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It’s Your Story

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It’s not our story. It’s yours.

Since receiving the property, the community has poured out donations of talents, hard work, and finances to bringing this property into use for the youth and families of Clermont County and beyond. It’s not our story. It’s yours.

Community Savings Bank after giving us the property gave a paid day for volunteers for the company to come and work. It’s not our story. It’s the story of a bank who loves community. It’s the story of a bank who loves people—even those who have never made a deposit. Over the last month, bank board members have brought their own equipment and cleared our land. It’s not our story.

The students of Grant Career Center, most of whom will graduate this year and never experience the benefits of the property to them, have been out weekly working. It’s not our story. It’s the story of a future history teacher, a pre-med student, a biochemist. It’s the story of a vet science major.

The litigations department of American Modern came out and pulled bushes, cleaned lean-tos, and got really dirty. It’s not our story. It’s the story of a team who are normally in khakis and pullovers putting on work boots and drawing blisters for the greater good. It’s not our story.

The Miami Valley Christian Academy 8th and 9th grade boys have a real story. They were able to destroy a lean-to on an old barn. It’s not our story. It’s the story of working off energy and making a difference. It’s the story of hard work.

It’s about a guy named Mike at Lowe’s who painstakingly makes time for us as we think out loud the next big project. He walks through the store making our story, his story. Every piece of wood, every screw bought, every light fixture in the cart—Mike made it his story. It’s the story of a company allowing a manager to invest in the community.

Sardinia concrete jumped on our bandwagon quickly and offered to cap off our soon to be packing facility. Kelly came and looked us over and even went beyond our ask. He made it his story. And after that concrete starts to run… it will become Ryan’s story as he and his buddy finish it.

Matt has been walking our property for weeks. He’s all about getting the lights on. He made it his story. He has spent many nights after work pulling lines, screwing in fixtures, redoing, rethinking, and finally… it’s not our story. It’s Matt’s story.

In early April, Barb from Batavia Heights Christian Childcare donated a beautiful red van to replace our van that was fading fast. It was just in time as it’s become our work truck hauling supplies to the farm almost daily. This is Barb’s story.

Groups, people, companies, churches, organizations… it’s not an EY story. It’s the story of community. And, there are so many more stories to tell about this property, that we may have to eventually write a book about how a community found a way to leave an indelible footprint.

What’s your story? Step onto the EY Ranch and write it.

Contact us at toempoweryouth@gmail.com to set up a time to see the property and begin your personal or organization-wide story.

You may also call Lori Conley at 614-506-3694 for more information.

Here’s a link to a already written about the property:

http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2017/04/24/bank-gifts-horse-farm-empower-youth/100837016/

 

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

Year End Giving Benefits All of Us!

Donate NOW!

We need you!

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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.

Patching The Pavement… getting youth on down the road!

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.

 

No words left for a title…

THANKS

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.

CAMP NUMBERS:

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.

WHAT’S NEXT:

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.

 HELP NEEDED:

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 toempoweryouth@gmail.com 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 😉

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!

Summer Picnics Are Here

Last year, Empower Youth broke out into Burke Park with one goal– connect our community in a way that no matter your background, paystub, or facebook status that we could all come together and have a great time enjoying our families, our neighbors, and meeting new friends along the way.  We had a fantastic success. We served over 3000 meals and filled in a gap that towns all over America are missing– community.

When we can truly be in community, then we celebrate successes like graduations, marriages, babies, retirement… When we are in community, we are there for misfortunes like sickness, loss of loved ones, job losses, and wrecked homes.

Our picnics aren’t meant to be profound, it’s just that good friends, good food, and fun seem to make those long weeks of Summer pass by with some great memories that linger way after the frost hits the pumpkins in the Fall.

Connect with the Community Picnics In The Park noah smith

 

Please join us. Bring your lawn chair too– we’re sure you’ll want to stick around for the entertainment every night. These picnics are a beautiful gift to our community by some amazing sponsors who believe that small town hospitality is not something we want to let go of anytime soon.

3 v 3 Soccer Tournament– register now!

soccer banner

Click here to register for this tournament and support Empower Youth scholarships.

 

If you haven’t registered for camp– it’s not too late!  We are still accepting camp registrations. Please follow this link to get more information.

 

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!

Happy Anniversary to Us!

A year ago… I just couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t watch one more child be left out. I couldn’t handle one more child being belittled for things they could not control: poverty, hygiene, neglect, overworked parents, lice, overtired, lack of opportunity, hunger…. I knew I couldn’t stop it all, but if we could just help one child… and then if that child led us to his family…the next step would be helping his neighbor.

 
It was a pretty simple plan fostered from the need to feed children from the community on Wednesday nights. We drug our friends into this great dream and they have worked tirelessly beside us as our board and confidants. Empower Youth was born. This then grew into funding camp scholarships and providing community building picnics for our town every Wednesday in our town park. We took kids on college visits and we started a leadership class for teens.

 

With a great team already in place at Bethel schools, we were asked in to help provide the fundraising and the outside support for their growing weekend backpack program. Cuts in the school budget had left an avenue of hope for Empower Youth and we gladly rode on in to help our schools. This allowed us to clothe children, feed children, start health and beauty closets, give Kindergarten students brand new pillows, become extended family to many students and visit them in the hospital. We didn’t set out to do all this but it happened. And through it all, our goals remain the same.

 

1: Eradicate food insecurity.
2: Give every child an experience of summer camp where they can be a kid or teen without worry of what is happening at home.
3: Promote leadership opportunities that will push children and teens to do even greater things than they could ever imagine.

 
In this year, we’ve held community fundraisers and met wonderful folks. We’ve told our story over and over again, and some beautiful people have said—“I’ll support Empower Youth!” We have been overwhelmed. We have been caught off guard with the generosity of many and had some sleepless nights with the GIANT goals of sending 132 students to camp for summer 2016 and taking on new schools for our weekend backpack food program.

 
We’ve cried with parents and children. We’ve also been able to rejoice with small and big successes. It has been a year of noticing the child at the back of the line and giving them reachable goals and beautiful dreams. We’ve seen physical changes in the families of our students as they begin to take pride in their rooms and their school work.

 
So here’s to another year of empowering youth… empowering families… and going the extra mile to give youth a future that does not include heroin, broken harmful relationships, and being a victim to their circumstances instead of a champion of their ambitions. Thank you to all our supporters: individuals, churches, companies, small businesses. Whether you gave a can of beanie weenies or have supported us with a one time gift, or have put us as a monthly financial priority–we would be nothing without you. May you be richly blessed for your compassion.

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