The year of 2018 has been an exciting time full of amazing growth opportunities both for the youth and for the JEMfriends staff and volunteers alike. It has been a year of many transitions, but God has been faithful all along the way. Looking back, I can see that we only anticipated a portion of what came to pass in this year; and looking forward, I am sure that we can only anticipate a little of what God has in store in this next year.
At the outset of this year, my staff and I were eager for new opportunities and growth, but we also understood that some change would be required. Three of our JEM girls graduated our program this year, and we were able to help them get settled into their own apartments, additionally supporting one of them into college. We also had more than six girls on our waiting list and needed to re-open our second girls’ home to receive them. Re-opening this home meant that we would need to fill volunteer staff positions as well. All of these changes and adjustments were to be expected.
A major transition that came unexpectedly was a result of the shifting housing market. While in the process of relocating our boys, we lost the rental we were moving into, leaving us forty-five days to find another. We searched and prayed for provision for the full forty-five days, but we came up empty-handed. Just as we were running out of time, a JEMfriends supporter agreed to purchase a home for the purpose of renting it to JEMfriends! While we waited for the details to come together, we experienced the fantastic support that the JEMfriends community provides. We were rented an RV for the boys to move into temporarily, we were given a place to park it, and volunteers helped to get the boys to school and work. The boys maintained grateful attitudes despite the lack of structure. After a week, we were finally able to get the boys settled into a more permanent home. Because of the location of the new boys’ house, we continued to need transportation support, which our staff and volunteers faithfully provided. We were tremendously thankful for the rallied support of our JEMfriends community!
After getting the JEM boys settled, we were able to re-open our second girls’ house. By Thanksgiving, we had three girls in one house, a full house of four boys in another, and three more girls ready to move into the second girls’ house. What a long process! We are incredibly thankful to God for granting us the support that we needed in this season.
On October 13th, we celebrated our ten-year anniversary at our annual banquet and fundraiser. We hosted over two hundred guests and enjoyed a night of inspiration, complete with a few songs from Derek Clark, known as the Rapping Dad. One of our youth, Jacob, also spoke and shared some of his successes during his time in JEMfriends. We had a wonderful evening and raised much needed funds, thanks to our amazing banquet sponsors.
Overall, we have accomplished a great deal at JEMfriends this year. We housed a total of fourteen youth; threw ten birthday parties; gave over fifty Christmas gifts to our youth; gave a car to one youth; distributed over fifty bus passes; and provided over twenty life-skills classes on topics ranging from cooking to budgeting, car maintenance, self-care, relationships, mental health, and eating healthfully. Our youth had the opportunity to volunteer at the Humane Society and The Closet; three of our JEM girls are advocating for youth in foster care; two of our youth are enrolled in college; and our JEMfriends volunteers have given more than 2,000 hours combined! Finally, we welcomed baby Derek to the JEMfriends family. He was born on October 18th, to Alexis, one of our JEM girls who graduated the program in 2017; he truly is a bundle of joy! What a blessing to have so much to celebrate!
As we approach 2019, we have considered how you, our supporters, can be involved in the next steps at JEMfriends. Since we are serving youth who are constantly growing and eventually transitioning out of our program, we can expect our needs to shift and change as well. Since we have a growing number of youth entering our program, we are needing more mentors, especially guys. If you are interested in this opportunity, the next mentor training will be January 5th. We also need support to arrive at full funding to operate our houses this year, a goal which we are not far from accomplishing. Finally, we are always seeking to spread awareness of the needs of youth aging out of foster care. We love opportunities to share this information at church gatherings, businesses, and organizations. If any of these opportunities are a fit for you, please call (208)863-0222 or email Liberty at firstname.lastname@example.org. To stay informed about other volunteer opportunities as they arise, please email our volunteer coordinator at email@example.com to be sure you are on our volunteer email list. As we have seen this year, the needs cannot always be anticipated, but we value your participation whenever and wherever God leads you to give it.
As you celebrate Christmas and prepare for the new year, we hope that you will be filled with the joy of Jesus and experience His blessing and presence in your lives in the year ahead.
Liberty Thompson, Executive Director