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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/

 

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 😉

Tonight we saw…

Come with me to an Empower Youth picnic and see what we see…

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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.13934624_10157318500655565_7581623864194303336_n

 

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.

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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.2097_1470283441881

 

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!

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Tonight, the line never stopped— but neither did the food… We had enough and leftovers to feed over 350 people!

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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!

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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 🙂

 

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.

 

CAMP TIME! Sign Up Now!

Let’s do this! With butterflies in my stomach, toes tapping, and camp songs playing in my head– it is time to open up the 2016 Camp Scholarship Registrations! This is big.

Why? (Besides the fact we are organized enough to do this) WE are officially saying– WE BELIEVE IN YOUR KIDS! WE BELIEVE IN YOUR FAMILY!

And we will stake the money, the cash, the moolah of our supporters on it!

What do you need to do?  Summer Camp Registration 2016 pg1 pg 2

Where do you send it? Email it toempoweryouth@gmail.com, drop it in the mail at PO Box 351, Bethel OH 45106, or take it to any church in BETHEL and they will find us! You can even give it your school secretary and they will track us down.

What does it cost? We will hold your free scholarship for a fully refundable $10 bill. Why? Because last year, we gave away 15 spots for FREE and they were no shows. That’s 15 kids that lost out on camp. So this year… show up to camp and you get your $10 back! Wow what a deal! It’s like mini savings account to eat out on after you drop the kids off!

How many spots?  Obscure goal: 132!

Deadline April 30 for application. $10 must be in by June 1.

Need more info?  Opening letter for EY Scholarships

Scholarships are based on first come, first served, need, and if you are a first time camper. Every application will be considered and notified of scholarship when received– cause we’re cool like that!

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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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