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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.

 

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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/

 

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.

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!

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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.

Enlarging Territory: My Buddy Sal

Meet Sal. He’s ten years old and he has wiggled into my heart. When I first met Sal, his Momma introduced him to me and explained that he had some speech problems and was a bit autistic. I met him right after Halloween. I remember the first time he came to my Sunday morning class. He was friendly and happy but definitely a bit shaky and unsure of just what he was getting into. Sal came to class with his brother Joey. Now Joey was a bit more apprehensive and only one year older than Sal he pretty much towered over Sal. Joey is extremely autistic and was more than cautious coming into class.

By the end of class, I realized Sunday mornings would never be the same. We would need more help to ensure that the boys could get the most out of our service. Change upset Joey and he would rage while Sal would just rock back and forth if we moved too fast. Nevertheless the boys kept coming and within just a few weeks, we were friends. One Sunday the boys’ mom shared that Sal was going to be put on a feeding tube system sometime in January. I could hardly believe it. He was definitely a little dude but I just never saw that coming.

A few weeks ago, Joey had to be in the hospital for an extended stay. His Mom, who is new to the area, was in a bad spot. She needed to be at the hospital but she needed care for Sal. It seemed natural for Sal to stay with our family. You had better believe I was determined to fatten Sal up. If he would only gain a pound, the NG tube wouldn’t happen. I fed him everything. We made cookies. We had ravioli. We had fried chicken. We had pizza. In between meals, Sal could eat whatever he wanted.

After that weekend Sal went back to the doctor. He hadn’t gained a pound… I had gained three!!! Brokenhearted, I listened to his mom tell me that indeed the procedure would be scheduled. Sal was scared. The tears still roll down my cheeks even as I write this–this kid really gets to me.

He had his proceedure today. He swallowed an NG tube and  if all goes well he will be on a feeding program and  will gain the nutrition he needs. His Mom who has been so willing to share her heart has given permission for me to learn the system so that Sal has a larger circle of freedom…an expanded territory.

My main goal for Empower Youth has always been to give kids a step up, a step out, a step forward. As I prepared myself for today, I keep thinking what a coincidence– what a “God” thing that even in this relationship with Sal and his family that we are filling in the gaps and enlarging his circle.  I hate to write this but I’ll confess, I want to learn how to care for Sal because I want him to receive a camp scholarship from  Empower Youth to attend camp this Summer. I’m fortunate enough to be a dean for a “Supernaturally gifted” 3 day retreat and I know that Sal and his brother Joey would love it!!

Our goal is for Sal and Joey and about a hundred other students to be able to go to camp. While everyone is snowed in–all I’m thinking of is how to organize that many registrations, make sure that many kids have what they need, and how are we going to provide that many partial to full scholarships!!

Empower Youth is all about enlarging the territory of children and youth so that they discover their gifts and strengths and become leaders in their community. I’m not satisfied for Sal to be bound by a feeding tube. My hope is to see him gain strength and not need it.

There are so many children tethered by more than a feeding tube. They need folks to be their buddy and help them enlarge their territory… Neglect, poverty, abuse, drugs, and lack of education are stronger bonds to break. But with your help, Empower Youth will enlarge their territory.

I can’t wait to update this story with new adventures of Sal.

Long on need, short on resources

Today, I received an encouraging email from a friend of a friend. He had visited our Empower Youth site and was inquiring about how he could be involved. I’m pretty excited as I am with everyone who has emailed or sent me quick Facebook messages.

As I ended my letter in reply to his inquiry, I said we are long on need and short on resources. Then–send.  Then–I started thinking… is that really true?

I mean I know the “long on need” is true. It seems the Lord is ever trying to place people who have very legitimate needs in our path. Today, a young single Mom with transmission trouble after she spent money on repairs less than 24 hours ago. Last night, a child wanting so desperately to go to camp whose family is surviving on her Mom’s babysitting work that varies week to week. This afternoon, another brown eyed girl asked if I could help her earn money for camp as her Mom’s salary as a home health aide doesn’t leave room for extras. The need is long as I just made a list of 25 children who I know really need camp but have no way of paying for it–and those are just the children I know. I’m sure that as soon as word gets out that more will start asking.

So yes… Long on need fits. Short on resources? Hmmmmm. Maybe I was overdramatic? …just a little.

I’m not completely short on resources. I have been in contact with many people who want to volunteer and with each volunteer I’m praying for them to have contact with someone or some organization that will be able to help us. Short on resources… not really when you figure, we are tied in to a very large network. We are tied into the body of Christ. As I have witnessed, folks don’t have to be local to help. Our first donation came from a beautiful friend a hundred miles from Bethel.

So what can you really do? Well if you work for a grocery store or other retail company, how about seeing if we can get funds or gift cards to purchase food or even gift cards to give away. We actually thought it would be cool to give away an Ipad for those attending our summer in the park as an incentive for folks to come. So…who knows Apple 🙂

What can you do? Where do you work– can you check to see if your company offers grants or other funds to local charities? Now that we are 501c3 we are able to accept tax-deductible donations.

What can you do? Are you a member of rotary, lion’s club, vfw, big brothers/big sisters,  or any other organization that is looking to mentor students? The sooner we are forging relationships the more we can do to grow our kids into youth who can make a difference in this community.

What can you do? Influence those around you with resources. Pray for us. Ask me how you can help and I will meet with you and figure out the right spot. Send us a donation. Or send us an application or a link to a program that you think will help us. Somebody call Ellen!

Wow… I guess we aren’t that short on resources. They are there. I just need help in mining them. If you’d like to help with the mining– Hi Ho Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go!

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