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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.

 

ian clark

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

Game-Changer!

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

Heater

Air conditioner

Wood for packing tables (or restaurant grade packing tables)

Gator

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 toempoweryouth@gmail.com. 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.

https://www.facebook.com/communitysavingsbank/

Twitter: @CommunitySvg

http://www.bankwith-csb.com/

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.

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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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.

Loving lavishly

One of the reasons that Empower Youth is able to supply a hot meal for 120 plus students and adults every Wednesday night is because of our partnership with Master Provisions. This group has been providing food for organizations around the globe for many years but in the last couple of years has also opened up a local office for 501c3 organizations dedicated to feeding the community.
 
We’ve only been partners for about 6 weeks. In that time, my husband and I have grown very fond of the volunteers at MP. Today, when we went to pick up supplies, the freezers were bare. A huge truck that they had been waiting on with meat and other supplies had not made it in. Personally, we were going to be ok as this is an off week for us. So I loaded up on macaroni for our tiger packs and a few other non-perishable goodies. As I was getting ready to leave, the manager of the freezer section, said “Wait right here, I have something I’ve saved back for your kids.” He came back with two gigantic trays of cookies.
 
You know, he could have brought me broccoli…. but what impressed me was that he really knows what we do. There are many organizations coming through that warehouse daily and yet he had something special for us.
 
Our hope is that Empower Youth can pass that sentiment forward. We want to be the kind of leaders that with every child or family that we meet we are ridiculously generous and thoughtful and say “hey, wait right here, I have something saved back for you.”
 
If you are into loving your community lavishly, join us…. that’s the stuff that will make our world a better place.
We are looking for folks or organizations to sponsor Summer picnics for our community and to help us send over 100 students to camp. The bill for each picnic is between $300-$500 and the total cost on camp will be approximately $18,000.  Now that ridiculously generous!

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.

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