Gone Fishing…

The weather has finally cleared and we are in deep at the ranch with work groups tackling projects we had hoped to get a good start on in April. Just a year ago we received the property. Wow, how time flies. Sometimes it seems as if it has been forever since we called the ranch home and then other times, Scott and I walk on the property and our eyes fight back the tears just like the day we first gave it a look with our friend John from Community Savings Bank.

Not only has this last month marked the one-year anniversary of receiving the property but it also reminds us that just 3 years ago, we began Empower Youth. We are still toddlers.

jocelynIn these last 3 years, our team has worked to make the most lasting impact with the resources we are given. We have often debated among our peers on how to truly give. There is an old adage from ancient culture that says, “If you give a man a fish, he will have a full belly. If you teach a man to fish, he will be richer forever.” At EY, we do both. There are programs that are all about the full belly. We do not want our children to be hungry on the weekends. So we send home weekend food bags with the children every weekend. The only obligation to the children is that they accept them.

There are other programs that we do where we believe we must teach the leadership skills to allow students to fill their own bellies. This is why our Director of Education, Sandy Marquez, spends more than 80 hours a month developing our leadership curriculum. This is why one of our core principles is to empower students to become their own resource base. This is why we partner with Easter Seals to be a place for students to intern during the Summer.

While attending a Resiliency Training Workshop, the speaker shared the thought that it’s not enough to teach a someone to fish but that if you want truly break down barriers that you must fish with them. I have digested this fish dinner almost every day since the workshop. This is the model of Empower Youth.

We do all three things: We “give fish away” through our weekend food bags, our dream big project, and camp scholarships. We “teach students to fish” through our leadership lessons in the schools, our 4H program, and our camp programs. But our greatest work happens when we “fish with the students” through volunteer time with us on the ranch, our summer internship program, our parking fundraisers, and setting up activities along the way where students meet other “fishermen” who care that they make it as much as we do.

There are so many ways for you to help us hang out the “Gone Fishing” sign this Summer.

You can help us connect with students by providing financial resources. Your donations during the summer help pay for special worksite and college campus visits. Your donations help send students to camp. You will be paying for the fuel to run the equipment to take care of our ranch. Your donations will help us build into our students as we build on our property with the student working beside other adult volunteers.

You can help us connect by volunteering this summer. You can help folks like Dr. Vogel with our Summer Food Summer Fun program on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Hill Intermediate or you could jump on the mobile summer food van and help out Darlene as she takes off to Hi View Estates and Tall Timbers. We need servers and mentors on those days. You can come to the ranch and mentor our interns.  You could work with us at one of our weeks of camp this Summer like Sheila. You could lead like Ken. H4He mentors teens during our many hours of parking. The lessons on the parking lot have become so valuable: teaching respect, leadership, and courtesy under pressure. You could work like Betty and Dale with our 4H students. Many of them just need a mentor to show them how to do a specific task for their project.

And… you could actually just come and fish! We are excited to say that much work has been done by our Pond Expert Dave on our ponds and we are getting closer to having an amazing fishing hole.

Not sure how you can help Empower Youth? Come see me at the ranch but call first cause I may be “Gone Fishing”.

Lori Conley


P.S. It’s hard to fit everything we’ve been doing and all that we have planned in just a little note so keep scrolling a bit to see the highlights of May.

The YARD SALE IS COMING May 11-12! WE STILL NEED STUFF. Please start dropping items at the horse barn on our property!

yardsale poster


GabeMeet our friend Gabe. He is an Empower Youth kid from Lynchburg-Clay Schools. He has been fighting Leukemia like a champ! He has allowed us into his life. We are proud to be rooting him on. Gabe has to spend a lot of time in recovery after his chemo treatments so someone donated to him a brand new Nintendo Switch. We told Gabe we would put the word out for folks to donate gift cards so that he could buy the games of his choice from Amazon. He also loves McDonalds. His grandma drives him to the Liberty Campus for his treatments every day. That’s quite and expense. If folks would like to drop off some Kroger or Walmart gift cards for their gas, we will make sure they get them. We almost forgot. Gabe is a Sponge Bob fan and so is his little brother. They both share a room and I’m sure they would enjoy some neat things to fix it up! After all, Gabe will be spending a lot of time in there of the next 9 months.


Our leadership classes continue to evolve. When we first began the program, our Executive Director was writing the lessons and gathering the supplies for this class. After the very first class, Lori had a talent pool around her that far out did her efforts. Now, we are excited to announce that Sandy Marquez is our Director of Education. She comes to us with years of teaching experience at Columbus Public Schools as well as homeschooling her own family. She is the perfect match for the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students she teaches along with volunteer helpers on a monthly basis.


We only have one picnic left to beThe Picnics in the Park are right around the corner! Stay tuned for more publicity on this Summer long event. This year our entertainment is quite the variety. From a petting zoo to a wrestling match—this is not like any summer we have ever put together before! We are still recruiting a company to sponsor the picnic on June 20 but we are nearly ready to reveal the good eats and sponsors for this Summer! Each group is planning to feed 500 people! That’s a huge investment in our community and we are pumped!

picnics in the park


smores drawingWe have just a few camp scholarships to still process! But we are so excited to see many of our children taking the application so seriously. This year, we asked students to tell us why they wanted to go to camp. This is the first year we have used a more formal application process and we are thrilled with the students who have participated.InkedInkedhopes scholarship_LI

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