When Lori Conley took the position of Children’s Minister in Bethel, Ohio. Her first thoughts were, “Why?” quickly followed by, “Now, what?”. The church was just shy of celebrating 200 years and was nestled in a sleepy little middle class town– or at least that’s what the Conley’s thought.
Then, they visited the Cape Cod two streets from the church and realized that looks are indeed deceiving. The small “starter” home that had seen better days was the address of a young child and his Dad who had just visited the church. Lori jumped at the chance to visit the little boy with a balloon and plate of cookies. As Scott and Lori approached the door of the house, it appeared that this home had been divided into 5 apartments and the young man’s family name was not on the door. After knocking for a bit, Scott and Lori turned to leave only to be startled by an older gentlemen coming from the side of building.
He asked them who they were looking for and after they spoke the name, the man pointed to the cellar saying the single parent family had just moved in there. The cellar door was plywood, there was a padlock on the outside (which meant they weren’t home), and Lori’s heart dropped.
Things changed immediately for Lori’s work at the church. She had her “why” and “now, what” questions answered. This began a heart song for the children of Bethel in poverty and quickly spread to neighboring towns.
Within just 3 years of coming to Bethel, it was evident that there were more needs and more programs than one church could handle. Scott and Lori began Empower Youth as a community based initiative to invite the community in to the life of the children who desperately needed them.
Projects like: Weekend Food Bags, Dream Big, Sending Kids To Camp became part of our Student Support programs. As needs arise, Empower Youth continues to fill in gaps with hygiene closets, school supplies, and making house calls at the request of teachers and administrators.