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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

Patching The Pavement… getting youth on down the road!

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.

 

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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It was so good to see you!

13697057_1285818024792422_8110704145429920051_nA 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!

Summer Picnics Are Here

Last year, Empower Youth broke out into Burke Park with one goal– connect our community in a way that no matter your background, paystub, or facebook status that we could all come together and have a great time enjoying our families, our neighbors, and meeting new friends along the way.  We had a fantastic success. We served over 3000 meals and filled in a gap that towns all over America are missing– community.

When we can truly be in community, then we celebrate successes like graduations, marriages, babies, retirement… When we are in community, we are there for misfortunes like sickness, loss of loved ones, job losses, and wrecked homes.

Our picnics aren’t meant to be profound, it’s just that good friends, good food, and fun seem to make those long weeks of Summer pass by with some great memories that linger way after the frost hits the pumpkins in the Fall.

Connect with the Community Picnics In The Park noah smith

 

Please join us. Bring your lawn chair too– we’re sure you’ll want to stick around for the entertainment every night. These picnics are a beautiful gift to our community by some amazing sponsors who believe that small town hospitality is not something we want to let go of anytime soon.

3 v 3 Soccer Tournament– register now!

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Click here to register for this tournament and support Empower Youth scholarships.

 

If you haven’t registered for camp– it’s not too late!  We are still accepting camp registrations. Please follow this link to get more information.

 

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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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!

I’ve Been Diagnosed… finally

My own case of ADHDAdvocate for the Dreamers, Harbor for the Downcast….

For the last few months, my husband and I along with our board members and many of our volunteers have been seeing that we are outgrowing the beautiful storage and packing space that a local church (Faith Chapel in Bethel) has so willingly allowed us to use. They have been incredible advocates for Empower Youth including giving us a key to their building and to their hearts. We’ve never taken this gift of space as trivial or effortless. They in many ways were the spring board which helped take our efforts from being a closed group to a true community offering. It was indeed the hand up we needed to take our Weekend Backpack program to the next level of volunteer coordination and promotion to the public. Now we find ourselves sitting on the edge of taking on more packs, needing to store more inventory in order to purchase at greater discounts, and bringing in more volunteers. This is getting big.

 
At the same time that we are space hunting, we are also attempting to send 3 times as many kids to camp as last year. We have been doing price comparisons to get the best bang for the buck while still giving our students the greatest experience possible. Over the next few weeks, we will be producing a list of camp dates that we are sponsoring scholarships for. Parents who would like to send their child to camp pick the date that fits their child’s age and fill out a very simple form. We then will provide a camper concierge service (so to speak) where we make sure every camper that goes to camp through Empower Youth has transportation to and from camp, bedding, special recreation gear, toiletries, and other items needed to have a successful camp experience. This is getting big.

 
Finally, as our leadership class for 6th grade and up begins to finish for the season, it will be time to make good on all the incentives our teens have been earning—everything from college trips to camp scholarships are in the works. And of course, there is some fun thrown in. Why? Because we want students to have the “feel good” effect from earning their way. We want them to experience the satisfaction of knowing that they have made things happen for themselves and they have earned their way. This is getting big.

 
On more than one occasion in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been told I have ADD or ADHD, given the bony finger of advice to rest more, and even told I must be on something to keep moving. And to all that, I can say that there is a little truth to it all. I do have ADHD; although, it is not a clinical diagnosis. It’s my own. I am guilty of Advocating for Dreamers and Harboring the Downcast. Does it make me hyperactive? Yes—but not because I have a chemical imbalance. I love people. I love them in masses and I love them by themselves. Most folks who know me would say that I play to the crowds. I am indeed happy there. However, when you start working with the families of Empower Youth, it’s not just about a crowd anymore. It’s about a boy named Sal, a Momma named Dawn, a girl name Aiden, and Dad named Tony. As EY grows, I hope we never forget to learn names and make home visits. I hope we show up at hospitals and funerals as well as cheer on 4-H clubs at the county fair. Empowering youth and young families can’t just happen at a park. It happens during that drive to the hospital with an expectant momma. It happens at school hanging out with the secretary and encouraging the teachers and leaders who are in the trenches. I do have ADHD—I hope I always find time to Advocate for Dreamers and Harbor the Downcast.

 
Empower Youth is committed to eradicating food insecurities, sending kids to camp, and providing leadership opportunities for children and teens to propel themselves in to a future worth living! We are Advocates for Dreamers and Harbors for the Downcast—and the work is exhausting. However, we will not waver.

 

How can you help?

We need one time gifts for camp scholarships. We are estimating our costs to be $18,000. We will also need sleeping bags, pillows, swim wear, and other camp items. Sponsor a child, sponsor a bunk, sponsor a group of campers– or hey, write the check for the full amount.

 
We need folks to pack the weekend food packs for our schools.

 
We need a new packing facility. We are looking at property and are even dreaming big dreams of a drive through warehouse. Hey dream big or go home! What would that look like? Money for land? A concrete service to pour a slab for a pole barn to built on site by volunteers? I’m dreaming… but there is a little one acre lot between Williamsburg and Bethel that would be perfect. Perhaps you have an acre to donate?

 
We need businesses to make Empower Youth their poster child and support us by sending us leaders and connections.

 
Attend and promote one of our upcoming fundraisers—a March 22 Coupon Class at the Bethel Library, the quarter auction is Tuesday April 19 at the ARF Bingo Hall, and coming in August a HUGE soccer three on three tournament.

 
We need volunteers to be donation coordinators: make phone calls on our behalf for specific items for our quarter auction as well as find us picnic partners for the summer.

 
We need churches to jump in and support our camp efforts and feeding program. We will be your camp or VBS missionary. We can come and present our vision to your board, your team, and your congregation.

 
We need watchdogs in the community to make sure that if there is a gap to be filled in our schools regarding students going home hungry, that Empower Youth is called and able to help fill that gap.

 

My hope is that I am not alone. My hope is that the dreamers and the downcasts feel the love and encouragement of bigger dreamers and doers!

Email me: Lori Conley at toempoweryouth@gmail.com for information about sending kids/teens to camp, volunteer job descriptions, and with any other questions. Click here to make that donation that your heart is pulling for or your brain is pushing.

 

I don’t want to cure my Advocate for Dreamers, Harbor for the Downcast condition—I WANT TO SPREAD IT!

Happy Anniversary to Us!

A year ago… I just couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t watch one more child be left out. I couldn’t handle one more child being belittled for things they could not control: poverty, hygiene, neglect, overworked parents, lice, overtired, lack of opportunity, hunger…. I knew I couldn’t stop it all, but if we could just help one child… and then if that child led us to his family…the next step would be helping his neighbor.

 
It was a pretty simple plan fostered from the need to feed children from the community on Wednesday nights. We drug our friends into this great dream and they have worked tirelessly beside us as our board and confidants. Empower Youth was born. This then grew into funding camp scholarships and providing community building picnics for our town every Wednesday in our town park. We took kids on college visits and we started a leadership class for teens.

 

With a great team already in place at Bethel schools, we were asked in to help provide the fundraising and the outside support for their growing weekend backpack program. Cuts in the school budget had left an avenue of hope for Empower Youth and we gladly rode on in to help our schools. This allowed us to clothe children, feed children, start health and beauty closets, give Kindergarten students brand new pillows, become extended family to many students and visit them in the hospital. We didn’t set out to do all this but it happened. And through it all, our goals remain the same.

 

1: Eradicate food insecurity.
2: Give every child an experience of summer camp where they can be a kid or teen without worry of what is happening at home.
3: Promote leadership opportunities that will push children and teens to do even greater things than they could ever imagine.

 
In this year, we’ve held community fundraisers and met wonderful folks. We’ve told our story over and over again, and some beautiful people have said—“I’ll support Empower Youth!” We have been overwhelmed. We have been caught off guard with the generosity of many and had some sleepless nights with the GIANT goals of sending 132 students to camp for summer 2016 and taking on new schools for our weekend backpack food program.

 
We’ve cried with parents and children. We’ve also been able to rejoice with small and big successes. It has been a year of noticing the child at the back of the line and giving them reachable goals and beautiful dreams. We’ve seen physical changes in the families of our students as they begin to take pride in their rooms and their school work.

 
So here’s to another year of empowering youth… empowering families… and going the extra mile to give youth a future that does not include heroin, broken harmful relationships, and being a victim to their circumstances instead of a champion of their ambitions. Thank you to all our supporters: individuals, churches, companies, small businesses. Whether you gave a can of beanie weenies or have supported us with a one time gift, or have put us as a monthly financial priority–we would be nothing without you. May you be richly blessed for your compassion.

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