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The Last Message Bag Of Hope

We just wanted to fill in the gaps.

Honest.

We didn’t seek to become a huge operation. We had one goal. Sneak in the gaps between churches and schools and government organizations and change lives. If it meant putting together a food bag—OK. If we could teach a leadership class—that’s cool. If it means securing hotdogs for an end of the year 5th grade bash- you betcha! But it grew… Empower Youth has become an operation that truly never sleeps. We are working on it… but even now as my husband snores away, I am on night shift because I can’t get over the fact that I have a family that is homeless with kids in one of my schools.

In just a couple of hours when I have finally fallen asleep, my husband will wake up startled, gripped with worry over accomplishing our never ending to do list. At 4 am he wakes. And just as he begins to drift around 6, he will wake me up and then I can start to toss and turn.

I’ve been reading a lot about goal setting, delegation, and running a non profit. I’m subscribed to Joan Garry’s Guide to non-profits, read from Good to Great for Non-profits, we’ve joined the Clermont Chamber of Commerce, attended Leadercast 2017, and I’m a missionary’s daughter, and yet… at almost midnight—I keep thinking of the children who are still up because they are being eaten alive mentally and physically by their environment.

The EY Ranch has been a distraction, an encouragement, and a challenge. It has showed us that we are more than the sum of our weekend food bags. The EY Ranch has tried to break us at every step and yet we keep working through tons of construction delays, work group changes, and brainstorming sessions. We know the packing facility cannot happen fast enough. We know that we cannot get on this property quick enough as more students come every day with heartache and more gaps to fill. In the last month, we have been counselors, probation officers, chaplains, school nurses, and work force advocates. We’ve even prepped teens for scholarship interviews.

But there is still that family in a homeless shelter. I thank God for that Shelter for them. And… at the same time the mission of Empower Youth becomes even more clear—we have to teach students to create resource bases that will keep them out of a shelter and allow them to have a life that is thriving… a life where the worry of food is more about what kind than how much… A life where they truly can do whatever they are gifted in and not be blocked by funding…

We packed our last bags of the school year tonight—the last message bag of hope to a child… to a family.  Please think often of our children this Summer. If you see a child in need, find out what you can do to make life better. Some kids are barefoot in the Summer because that’s just what you do… and some kids are barefoot because they have no shoes. But you’ll never know for sure unless you become their friend.

 

ian clark

We found gold!

Well I guess you all have heard by now that we received this sweet little piece of property from Community Savings Bank. It’s beautiful. There are four building and a home on the land. The property goes on back about 15 acres to a gorgeous tree line and an awesome creek. Who would’ve thought that within this piece of land lies a fortune?

Now, I’m not gonna lie. The financial situation of Empower Youth has not changed since we received this property. We are still a very humble organization meeting our bills one day at a time. We still rely on community organizations and individuals sending in their contributions monthly to make this happen. As we feed almost 400 students weekly through our weekend food bags and nearly 150 students midweek with a hot meal, we rely on our partnerships heavily to make this happen. My husband has woke me up every morning for two weeks at 4am with a new worry… and at 4:20am having prayed that away, he goes back to sleep and I then can’t sleep. In fact, he’s snoring now!

But as I check our meager bank account, I realize that it does not reflect in anyway the pot of gold that we are sitting on. This property has allowed us to mine treasure from Clermont County and really all of Appalachia Ohio. It’s a lot of work but every day that we are on the property, every time we tell the story of this amazing gift, and with every sweet friend or brand new friend that comes through we see a refinement of this place—we see gold. Our gold is not a precious metal—our gold is found in the strength of the teens who care so much that they gave up spring break to come and work. Our gold is found in those who crawled into the basement and though overwhelmed just kept bringing boxes and boxes up those stairs. Our gold is found in our Ms. Joan who sits on her stool and just keeps sorting. Our gold is found under a mound of horse manure that shovel by shovel is disappearing.  Our gold—is a bonfire (well actually a trash pile) that on a misty night makes friends out of all of us.

Our gold is found in a rubber snake and a real rooster. Our gold is found in YOU!17759879_1857475621186674_1633629669304344727_n

This land is a great gift but its real value is not found on an auditor’s website. The real value is found in Tyler who went fishing on Sunday. The real value is in Olivia who has already told me how to redo the floors and as a senior at Grant showed me where all the load bearing walls are in the house! The real value is in our cheerleader and bulldog Kayla who is recruiting every teen in the county. Our real value is found in Nate who I know will be a great history teacher one day as he told me all about WW2 while he stoked our trash fire!  Our real value is found in DJ who managed to carry items up from the basement after he found all the 70s 8 tracks. The value of this property is seen in a smiling Morgan and a workaholic Sami– having fun and making memories to last a lifetime.

I’m kind of tickled as I write this and I think about our appeal letter that we sent out in November. It was called “Where is your treasure”. The clipart was a treasure map. Who would’ve thought, we would be given such a treasure trove! Now, we just need the funds to mine it. We need monthly support to pay the insurance bills, electric, and other little incidentals along the way. Would you like to support us? Would your group like to take on a project? There are projects all over this place!

For the next few weeks, we will start sharing building by building our dreams for the EY Ranch. There is so much to be done—but what a great testimony for your organization or your family to be able to say:“See that kid over there fishing—my team helped build up that pond.”  “See that community garden, I cleared that land.” “See that banquet hall, my team blew in that insulation and finished the floor.” “See those lights over the barn, my family paid for the electricity for three months.” “See those 1000 bags ready to be delivered, my company donated the concrete for the packing place.”

Become a part of the refining process of Clermont County and Appalachia Ohio—there’s gold in this property!

Donate now!  Time or money or both!

You can also email us your plans: toempoweryouth@gmail.com

 

Lori Conley

Executive Director, Empower Youth

Game-Changer!

I don’t think I will ever forget the morning we sat across from John Essen, President of Community Savings Bank. To be honest, I thought he was going to be telling us about a great new bank product for non-profits. He talked about a piece of property and asked if we were interested in it. Scott and I “played” along listening to the details but the whole time I was thinking in my mind, there is no way we could ever purchase a property like this: 15 acres, a house, a 20+ stall horse barn, a building great for training seminars and group events, and a building that could be easily modified into a packing facility. It all sounded enticing but still we knew this was a longshot for our budget.

And then… he said… I wanted to see if you are interested because I’d like for Community Savings Bank to gift it to Empower Youth.

Drop the mic. Boom.

I still feel the catch in my throat and that pit in my stomach that went from butterflies to flying dragons… even now I feel a bit light headed. Fighting back tears we said yes we are interested.

After a meeting with the bank board and their follow up meeting, we received a call Thursday evening from John saying the board approved. The property would belong to Empower Youth.

I’m still in shock.  How do you say thank you for something like this? A box of chocolates is a bit weak. We are still trying to figure it all out.

I do think the best thanks we can give Community Savings Bank is to use the property in such a powerful way that it brings honor to those who had the vision for it. We want to use the property in a capacity that makes its impact the same way that led CSB to pay attention to us in the first place—we’ll just start with using it as a resource to change one life, and then add another, and another, and another. Remembering that each number has a face. Each face has dreams and  if we mentor these dreamers they will do amazing things for themselves.

Empower Youth has never wanted to be the only “game” in town in the fight against poverty. We don’t want to be the only resource for students. We want to be a “game-changer” by not making our work all about the resources we provide students but by the training and encouragement we instill in students to create their own resource base. When students have created their own resource base only then can they truly step out of circumstance and do big things.

Last month, Empower Youth taught a leadership class for Amelia Schools. The main point was “Begin with the end in mind.” The end for this facility is to be a fully functioning ranch that provides the resources to educate groups from all over Appalachia Ohio on how to help folks in poverty create their own resources. The end for this facility is to be a fully functioning farm with gardens worked by students and animals tended by Grant Career Center students, 4-H clubs, church groups, and scouts. The end for this facility is to have a packing facility to pack one thousand packs a week and the capacity to train groups to start their own EY branch in communities that are too far for us to deliver to.  The end for this facility is to teach students the value of hard work and show them how to start bank accounts and maintain balances that allow them to buy their first car that drives them to their first job that helps pay for their books for college!

So with the end in mind and clearly set before us… let me walk you through the beginning step. The beginning step is to clean up the property. The bank has ordered a 30-yard dumpster to be delivered on Tuesday (March 28).

Priority 1: Clean the property

There is a lot of debris at the property due to years of use. We need large groups, small groups, individuals, families, and teams to come to the property and help us get this in shape as soon as possible. We need to sort through the leftovers all over the property. Trash must be packed tight in the dumpster. We also will be separating out wood, metal, copper, and aluminum. Some items will go in a yard sale to help offset the cost of the property and send kids to camp this Summer while other items are in good enough shape that we will try to sell them on auction sites.

Priority 2: Food Depot

Clean out the building that will be used for our food depot.  Make repairs to the building. Dry wall and redo all fixtures and doors. Pour cement floor if needed. Make the building completely solid for food storage. Fix the drainage around the building. We need doors and windows for the building donated and installed. We need insulation donated for the packing building.

Priority 3: Excavation

In order to keep water out of some of the buildings, we need to move dirt to around the buildings as well as raise the floor of the main barn a few inches to keep water from settling in.

List of items needed for donation:

Tractor with front loader and PTO

Paint for the barns (interior and exterior)

Windows and doors

4-foot-wide door for packing barn

Insulation board

Cement cap for floor

Light fixtures

Metal shelving

Heater

Air conditioner

Wood for packing tables (or restaurant grade packing tables)

Gator

List of items need to borrow:

Bobcats, tractors, mowers

List of skills needed:

Trash pickers, sorters… painters, dry-wallers, cement finishers, electricians, heating and air pros…

Dirt movers… mowers… cleaners for the house… stall muckers… wood choppers… pond fixers… bobcat drivers…

Want to help? Contact us today at toempoweryouth@gmail.com. There is plenty of work to do but together this property can be a great tool in the fight to empower youth to break through barriers to reach their full potential. #GoLocal.

https://www.facebook.com/communitysavingsbank/

Twitter: @CommunitySvg

http://www.bankwith-csb.com/

Year End Giving Benefits All of Us!

Donate NOW!

We need you!

packing.png

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.

It was so good to see you!

13697057_1285818024792422_8110704145429920051_nA note from our Executive Director, Lori Conley:

Back in the 70s, I lived in Western KY and one of my morning TV shows was The Peggy Mitchell Show out of Evansville IN. I really loved that show. She would use puppets and music to connect with her audience. It was a simple kid show with the highlight being Peggy talking directly into the camera. She was pretty convincing and I knew she was talking to me and my brother Bud as we watched every morning. She connected through that TV and made everything she did seem so personal. She saw me. I just knew it.

As I drove home from the picnic tonight, my mind for some reason started thinking about that show of my childhood. I loved the show because I thought for sure she saw me. As I thought of all the children I saw tonight and all the adults I talked to, all of a sudden I realized why we need these picnics—we all need to be seen! We all need that connection of knowing that when we are there we are appreciated and when we aren’t someone actually misses us!

I loved seeing Jeremiah behind the grill and I loved meeting the new interim guy at Bethel Assembly too! I appreciated seeing Grandma Peggy and hearing that her sister had passed peacefully this past week. I appreciated her thinking enough of me to share something so personal with me. I loved running into football coach Adam and seeing him with little ones swarming him. When Brenda and Anthony handed me their little 4 month old with her bandaids showing off her recent shots, I felt a little tug at my heart.  It was so cool seeing families all over the park, having a great time! When I gave that third snowcone to teacher Sarah knowing full well they weren’t for her daughter, my heart just smiled and I felt a kinship.

The idea of the picnics have always been for our community to develop relationships with neighbors and build a community of folks who care about what happens to and in this little town called Bethel. It was fun seeing new folks wearing our t-shirts showing their support! Please don’t ever think the picnics are just about food. It has always been about connection. Food just helps give all of us a place and reason to show up!

If you haven’t been to the picnic, wow—you are really missing out on some of the finest folks I have ever met…and yeah the food isn’t bad either 🙂

The Methodist Church will be bringing in the food and I have heard there is lasagna and ice cream involved!!! Steve and Dona Fultz will be bringing us music. Of course, we will have awesome crafts again by our EY crafter, Shelia Miller. Bring a lawn chair and catch what it’s like to be COMMUNITY!

What’s with those shirts?

We are so pumped to have had our t-shirts sponsored by Community Savings Bank of Bethel. Because of their donation, we are able to sell the shirts and commit the entire profit to help send kids to camp AND we get to promote the goals of Empower Youth in the process!

Empower Youth seeks to:

Encourage the youth and families of our community.

Motivate students to make good decisions for their future.

Provide leadership training and services to all youth.

Overcome obstacles of poverty, neglect, and education to help students dream big!

Welcome everyone of all backgrounds to step up and do something positive.

Educate our community on the needs of our friends and family.

Respect our children for the potential in all of them just waiting to burst!

 

The shirts are $14 each and they are in adult sizes. Buy a shirt– we are sure it will look great on you!  You can purchase shirts at the picnics in the park on Wednesday from 6-8pm or you can contact us and we gladly make arrangements to get you a shirt 🙂

 

Loving lavishly

One of the reasons that Empower Youth is able to supply a hot meal for 120 plus students and adults every Wednesday night is because of our partnership with Master Provisions. This group has been providing food for organizations around the globe for many years but in the last couple of years has also opened up a local office for 501c3 organizations dedicated to feeding the community.
 
We’ve only been partners for about 6 weeks. In that time, my husband and I have grown very fond of the volunteers at MP. Today, when we went to pick up supplies, the freezers were bare. A huge truck that they had been waiting on with meat and other supplies had not made it in. Personally, we were going to be ok as this is an off week for us. So I loaded up on macaroni for our tiger packs and a few other non-perishable goodies. As I was getting ready to leave, the manager of the freezer section, said “Wait right here, I have something I’ve saved back for your kids.” He came back with two gigantic trays of cookies.
 
You know, he could have brought me broccoli…. but what impressed me was that he really knows what we do. There are many organizations coming through that warehouse daily and yet he had something special for us.
 
Our hope is that Empower Youth can pass that sentiment forward. We want to be the kind of leaders that with every child or family that we meet we are ridiculously generous and thoughtful and say “hey, wait right here, I have something saved back for you.”
 
If you are into loving your community lavishly, join us…. that’s the stuff that will make our world a better place.
We are looking for folks or organizations to sponsor Summer picnics for our community and to help us send over 100 students to camp. The bill for each picnic is between $300-$500 and the total cost on camp will be approximately $18,000.  Now that ridiculously generous!

I’ve Been Diagnosed… finally

My own case of ADHDAdvocate for the Dreamers, Harbor for the Downcast….

For the last few months, my husband and I along with our board members and many of our volunteers have been seeing that we are outgrowing the beautiful storage and packing space that a local church (Faith Chapel in Bethel) has so willingly allowed us to use. They have been incredible advocates for Empower Youth including giving us a key to their building and to their hearts. We’ve never taken this gift of space as trivial or effortless. They in many ways were the spring board which helped take our efforts from being a closed group to a true community offering. It was indeed the hand up we needed to take our Weekend Backpack program to the next level of volunteer coordination and promotion to the public. Now we find ourselves sitting on the edge of taking on more packs, needing to store more inventory in order to purchase at greater discounts, and bringing in more volunteers. This is getting big.

 
At the same time that we are space hunting, we are also attempting to send 3 times as many kids to camp as last year. We have been doing price comparisons to get the best bang for the buck while still giving our students the greatest experience possible. Over the next few weeks, we will be producing a list of camp dates that we are sponsoring scholarships for. Parents who would like to send their child to camp pick the date that fits their child’s age and fill out a very simple form. We then will provide a camper concierge service (so to speak) where we make sure every camper that goes to camp through Empower Youth has transportation to and from camp, bedding, special recreation gear, toiletries, and other items needed to have a successful camp experience. This is getting big.

 
Finally, as our leadership class for 6th grade and up begins to finish for the season, it will be time to make good on all the incentives our teens have been earning—everything from college trips to camp scholarships are in the works. And of course, there is some fun thrown in. Why? Because we want students to have the “feel good” effect from earning their way. We want them to experience the satisfaction of knowing that they have made things happen for themselves and they have earned their way. This is getting big.

 
On more than one occasion in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been told I have ADD or ADHD, given the bony finger of advice to rest more, and even told I must be on something to keep moving. And to all that, I can say that there is a little truth to it all. I do have ADHD; although, it is not a clinical diagnosis. It’s my own. I am guilty of Advocating for Dreamers and Harboring the Downcast. Does it make me hyperactive? Yes—but not because I have a chemical imbalance. I love people. I love them in masses and I love them by themselves. Most folks who know me would say that I play to the crowds. I am indeed happy there. However, when you start working with the families of Empower Youth, it’s not just about a crowd anymore. It’s about a boy named Sal, a Momma named Dawn, a girl name Aiden, and Dad named Tony. As EY grows, I hope we never forget to learn names and make home visits. I hope we show up at hospitals and funerals as well as cheer on 4-H clubs at the county fair. Empowering youth and young families can’t just happen at a park. It happens during that drive to the hospital with an expectant momma. It happens at school hanging out with the secretary and encouraging the teachers and leaders who are in the trenches. I do have ADHD—I hope I always find time to Advocate for Dreamers and Harbor the Downcast.

 
Empower Youth is committed to eradicating food insecurities, sending kids to camp, and providing leadership opportunities for children and teens to propel themselves in to a future worth living! We are Advocates for Dreamers and Harbors for the Downcast—and the work is exhausting. However, we will not waver.

 

How can you help?

We need one time gifts for camp scholarships. We are estimating our costs to be $18,000. We will also need sleeping bags, pillows, swim wear, and other camp items. Sponsor a child, sponsor a bunk, sponsor a group of campers– or hey, write the check for the full amount.

 
We need folks to pack the weekend food packs for our schools.

 
We need a new packing facility. We are looking at property and are even dreaming big dreams of a drive through warehouse. Hey dream big or go home! What would that look like? Money for land? A concrete service to pour a slab for a pole barn to built on site by volunteers? I’m dreaming… but there is a little one acre lot between Williamsburg and Bethel that would be perfect. Perhaps you have an acre to donate?

 
We need businesses to make Empower Youth their poster child and support us by sending us leaders and connections.

 
Attend and promote one of our upcoming fundraisers—a March 22 Coupon Class at the Bethel Library, the quarter auction is Tuesday April 19 at the ARF Bingo Hall, and coming in August a HUGE soccer three on three tournament.

 
We need volunteers to be donation coordinators: make phone calls on our behalf for specific items for our quarter auction as well as find us picnic partners for the summer.

 
We need churches to jump in and support our camp efforts and feeding program. We will be your camp or VBS missionary. We can come and present our vision to your board, your team, and your congregation.

 
We need watchdogs in the community to make sure that if there is a gap to be filled in our schools regarding students going home hungry, that Empower Youth is called and able to help fill that gap.

 

My hope is that I am not alone. My hope is that the dreamers and the downcasts feel the love and encouragement of bigger dreamers and doers!

Email me: Lori Conley at toempoweryouth@gmail.com for information about sending kids/teens to camp, volunteer job descriptions, and with any other questions. Click here to make that donation that your heart is pulling for or your brain is pushing.

 

I don’t want to cure my Advocate for Dreamers, Harbor for the Downcast condition—I WANT TO SPREAD IT!

Help Us Help Kids Fly!

It was his first overnighter at camp. He was overly excited…almost uncontrollable. He needed boundaries during the program time, so I grabbed an extra blanket I brought with me and laid it on the floor. I told him he could move all over that blanket. I had to laugh as I stood across the room and watched him tie the blanket around his neck like a cape and “fly” to me. Empowered by a strong imagination and possibly some pixie dust and this young one was off!  I kept thinking, “that boy is just a pill away” as I watched him join in with group games and then excuse himself to fly around the room. He wasn’t a bad boy. He was hanging as tight as his little mind would let him. Loving one minute and scattered the next, he held himself together through the night and even fell asleep during our evening movie. One of our guys, carried him to the boys’ bunkhouse and then it hit us. We had no idea where his bunk was. There was not another made up bed. Somehow this little one had been dropped off without a pillow, a sleeping bag…nothing. The little blanket tied around his neck that I had given him earlier was his only cover. A bed was quickly made up with extra bedding we had with us. In the morning, we gave him a hygiene kit we brought with us. We also noticed he didn’t have a change of clothes. My husband headed to Walmart and picked up an extra outfit. The day carried on and this first time camper had a great day! Yes, he stretched our camp team. His behavior was always at an extreme—completely helpful or obstinate to the point of violence as he dug into my arm with his nails when I retrieved him from a dangerous perch. Good thing I grew up with brothers! At the end of the day, he was picked up and I think he had a great time at camp.

 
We are now halfway through our camp season and this little boy along with our other campers have taught me a lot about the children we are giving opportunities to through Empower Youth. I’m learning these children are full of emotions: fear, anticipation, joy, anger, curiosity, and excitement. These children want to do new things but at the same time they are afraid as they walk into new situations. All of our children want to please and make their parents and their camp counselors proud. Every time I see them accomplish a new task or make it through a new milestone, like staying a night away from home or passing the swim test at camp, my heart leaps. Our children are becoming confident. Our children are becoming aware that they can accomplish new tasks. Our children are laughing and loving life! And isn’t that what empowerment is all about? When you give a child freedom to seek knowledge presented in a new way… when you allow them a break from the mundane… even when they can just have the freedom to go through the food line twice and get extra mac and cheese… when you can let them be a kid again… that’s empowering them to dream bigger. I love camp. Kids grow in maturity at camp. Kids see a new world and add experience and achievement to their life resume.

 
We still have a few weeks of camp to go and we still have a balance owed at our camp. If you would like to help, Empower Youth will not turn your money down! Simply click on the “DONATE NOW” link to the side and shake some pixie dust!

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