It’s hard to believe that January is gone! Out! Over! Wow!
We have had an amazing month at Empower Youth. Check out these bullet points!
- We closed the books and this year… wait for it… we took in over $75,000.00 to help fill in the gaps of children and youth in Southern Ohio! Want to hear something crazy?? Only $4,000 of that was from a grant! The rest was YOU! YOU! YOU! As we finished entering the last contribution of 2016, my eyes leaked joy and thankfulness that from Texas to Haiti, from large companies to Mom and Pop businesses, from big churches to small churches, from families to individuals— YOU YOU YOU did this. You fed Southern Ohio children. You sent kids to camp. You brought communities together. You broke poverty barriers. You helped to open that savings account for a young boy. You!
- We taught students in 16 different classes at Amelia Elementary all about leadership this past week (almost 400 students)! For 30 minutes in each class, we explained to students about the importance of being pro-active and not reactive! Our goal is to give each student basic skills to become leaders in their homes, schools, and community. We will be doing this almost monthly through the end of the school year and partnering with other community leaders to help us team teach. We were excited to work with Joey Rolen for our first lesson.
- We added another school! Today we dropped off 85 bags to Fayetteville Elementary to be distributed to students from preschool all the way through high school. We are excited to start forming partnerships with businesses and churches in Fayetteville to help support this new relationship.
- We added a volunteer coordinator!! Actually we added two! You can contact Scott and Dana Wedemeyer at email@example.com to schedule your team in to pack bags.
- We recruited two new delivery drivers! PINCH ME! We now only need a driver to deliver bags to William Bick Elementary. All other routes (including the new one to Fayetteville) are covered– that’s 5 drivers! If you’d like to take our last route, contact me NOW! This will require a van, truck, or good size SUV.
- We held our first Poverty Class and packed it out! Blanchester Church of the Nazarene hosted– and we are still amazed at the attendance and connections that came from this class. From that class, we received an invite to do a second class with Brad Whiteford and Central Baptist Church in Williamsburg. Date to be announced soon.
- We have met new friends through our volunteer pack nights and have been completely blown away by the enthusiasm.
Every “we” in this blog means YOU! You are teaching. You are feeding. You are driving. You are learning about poverty and how to help and not hurt. You are packing. You are taking on more of the load so that more gets done. And in the end, lives are being changed– and I venture to say, it’s not just the kids!
Thank you! Come on February! Empower Youth can feel the love and is transferring it to the children and youth who are desperate for it!
— Lori Conley, Executive Director
We need you!
The end of the year… How did your year go?
Empower Youth found ourselves in the middle of a whirlwind of activity that could not have happened without your help. Some of the thing we were able to accomplish through donations of time and finances are:
We brought a community together and fed more than 4000 meals in the park this summer.
We helped a few teens start their first business.
We ventured into more schools… and are now sending home weekend food bags to more than 260 students every weekend.
We gave every Kindergarten student in Bethel Schools and Amelia Elementary a brand new pillow, pillow case, and stuffed animal and taught them the importance of “dreaming big.”
We sent 160 children and teens to camp.
We continue to feed more than 120 students and volunteers a weekly hot meal on Wednesdays.
We reached out to Grant Career Center and filled in the gaps for their pancake breakfast, Christmas giveaway, and cancer fundraiser.
We matched up 137 children with more than 100 elves for Christmas.
We added more than 100 volunteers this year through our picnics in the park and our weekend food pack program.
We moved from a small boiler room to a packing facility that has allowed us to host groups of 6-25 individuals and so far every month we’ve been blessed with a special donor or donors giving us the rent money!
We worked with interns this year encouraging them to find their gifts and talents and teaching the importance of a job well done.
In short, we filled in the gaps… which is really all we ever wanted to do.
Going into the new year, Amelia Elementary has asked us to fill in the gap of teaching leadership classes for their 3rd-5th grade students once a month. We are looking at hosting some pretty amazing fundraisers including a men’s retreat in 2017. We’ve upped our game on our shopping by partnering with the FreeStore Foodbank and Master Provisions. Sometimes we have some much food donated and have found such great deals that we can actually send home weekend food bags for as low as a $1.62!
We couldn’t do any of this without you! If you are realizing that you need more year end tax deductions please consider sending us a year end gift via paypal or through the mail today! Year end tax deductions will be given to all gifts postmarked by December 31!
Mail your gift to Empower Youth, PO Box 351, Bethel, OH 45106.
Empower Youth is ending another year and we have found great treasure within the hearts of people who love the children and families of Southwest Ohio. As we look into the new year, we are seeking to extend our borders to include more children, more schools, more hope!
The treasure we have found is time, leadership, talent, and funds. Fill out the form below and we will contact you to put your treasure to work.
Do the holidays have you busy? If so donate now and Click here!
Today, my husband on his day off, and myself will be headed out to conquer our new normal. Since beginning Empower Youth in 2015, our normal has really changed. Our Friday “normal” was heading over to the Feed Mill in Felicity for the best coffee in the land, followed by picking up our granddaughters and heading to a park or Chuck E Cheese, and finally ending with lots of baking where chocolate chips abound. In between all this, I would take a few calls, make a few facebook posts, and send in the media for the weekend to the church (remember my paid gig is a children’s minister.)
Today’s normal includes dropping off donations in 3 different depots because we still don’t have enough storage for the Spring yardsale items, the summer camp items, the pillows for the pillow project, the Christmas gifts for the Christmas project, and o yeah the food for 250 students that we feed every weekend. We start off the day by checking the Freestore Foodbank online inventory to see if any ravioli showed up at a way reduced price. Then, we are off and running with a van or vans full of items to sort.
But with all of that … our new normal is exhausting… our new normal is rewarding… our new is heartbreaking…
Our new normal has placed us in the middle of students having adult problems. Our new normal has led us to meet a young 10 year old boy who blurted out in the middle of leadership class that he was raped. Our new normal means that we had parents complain because their children had never even heard that word. Our new normal means we actually scolded the boy for disrupting the class, only to find out he was indeed raped. That’s my new normal. I can take a break and leave my new normal anytime I want. This young ten year old cannot. He will never get a break from his new normal. Our new normal is explaining to a ten year old rape victim that we care about him and that when he speaks we will take him seriously. Our new normal is watching another family leave our program because their child heard the word “rape” in a small group.
Our new normal has led us to great friendships with families we’d normally never have the chance to meet except through Empower Youth. We see progress. We see students making good choices. It’s pretty amazing what a relationship will do to give folks a hand and foot hold to climb out of poverty. A food bag on the weekend that leads to a little extra for Christmas that leads to a week at camp… Some of our families keep on climbing and we eventually don’t see them as much because they have moved out of “ICU” and into “Stepped Down Care” and finally they are on their own. We have contact through facebook and we cheer them on. With other families, they are right out of “ICU” and into the “Stepped Down Care” and yet the hold of generational poverty is so strong that they are pulled right back in. Eventually, they slip away from us completely. Our new normal is a day of joy for those who make it and heartache for those who have slipped away.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and my husband and I are going to try for our normal traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. We will eat at 1pm this year because I just can’t seem to get it all done by noon. We will load our house with a bounty of food, family, and thankfulness. But I’m afraid after 2 years of Empower Youth even thanksgiving will be a new normal. And… that’s ok… cause that’s our new normal.
If Empower Youth has done anything for anyone, I pray it has actually made the new normal for those we serve– better. I pray for those who volunteer or speak on our behalf that they have a new normal like we do– hearts wrenched, hearts ready to serve more, hearts thankful for every opportunity, and most importantly hearts that will not become jaded. There is much work to be done.
Empower Youth is now serving 250 students monthly. Our monthly food expenses hit $3000 in September. In order to keep the food costs down, we are asking folks to take a giant step and do a food drive through their organizations, classrooms, clubs, churches, small groups, classes, offices, factories, scouts, etc to help us stock pile enough that we can bring our already low cost of $3.10 a bag to even lower.
With your help we can do it! You may also make a donation to Empower Youth to purchase food items on your behalf. Currently we can purchase milk for 42cents a serving so unless you have a real “in” with a company a donation to us to purchase milk is a better value.
Would you host a food drive and let that Ravioli roll our way? Here’s a flyer we can customize for you or you can download from here. We can pick up the food at the end of your drive or you can deliver it to our Red Barn packing facility in Batavia and get even more hands on!
In just 2 minutes actually 1 minute 57 seconds you can see what we’ve been up to and a glimpse of what is ahead!
- If you find the deal of the century (or the month), text me at 614-506-3694.
- If you have any kind of buying power with a store or a food pantry program and can order the items we use at a discount, please let me know, we are positioned to buy a pallet of milk or other items if it saves us money.
- Please look at our list and purchase the items on the list (we aren’t picky about brands).
- Make a financial donation so that when the big sales come, we have the money to buy in bulk.
- Follow Empower Youth or Lori Conley (that’s me) on facebook and purchase items when we make note of a special sale. Recently, the ravioli type products went for .53 a can and we were posting it all over the place.
And… we thank you 250 times a week and counting for helping us bring dignity and security to those who need a little extra on the weekends.
To Clermont County and beyond…
The vision of Empower Youth has always been to fill in the gaps between parents, schools, and churches. Our hearts focus on sometimes those very small but significant cracks in the formation of a child’s emotional, physical, and social needs and patch or fill. Sometimes, it’s for a day. Other times, it is a more formidable patch that takes years. But all in all, we still are just gap-fillers.
Over the last two years, our territory has increased but the mission has remained: fight food insecurity, give all students an opportunity to grow at Summer camp, and provide opportunities for students to become leaders that earn their own way. As we have grown as an organization, there is a very distinct population that has cried out to us and this group has become our territory—the rural poor.
The rural poverty that we have seen in Clermont County is about more than just shopping at a thrift store and being on free or reduced lunch. Rural poverty becomes a very hungry animal that grows as a family’s debts, needs, and hardships grows How do we step in at Empower Youth? By partnering with schools and parents, we come alongside students and give them the tools to stay in school. If a student is hungry, they can’t learn. Once they fall behind, it is more natural to just “eek” by or simply drop out than to stay with the program. Child poverty rates grow where the drop-out rate grows. Our newest partner, Grant Career Center, understands this demographic and goes above and beyond to keep their students in school and progressing towards the goal of beyond graduation. As the city and jobs move away from rural areas, the issue of transportation becomes a major player in poverty. What happens when you live beyond the bus line? You no longer are able to make it to important appointments because your ride fell through. You find yourself moved to the back of the line for much needed help. Of course, there is always one person waiting to give you a ride—the drug dealer. After you take your first or second hit, you don’t remember if you ever arrived to your destination and now there is paranoia that you can never really get help because who wants to help a user?
So, this is our call… this is our mission… give the youth of the rural population a future.
The first step is to fight their food insecurities and move them up in their classes. Every September through May weekend, EY partners with schools to provide weekend meal bags. Here’s some pics of our most recent packing team. They packed 200 bags in 45 minutes. Most of the food came from a local church’s VBS from the Summer. We are always in need of food. We estimate that this church saved us $800. Want to help, please make a monetary donation or start a collection for us in your organization.
For some reason, I don’t know where to start. I’ve been trying to write this article for two weeks. Ever since the last picnic in the park and before the start of school, I’ve just wanted to say “thanks”. But the words have failed me. All I have is what feels like a huge heart of cotton candy… floating… and wistful thinking of what our community would be like if every time we tried to cut through a day, we came up with a slice of people having a good time, caring for one another… Wouldn’t that be nice?
In great literature, I think they call that a utopia… a perfect society. The Scriptures would say that’s Heaven. And during the Summer, I call it “Picnics in the Park.” This little slice of kindness and goodwill towards all was created by so many people, I can’t even list them all. This little slice took the effort of many imperfect folks just trying our best. Sure, some things didn’t go as planned. Some days may have seemed right to the wire… but in the end—Burke Park became a place to hang out, strengthen relationships, forget about some relationships, enjoy some peace, let your kids play with the comfort of safety, grab a quick bite, enjoy a long sit, hear some great tunes, watch some awesome kids, and just be… without comparing yourself to your neighbor. Just be… and finally see that Summer is about breathing in and breathing out and knowing that there are still safe places and still pockets of folks who want what you want—peace.
So thank you to the many companies that stepped in. Thank you to the churches that worked in the forefront and behind the scenes. Thank you to the folks who just stood around waiting to jump in where needed. I am really at a loss how to express myself to you. I can only tell you that as the director of Empower Youth, my heart bursts with gratitude towards you… and there is much anticipation for next Summer—even a little angst as I wonder how to have a do-over as fabulous as this year.
The numbers are in on our camps this Summer—Empower Youth sent 141 students to camp! That’s worth repeating—Empower Youth sent 141 students to camp! Thank you to the many special donors and to those folks who participated in our Send a Kid To Camp fundraisers. If you bought a shirt, you helped send a kid to camp. Thank you to Community Savings Bank for taking on the shirt fundraising project!
SUMMER FOOD SUMMER FUN:
This little program grew and ebbed and flowed with our hot Summer. We started with just a few students but in the end we were running 30 – 45 students consistently with a few really huge days of over 45! This was a fantastic offering for us and we are thankful for our partnership with the Freestore Foodbank for the free meals that were easy to serve and for the weekend bags we were able to distribute every day.
Well, by the first Thursday in September, we will have started packing the weekend backpacks for the Bethel Tate Tiger Packs, the Amelia Elementary Tiger Packs, and the Grant Career Center Weekend Survival Kits. We are increasing our program to the point of doubling what we currently do. We already have started collecting names of students needing weekend food packs and we know they will grow.
Thursday September 1, 2016, we secured the lease on a packing space of over 900 square feet. We are now in a position to have groups come and help us pack 400-500 packs at a time. We have plenty of parking space. We have plenty of room. The anticipation is killing us as we prepare to start using this space.
Everything we do is a leap! We are filling in the gaps in our local schools by jumping over chasms of territory we have never navigated before.
In just a few weeks, we will be giving all the Kindergarten students of Amelia Elementary and Bethel William Bick Primary a brand new pillow, pillow case, and stuffed animal. This was all donated by Multi-color Corporation with the hard working hands of girl scouts tie-dying those pillow cases as well as seamstresses from around Bethel making beautiful handmade original cases. Dream Big is ready to go and as a leader, I was blessed to do little more than pick up the items. So different from last year.
We need weekend food packers—own this project with us. If you have a youth group or other community group or just want to bring your family, we need folks to sign up to pack our weekend packs. You can choose to come for a couple of hours or you can decide to stay until you reach a specific goal of so many bags packed. This is up to you. We strongly believe in letting our volunteers lead on… and we just hang out and provide the backup you need to accomplish your dreams.
We need help with our dream big project. We have all the ingredients for this– we just need a team to come in and put it all together: stuff pillows and stuffed animals in pillowcases and then wrap and rubber band it all to be placed in a bag for each Kindergarten student in Bethel and Amelia Elementary.
We need monthly support. Every month, I receive a check of $24 from one of our monthly supporters. When I get her check, I don’t see dollars. I see 6 weekend packs. 6 children who will eat because she gave faithfully. At the end of the year, that $24 a month will have provided 72 weekend packs—that is a cherished donation. That is enough to feed two families. We have other donors who give $100 a month. I know that with that over the course of the year I will be able to provide 300 weekend packs. I see 300 faces. With a monthly donation, we are able to make purchases in advance and get the best deals for our programming.
We need food collections from civic groups and churches of the specific food we need for our weekend packs! Cans and cans of ravioli, beefaroni, spaghetti and meatballs are used every week. Most weeks we have a combination of those food items with mac and cheese or two of those canned goods. That’s expensive but a lot of times, folks will take it upon themselves to donate us cases of the stuff—one lady took advantage of a local sale and gave us 5 cases! What a blessing. Some folks see $ signs, some see cans of food, I see 60 faces with smiles.
It seems that with Empower Youth, we barely say thank you before we are asking again. And for that, I cannot apologize. Not until the last heroin addict is gone from Clermont County, not until the last set of big hungry eyes are satisfied can I rest, not until there are no more children living in cellars with their single parent or “camping out” permanently can I sleep and say “we are done.”
Please help us as we go in to this year. Please say that this year, you will jump on board in such way that is meaningful to you and to us. Perhaps it’s a sacrificial gift. Maybe it’s just saying you will volunteer to pack or deliver packs. Maybe, your gift is that you are going to help us mentor students…
Whatever the call—I will never tie your commitment to your wallet—I will always tie it to your heart.
This is opportunity here for you to do big things in very big and very small ways.
YOUR NEXT STEP:
Email Lori Conley at firstname.lastname@example.org and simply tell me your heart. Then we will work together to see how you can make your dreams for this area and beyond a reality with our help.
And yes, we do have very specific jobs to be done if the dreamer part of you is a bit rusty 😉
Come with me to an Empower Youth picnic and see what we see…
Tonight we saw new faces… they were enjoying the food, the music, and just being away from the house enjoying the neighbors.
Tonight, we saw a grandpa, giving his granddaughter some advice… we weren’t close enough to listen in but that ol’ tree stump was a great place for a young Ella Kate to give Grandpa her attention.
Tonight, we met a couple who said they had never heard about us until a Junior high boy brought a flyer to their door and talked to them about how great the mac n cheese was going to be tonight.
Tonight, two neighbors met who never knew they were neighbors… and they found out they have much in common and left encouraging each other to just keep on keeping on.
Tonight, the Lion’s Club surely out did themselves and we were so grateful for the meal they provided and their love for this community.
Tonight, the music was incredible. The group was a fill-in but seriously they could’ve been a mainliner and we would’ve never known. Pretty much loved everything they sang!
Tonight, the line never stopped— but neither did the food… We had enough and leftovers to feed over 350 people!
Tonight, we are so thankful for the staff at McDonald’s who had to make us double the orange drink because we ran out within 45 minutes!
Tonight, we ran out of ice for snowcones by 7:23… we hated that but wow—that is a lot of ice… the first time we’ve done that!
Tonight, the crafts were hopping, the giveaways down at the stage were non-stop… but most of all the smiles from folks never ended! We love Kadin’s windsock!
Tonight, we saw ministers among us… and they didn’t preach a sermon (YAY!) They came together to hang with the community and serve where needed.
Tonight, I saw friends talking and sticking around until way after the party was over… I just love that.
If you have helped in any way this summer, I thank you. Some folks stay consistently every week to help us clean up. Some youth groups stick around and make a pass through the park just to pick up the trash before they leave. I have so many folks filling in gaps that I don’t even know exist because they just patch things up before anyone knows there is a problem. I’ve not worried over entertainment this Summer—it’s covered! I’ve not worried over crafts for kids—it’s covered! I’ve not worried over food (well except that 15 gallons of tea that spilled in my van—it’s covered–the van that is). This is community. This is unique. This is hometown pride.
Next Wednesday we are honoring our police and firefighters. They will be on hand as well as an incredible entertainment lineup by Taylor Shannon starting at 6pm and Cevin West starting at 7:20pm. We will have fair food so come hungry for corn dogs (by an anonymous donor), funnel cakes by Hydro, cotton candy, popcorn, snowcones, and drinks. It won’t be healthy but it will be FUN!