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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 to set up a time to see the property and begin your personal or organization-wide story.

You may also call Lori Conley at 614-506-3694 for more information.

Here’s a link to a already written about the property:


We 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:


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.


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.

Life is not fair!


Life’s not fair.
This past week, Empower Youth along with Community Christian Church, was able to take over 50 students to Chuck E Cheese. Not a big deal. Right? Actually, it was a big deal. There were many obstacles to avoid. We first had to look at the cost. With most of our students on free or reduced lunch and from large sibling groups, we wanted to make sure this was a free adventure. Chuck E Cheese helped make that a reality with a great rate. The second obstacle was transportation. While some of our students could be dropped off at Chuck E Cheese. Many of our students had no transportation which meant that a caravan of vans was needed. Perhaps the hardest obstacle was communicating that we could only take elementary K-5th grade students.
For sibling groups, this was very difficult. After all, it’s not fair that their little brother would need to stay home. Some of our students even came to the door of our community representatives demanding we take older students. I received a few ugly face book messages myself. Unfortunately, we needed to say no. We had to say no.  In poverty, money is fleeting. In poverty, shelter is temporary. In poverty, relationships are gold. In poverty, family is first. So for our program to set up guidelines was very hard for some of our families.
So why make this kind of distinction? Why couldn’t we just take all the children? Was it a money issue? Not really. Was it a transportation issue? Yes, at first, but by the time we rolled out we would’ve had plenty of room. Was it something else? Yes. What happens when preschool children come to an elementary event? The elementary sibling takes on the role parent and the kid factor is lost. What happens when the older student comes to an elementary event? Unfortunately they are bored and cause chaos. Again, the elementary student loses out.
In order to break through generational poverty, it’s also important to give kids a chance to be…kids! The slogan for Chuck E Cheese is “Where a kid can be a kid!” Part of our goal with Empower Youth is to bring independence to our children. Every child individually has promise. Every child individually is important to us and can do something great in our community. Still there is a greater lesson here for all students. While identifying as family groups is a beautiful thing, there is much value in allowing a student to be free to experience things on their own.
What impact does this have on sibling groups? First, it means that each child can search out their own path. Empowering youth means that we must look at the family factor. Is there a way to teach students that they each have unique abilities and that the path of an older sibling (particularly if it is destructive) does not have to be their path? As we seek out ways to make a difference in our community, we will be confronted with this issue. In fact with our event to Chuck E Cheese, that factor is so strong that some elementary students were not allowed to come at all because we would not take their older/younger siblings.
In a world where everyone gets a trophy whether they participate or not, boundaries are blurred and life becomes unfair. When individual growth is replaced with group think, we see individualism disappear. Now more than ever, our students need to see that they are unique. They are gifted. They are able to do incredible things. However, if it always becomes an “All Skate” then our students lose their drive to seek the path they are created and gifted for—what a tragedy. Empower Youth is about leading each child to their greatest potential. Want to be a part of this transformation? It starts with relationships. It starts with seeing children for their gifts and talents and making an investment in them. It starts with individual plans unique to each child. Keep tuning in for more information as we put together our plan for fall. In the meantime, join us on Wednesdays this summer starting May 27 for Picnic in the Park at Burke Park from 6-8pm.

11172005_10206615805775508_1014774173_oTaking a trip through Bethel, you can essentially find everything you need. We have various fast food chains, a sit down home style diner or two, two pizza places, a couple of drug stores, a 5 and Dime, churches on the main drag and some stacked just one street back–we have it all!  We have a community park and schools with dedicated teachers. In essence, this little town is probably like most others.

Except when you start really walking the streets and you see the abandoned homes. It may look like most others til you realize that just this morning a young man passed out from overdosing in a parking lot of one of our local restaurants, his needles and drug paraphanelia scattered around him–a needle still stuck in his arm.

Once a year, our Primary school has a talent show. I have to say that place is packed. This year I watched our little Kindergarten class perform their special songs. They were singing monkeys in a tree and all about peanut butter and jelly. Those children were full of energy and the house came alive.  In 12 years, these students will be graduating. What will their future be?  Who will they become?

We all have a responsibility to our youth. We all can make a difference.

We are a grassroots organization committed to driving the message to our youth that they can indeed break through poverty, drug addiction, and neglect to become empowered to do great things. We believe there is potential in every child–if we get to them in time and show them that there is life beyond the drugs being dealt at the back of the restaurant parking lot. We secured our website domain as Honestly, that’s where its starts. If you won’t take a minute to empower youth then when will they get the courage to step up to bigger challenges. Children can’t achieve what they haven’t been exposed to– many of our students can do so much more– they just need you.

Empower youth begins with me. Empower youth begins with you.

Please join us in this mission– we need volunteers and funds. If you can help please fill out the form below or click on our donate now page to put some traction to your action.

Breaking Students Out Of Generational Poverty


Three years ago, a Dad brought his son to visit a local church in Bethel. As the brand new children’s minister of this small church, I was more than excited to take a plate of cookies to the home of my first new visitor. I was so happy to see that the home was within walking distance of our church– a perfect location for a family who wants to be involved in church programs. As I walked up to the rather ill-kept Cape Cod home, I soon realized not one family lived here. Actually, there were four different family names on the little plaque by the door. This one family home had been divided into four small apartments. Unfortunately, the name of the family I had come to see wasn’t even listed. As I walked off the porch, an older gentleman inquired who we were looking for. I told him and he pointed to the side of the house. Sadly, there was a small set of steps leading to a cellar with a plywood door. This was where my new prospects lived. I knocked on the door which gave with each rap of knuckles and my heart sank. The family wasn’t home and I left the cookies on the door handle that wasn’t much more than a cabinet handle. The door was locked by a padlock. With that visit, I began to see that ministering in Bethel was not going to be a milk and cookies ministry. Cellars have no windows. How do you share the light in such a dark place? This ministry just got complicated and was more than a small church could fund.

Bethel has a 38% poverty level. Heroin and other drugs have hit Bethel hard leaving families broken and scattered. Youth are watching their parents work minimum wage jobs and still not be able to make it. Worse still, many students watch parents caught in a cycle of assistance where the family is actually better off getting government help than going to work. Living here, children do not dream of big jobs or careers. Living here, children eat well for the first three weeks of the month and starve the last week. Living here, children rely on free lunch through the school year and rely on their neighbors during the summer. Living here is not living.

Out of desperation to reach into the lives of youth who are living in or walking the edge of generational poverty in Bethel, Ohio and surrounding communities Empower Youth was created. This 501c3 non-profit organization is in place to bridge the gaps that churches and educators are stretching to fill. The goal of Empower Youth is simple: provide resources to families and children to break through generational poverty. We want to provide avenues for nutrition, creative arts programs, and leadership development among the youth so that they will want to break out of generational poverty and be able to support themselves when they reach adulthood. It is impossible to hit a target you have never seen so a major effort of Empower Youth will be to show the youth of Bethel what they can become by providing scholarships for leadership development, summer camps, and by forging mentoring relationships.

Care to help? Volunteers for our Summer feeding program and mentors for our fall tutor club are needed. We are in great need for funds. This program outgrew our church budget in December 2014. This prompted the structuring of Empower Youth as an entity separate from the home church base. We are seeking donations to allow us to cover a June – December 2015 budget of $11,000.00. We are a grass roots entity with all money going directly to the children and youth of Bethel. We have no administrative costs.

Please email to volunteer or to make a donation. Or you may mail a tax deductible donation to our home office PO Box 351, Bethel, OH 45106.

Thank you for your consideration.

Lori Conley

Empower Youth

Executive Director

Fill out the form below to get more involved or have your questions answered:

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