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Hope Lives Here: founding the Lincoln County Youth Center

Advocating for Working Families

Childcare is usually thought of as a family matter.

It’s not.

Why? Because private struggles become community issues. If a family does not have childcare what happens? At least one parent is unable to work outside the home, which means the family may not be contributing economically the way they’d like or need to. In today’s world, it’s really hard to make ends meet with just one income in a family.

Sometimes, children are left unattended for long hours of the day – this in-turn leads to things like juvenile crime, high rates of teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse and higher rates of teen suicide. All of these situations lead to communities that aren’t thriving the way they could.

Imagine if you can, a world in which affordable and quality childcare is available in even the most rural communities. Parents can work when they need to. Children are in a safe and inspirational environment. Those families are able to function as part of a greater community. Children grow up with a team of people who believe in them. Less crime, less addiction, and healthier, happier children.

We know that just one positive adult in a child’s life can make a positive difference for a lifetime.

My friend Rebecca is one of those positive adults and she dreamed of creating a comprehensive youth center for the kids in her community.

In late 2020, Rebecca came to me with an idea. We could buy an old church and turn it into just such a place. I immediately jumped in to help.

First, we assembled a team of other moms and grandmas that we knew would share our vision. Then, we got local leaders to buy in.

After that, the work began. Initially, we applied for every grant we could think of. We didn’t get any of them. We changed our tactics and started sharing our idea and vision with the community.

The energy built. Donations started rolling in from individuals and businesses who shared our vision. We started in August and by mid-December of 2020, we had enough donations to pay the lease and utilities until the end of the year. Those donations showed granting agencies we had enough community support to be financially viable. Then we started applying for grants again. This time with partners and a plan.

By March of the following year, we had enough grant funding to plan for an opening. A year after our project began, we were able to open the Lincoln County Youth Center. We’re now heading into our third year of operation.

Is there a secret to our success?

Yes! The most important tip is to share your dreams and vision for success. The more we shared our story, the more people who wanted to help.

Then, look for ways to serve more than one purpose. The building we wanted for a youth center also served as a church for two different congregations, a rehearsal spot for two different dance companies.

We found ways to make it a community building so people could rent it for family events. Local businesses used it for meetings and classes.

Our little project only grew because we shared our vision and our space.

And finally, we are always looking for connections. We bring in guest teachers to give the kids new and wider perspectives. We are creating virtual and outdoor classrooms to expand learning opportunities. We also take the kids outside our community to give them a glimpse into the world around them. All of these experiences build connections, and we think, with better connections, they’re more likely to stay in school and make better and healthier decisions for themselves.

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