, advisors, volunteers, and donors! Sometimes, the greatest gift to us is someone telling our story to folks we have never met!
Our partnerships with the Freestore Food Bank and Master Provisions helps us keep bellies full this year in big ways. Simply put without the buying power of the Freestore Food bank we would not be able to send shelf stable milk home with our bags. Their ability to allow us to purchase this at a discount is amazing. When they are blessed, we definitely feel it too– which is why we just picked up a pallet of cheez-its! Master Provisions pretty much keeps the hot meals coming for the small food sites we sponsor around our area and especially during the Summer months for our summer picnics.
We have picked up new churches this year in support of our work! Monthly financial commitments from these core churches are helping us put food in the bellies of children in 3 counties! We are blessed by our continued partnerships with The Crossing, Connect, Community Christian, Bethel Assembly of God, Faith Chapel, Saltair Church of Christ– being able to count on these monthly donations allow us to plan for greater reach in to the lives of our children and families.
We’ve enjoyed the sweet pick-me-ups of churches like River Hills and Bethel Nazarene who put together an incredible collection of food and much needed tools for the ranch at Christmas. The stockings from Mt Carmel and Bethel United Methodist Church… awesome! The donation from Mt Carmel to repair the horsebarn– what? Crazy! We can’t wait to start! The church work groups and packing teams from Mt Carmel, Loveland Christian, Community Christian, Connect, The Crossing, Bethel United Methodist, and groups from Woodland Lakes Christian Camp have changed the entire look of our ranch!
Well there’s the ranch, there’s the tractor, there’s the 15 passenger van… WOW!
Then there’s the families… those families that dove in deep to help us at the ranch. Without thought they came on board and blew us away.
We had more than 80 Christmas elves this year! WOW! They were game changers!
Meredith, Scott, April, Tammy, Sandy, Ben, Abigail, Owen, Ruth, Hank, Kayla, Naomi, Olivia, Alec, Ken, Joe, Bo, Hillary, Francesca, Matt, Jennifer, Mike, Dave, Suzanne, Lisa, Caleb, Sheila, Natalie, Tristin, Dave, Shelly, Glenn, Joan, Shauntay, Betty, Dale, Ginger, Andrew, Micah, Malachi, Josiah, Kalace, Zoe, Michelle, John, Caprice… names and more names could be added… hours upon hours have been given…
And 2018… the chapters are already being written for this epic year! What will it hold? There will be lives changed. There will be building. There will be tearing down. There will be sowing and there will be harvest!
We need support to do all we do! Financially, we need more than $9,000/month to feed the children and keep our work moving forward. Volunteers– we are in a winter lull but come April– big fun is coming for volunteer groups who like to get messy!
One child is $15 a month. We are only halfway to having all 617 children sponsored. Every month we hold our breath as we pay our bills. We are so thankful for the one time givers who balance out our monthly givers!!! Maybe this is the year our one-timers become 12-timers 😉
Be challenged as we are challenged! Do something small and help Empower Youth in a big way!