We just wanted to fill in the gaps.
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.
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 email@example.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:
We need you!
The end of the year… How did your year go?
Empower Youth found ourselves in the middle of a whirlwind of activity that could not have happened without your help. Some of the thing we were able to accomplish through donations of time and finances are:
We brought a community together and fed more than 4000 meals in the park this summer.
We helped a few teens start their first business.
We ventured into more schools… and are now sending home weekend food bags to more than 260 students every weekend.
We gave every Kindergarten student in Bethel Schools and Amelia Elementary a brand new pillow, pillow case, and stuffed animal and taught them the importance of “dreaming big.”
We sent 160 children and teens to camp.
We continue to feed more than 120 students and volunteers a weekly hot meal on Wednesdays.
We reached out to Grant Career Center and filled in the gaps for their pancake breakfast, Christmas giveaway, and cancer fundraiser.
We matched up 137 children with more than 100 elves for Christmas.
We added more than 100 volunteers this year through our picnics in the park and our weekend food pack program.
We moved from a small boiler room to a packing facility that has allowed us to host groups of 6-25 individuals and so far every month we’ve been blessed with a special donor or donors giving us the rent money!
We worked with interns this year encouraging them to find their gifts and talents and teaching the importance of a job well done.
In short, we filled in the gaps… which is really all we ever wanted to do.
Going into the new year, Amelia Elementary has asked us to fill in the gap of teaching leadership classes for their 3rd-5th grade students once a month. We are looking at hosting some pretty amazing fundraisers including a men’s retreat in 2017. We’ve upped our game on our shopping by partnering with the FreeStore Foodbank and Master Provisions. Sometimes we have some much food donated and have found such great deals that we can actually send home weekend food bags for as low as a $1.62!
We couldn’t do any of this without you! If you are realizing that you need more year end tax deductions please consider sending us a year end gift via paypal or through the mail today! Year end tax deductions will be given to all gifts postmarked by December 31!
Mail your gift to Empower Youth, PO Box 351, Bethel, OH 45106.
To Clermont County and beyond…
The vision of Empower Youth has always been to fill in the gaps between parents, schools, and churches. Our hearts focus on sometimes those very small but significant cracks in the formation of a child’s emotional, physical, and social needs and patch or fill. Sometimes, it’s for a day. Other times, it is a more formidable patch that takes years. But all in all, we still are just gap-fillers.
Over the last two years, our territory has increased but the mission has remained: fight food insecurity, give all students an opportunity to grow at Summer camp, and provide opportunities for students to become leaders that earn their own way. As we have grown as an organization, there is a very distinct population that has cried out to us and this group has become our territory—the rural poor.
The rural poverty that we have seen in Clermont County is about more than just shopping at a thrift store and being on free or reduced lunch. Rural poverty becomes a very hungry animal that grows as a family’s debts, needs, and hardships grows How do we step in at Empower Youth? By partnering with schools and parents, we come alongside students and give them the tools to stay in school. If a student is hungry, they can’t learn. Once they fall behind, it is more natural to just “eek” by or simply drop out than to stay with the program. Child poverty rates grow where the drop-out rate grows. Our newest partner, Grant Career Center, understands this demographic and goes above and beyond to keep their students in school and progressing towards the goal of beyond graduation. As the city and jobs move away from rural areas, the issue of transportation becomes a major player in poverty. What happens when you live beyond the bus line? You no longer are able to make it to important appointments because your ride fell through. You find yourself moved to the back of the line for much needed help. Of course, there is always one person waiting to give you a ride—the drug dealer. After you take your first or second hit, you don’t remember if you ever arrived to your destination and now there is paranoia that you can never really get help because who wants to help a user?
So, this is our call… this is our mission… give the youth of the rural population a future.
The first step is to fight their food insecurities and move them up in their classes. Every September through May weekend, EY partners with schools to provide weekend meal bags. Here’s some pics of our most recent packing team. They packed 200 bags in 45 minutes. Most of the food came from a local church’s VBS from the Summer. We are always in need of food. We estimate that this church saved us $800. Want to help, please make a monetary donation or start a collection for us in your organization.
For some reason, I don’t know where to start. I’ve been trying to write this article for two weeks. Ever since the last picnic in the park and before the start of school, I’ve just wanted to say “thanks”. But the words have failed me. All I have is what feels like a huge heart of cotton candy… floating… and wistful thinking of what our community would be like if every time we tried to cut through a day, we came up with a slice of people having a good time, caring for one another… Wouldn’t that be nice?
In great literature, I think they call that a utopia… a perfect society. The Scriptures would say that’s Heaven. And during the Summer, I call it “Picnics in the Park.” This little slice of kindness and goodwill towards all was created by so many people, I can’t even list them all. This little slice took the effort of many imperfect folks just trying our best. Sure, some things didn’t go as planned. Some days may have seemed right to the wire… but in the end—Burke Park became a place to hang out, strengthen relationships, forget about some relationships, enjoy some peace, let your kids play with the comfort of safety, grab a quick bite, enjoy a long sit, hear some great tunes, watch some awesome kids, and just be… without comparing yourself to your neighbor. Just be… and finally see that Summer is about breathing in and breathing out and knowing that there are still safe places and still pockets of folks who want what you want—peace.
So thank you to the many companies that stepped in. Thank you to the churches that worked in the forefront and behind the scenes. Thank you to the folks who just stood around waiting to jump in where needed. I am really at a loss how to express myself to you. I can only tell you that as the director of Empower Youth, my heart bursts with gratitude towards you… and there is much anticipation for next Summer—even a little angst as I wonder how to have a do-over as fabulous as this year.
The numbers are in on our camps this Summer—Empower Youth sent 141 students to camp! That’s worth repeating—Empower Youth sent 141 students to camp! Thank you to the many special donors and to those folks who participated in our Send a Kid To Camp fundraisers. If you bought a shirt, you helped send a kid to camp. Thank you to Community Savings Bank for taking on the shirt fundraising project!
SUMMER FOOD SUMMER FUN:
This little program grew and ebbed and flowed with our hot Summer. We started with just a few students but in the end we were running 30 – 45 students consistently with a few really huge days of over 45! This was a fantastic offering for us and we are thankful for our partnership with the Freestore Foodbank for the free meals that were easy to serve and for the weekend bags we were able to distribute every day.
Well, by the first Thursday in September, we will have started packing the weekend backpacks for the Bethel Tate Tiger Packs, the Amelia Elementary Tiger Packs, and the Grant Career Center Weekend Survival Kits. We are increasing our program to the point of doubling what we currently do. We already have started collecting names of students needing weekend food packs and we know they will grow.
Thursday September 1, 2016, we secured the lease on a packing space of over 900 square feet. We are now in a position to have groups come and help us pack 400-500 packs at a time. We have plenty of parking space. We have plenty of room. The anticipation is killing us as we prepare to start using this space.
Everything we do is a leap! We are filling in the gaps in our local schools by jumping over chasms of territory we have never navigated before.
In just a few weeks, we will be giving all the Kindergarten students of Amelia Elementary and Bethel William Bick Primary a brand new pillow, pillow case, and stuffed animal. This was all donated by Multi-color Corporation with the hard working hands of girl scouts tie-dying those pillow cases as well as seamstresses from around Bethel making beautiful handmade original cases. Dream Big is ready to go and as a leader, I was blessed to do little more than pick up the items. So different from last year.
We need weekend food packers—own this project with us. If you have a youth group or other community group or just want to bring your family, we need folks to sign up to pack our weekend packs. You can choose to come for a couple of hours or you can decide to stay until you reach a specific goal of so many bags packed. This is up to you. We strongly believe in letting our volunteers lead on… and we just hang out and provide the backup you need to accomplish your dreams.
We need help with our dream big project. We have all the ingredients for this– we just need a team to come in and put it all together: stuff pillows and stuffed animals in pillowcases and then wrap and rubber band it all to be placed in a bag for each Kindergarten student in Bethel and Amelia Elementary.
We need monthly support. Every month, I receive a check of $24 from one of our monthly supporters. When I get her check, I don’t see dollars. I see 6 weekend packs. 6 children who will eat because she gave faithfully. At the end of the year, that $24 a month will have provided 72 weekend packs—that is a cherished donation. That is enough to feed two families. We have other donors who give $100 a month. I know that with that over the course of the year I will be able to provide 300 weekend packs. I see 300 faces. With a monthly donation, we are able to make purchases in advance and get the best deals for our programming.
We need food collections from civic groups and churches of the specific food we need for our weekend packs! Cans and cans of ravioli, beefaroni, spaghetti and meatballs are used every week. Most weeks we have a combination of those food items with mac and cheese or two of those canned goods. That’s expensive but a lot of times, folks will take it upon themselves to donate us cases of the stuff—one lady took advantage of a local sale and gave us 5 cases! What a blessing. Some folks see $ signs, some see cans of food, I see 60 faces with smiles.
It seems that with Empower Youth, we barely say thank you before we are asking again. And for that, I cannot apologize. Not until the last heroin addict is gone from Clermont County, not until the last set of big hungry eyes are satisfied can I rest, not until there are no more children living in cellars with their single parent or “camping out” permanently can I sleep and say “we are done.”
Please help us as we go in to this year. Please say that this year, you will jump on board in such way that is meaningful to you and to us. Perhaps it’s a sacrificial gift. Maybe it’s just saying you will volunteer to pack or deliver packs. Maybe, your gift is that you are going to help us mentor students…
Whatever the call—I will never tie your commitment to your wallet—I will always tie it to your heart.
This is opportunity here for you to do big things in very big and very small ways.
YOUR NEXT STEP:
Email Lori Conley at firstname.lastname@example.org and simply tell me your heart. Then we will work together to see how you can make your dreams for this area and beyond a reality with our help.
And yes, we do have very specific jobs to be done if the dreamer part of you is a bit rusty 😉
Come with me to an Empower Youth picnic and see what we see…
Tonight we saw new faces… they were enjoying the food, the music, and just being away from the house enjoying the neighbors.
Tonight, we saw a grandpa, giving his granddaughter some advice… we weren’t close enough to listen in but that ol’ tree stump was a great place for a young Ella Kate to give Grandpa her attention.
Tonight, we met a couple who said they had never heard about us until a Junior high boy brought a flyer to their door and talked to them about how great the mac n cheese was going to be tonight.
Tonight, two neighbors met who never knew they were neighbors… and they found out they have much in common and left encouraging each other to just keep on keeping on.
Tonight, the Lion’s Club surely out did themselves and we were so grateful for the meal they provided and their love for this community.
Tonight, the music was incredible. The group was a fill-in but seriously they could’ve been a mainliner and we would’ve never known. Pretty much loved everything they sang!
Tonight, the line never stopped— but neither did the food… We had enough and leftovers to feed over 350 people!
Tonight, we are so thankful for the staff at McDonald’s who had to make us double the orange drink because we ran out within 45 minutes!
Tonight, we ran out of ice for snowcones by 7:23… we hated that but wow—that is a lot of ice… the first time we’ve done that!
Tonight, the crafts were hopping, the giveaways down at the stage were non-stop… but most of all the smiles from folks never ended! We love Kadin’s windsock!
Tonight, we saw ministers among us… and they didn’t preach a sermon (YAY!) They came together to hang with the community and serve where needed.
Tonight, I saw friends talking and sticking around until way after the party was over… I just love that.
If you have helped in any way this summer, I thank you. Some folks stay consistently every week to help us clean up. Some youth groups stick around and make a pass through the park just to pick up the trash before they leave. I have so many folks filling in gaps that I don’t even know exist because they just patch things up before anyone knows there is a problem. I’ve not worried over entertainment this Summer—it’s covered! I’ve not worried over crafts for kids—it’s covered! I’ve not worried over food (well except that 15 gallons of tea that spilled in my van—it’s covered–the van that is). This is community. This is unique. This is hometown pride.
Next Wednesday we are honoring our police and firefighters. They will be on hand as well as an incredible entertainment lineup by Taylor Shannon starting at 6pm and Cevin West starting at 7:20pm. We will have fair food so come hungry for corn dogs (by an anonymous donor), funnel cakes by Hydro, cotton candy, popcorn, snowcones, and drinks. It won’t be healthy but it will be FUN!
A 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!
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 🙂
Our first picnic was amazing. Great turnout. Awesome food cooked by the hot dog rolling team of Community Savings Bank in Bethel OH. Incredible concert by Noah Smith. We couldn’t have been more pleased with the turnout. In fact, it was exactly what we had hoped for in the beginning. It was a true slice of our community–all just enjoying a night out! We will be posting pictures soon. But for now, check out our facebook page often as we will have the most updated pics and posts there.
This week will be busy!
1– We send our first campers to camp on Wednesday night. We are sending 10 2nd and 3rd graders to camp! We are so excited to send these on their way with a full scholarship. We are now sending over 104 children to camp…and the number is growing.
2–We start our Summer Food Program on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Shepherd’s Place (545 W Plane Street, Bethel OH 45106). We will be serving from 11a-1p. The meal is free. We will also be taking applications for a weekend food backpack program. Click on this Final Version summer meals programs application-formatted and bring the form with you if you’d like to participate.
Tuesday’s Meal: Turkey and cheese on a hoagie bun, applesauce, fruit juice, chocolate milk.
Thursday’s Meal: Meat and Cheese combo wrap, salsa, fruit juice, chocolate milk
3– Our second picnic of the season is Wednesday from 6-8pm. This community picnic is going to be delicious with fried chicken and some awesome fixings!
Here are some great pics taken at our picnic! More to come…
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.
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.