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

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

Drop the mic. Boom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Priority 1: Clean the property

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

Priority 2: Food Depot

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

Priority 3: Excavation

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

List of items needed for donation:

Tractor with front loader and PTO

Paint for the barns (interior and exterior)

Windows and doors

4-foot-wide door for packing barn

Insulation board

Cement cap for floor

Light fixtures

Metal shelving


Air conditioner

Wood for packing tables (or restaurant grade packing tables)


List of items need to borrow:

Bobcats, tractors, mowers

List of skills needed:

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

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

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

Twitter: @CommunitySvg

Vocabulary Lesson

Food insecurity—the condition assessed in the food security survey and represented in USDA food security reports—is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.—USDA Economic Research Service

The USDA definition of “food insecurity” is clinical and sterile—which by nature is what we are going for with a definition. We want something to assess the situation, explain things clearly without any emotional or personal quality. In English class, I didn’t do so well with vocabulary. In fact, most of the time I had to do a word picture that would help me remember the definition.

This weekend I had a vision of food insecurity. It didn’t come from a book. It came in the form of a single serve pop-top can of ravioli. It happened to be in the backpack of a young man that stayed the weekend with us. When we got to our house, he immediately tore open the brown bag in his back pack. He took out each item. You would’ve thought it was Christmas morning. He took out a healthy version of a pop tart, sunbutter, bbq garbanzo beans, healthy chips, two juice boxes, and then there were three pop-top cans of ravioli type food. With each item, his eyes lit up. I started cooking supper. He said it smelled great and kept coming over to see how it was going. But I noticed something; he kept carrying around a can of ravioli. He said he would eat it instead of supper. By the time supper was on the table, he sat that can of ravioli by his plate and with a little coaxing he begin to eat the food we had just cooked. As the night went on, even though he had clearly had enough chicken and veggies to fill up one leg, he still broke from his play to return to the table every so often and check on that unopened can of ravioli. Today my buddy traveled with me to a meeting, while I convinced him there would be food there and I had already fixed him two chocolate chip pancakes, guess what? Yep, that can of ravioli HAD to come with us. It’s now 7:13pm, we have already had supper, and the can still sits within arm’s-length of our weekend friend.

The rest of the story: Up until about 3 months ago, he lived in a tent with his Mom and siblings. Before that his family lived out of their car. His Mom has always tried to do her best. She used every resource available to help keep her children fed, clothed, and safe but according to her little one, there were times where the food options were thin. She had to spend this weekend at Children’s Hospital with her older son and we were fortunate enough for her to ask us to keep her youngest. We have had a blast getting to know him better. And we’ve learned a lot about food insecurity. We’ve also learned a lot about what happens when a child who has truly experienced hunger reacts to receiving a backpack full of food for the weekend.

We started helping and expanding the Empower Youth Tiger Pack program for kids like our little visitor this weekend. Watching his face as he opened his pack was confirmation that we are doing the right thing. Yes, I’m sure that there are children who abuse the program and perhaps just waste the food or even trade it for something else on the school bus going home. I even got word that a can of our Vienna sausages has fed a cat or two. But for this child and his family, this pack is more than food—it’s the assurance that he will able to play this weekend without worrying about from where his next meal will come.

PS: I am so thankful for the New Richmond School and for the folks who recognize this great need. This young man’s pack came from them—and it was packed full! Great job!

If you’d like to help with this program, please email our team at We can use monetary and food donations as well as volunteers.


Lori Conley

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