Archive for the 'Special Needs' Category

Birthday Party Hosts Needed

I was just talking with my co-worker, Mary Tomlinson, and she said that we needed a church/church group to host a birthday party at the Polk County Youth Services shelter.  Here is a document that outlines what is needed for that.  If you are interested in putting together a group for this month or in the future (or have questions) you can let me know by calling 321-5077 or e-mailing me at  You can also contact Mary directly at 321-7557 or


Mentor Recruitment Ambassadors


1. a messenger on a special mission

Serve Our Youth Network needs messengers who are willing to share the truth that mentoring works: it helps young people make positive life choices while building their self-confidence and values.  We need recruiters willing to ask the people in their world to consider giving their time, wisdom, and friendship to young people waiting for an adult to care about them.  As a Mentor Recruitment Ambassador, or MRA, you are truly a messenger with a special mission.

It begins with the goal of recruiting five adults into the interview process with Serve Our Youth Network.  Ambassadors focus on recruiting new mentors from specific groups and settings to which they have access such as:

  • Congregations
  • Service organizations and clubs
  • Colleges & Universities

Each MRA will receive individual training & support, as well as, be able to participate in MRA team meetings as well.  Each MRA will receive an starter kit that will include:

If you are interested in being a Mentor Recruitment Ambassador please contact Shane Vander Hart at or (515) 321-5077 to schedule an MRA orientation.

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Thank You!!!

We just wanted to thank those who helped make Christmas a little brighter for kids at Polk County Youth Services and Woodward Academy.

  • Nancy Swanson
  • Ashley Clark
  • Tom Hauser
  • Diane Chalfant-Drury & Mark Drury
  • Katherine Bayens
  • Meredith Drive Reformed Church
  • Valley Church
  • First Federated Church
  • West Des Moines United Methodist Church Youth
  • Katy Murphy
  • St. Theresa Catholic Church
  • Praxair
  • Cathedral Church of St. Paul
  • Wells Fargo Bible Study
  • Brandt Marshall & family
  • Hope Lutheran Church
  • Various Pella Churches – a lot was donated from Pella that was anonymous.
  • Olivet Baptist Church
  • Glen Echo Christian Church
  • Scott & Susan Shisler
  • Scott & Tami Vander Hart
  • Dan Kapler
  • Jim & Lori Kapler
  • Doug Kapler

Thank you so much!!!!!

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Christmas Progress

SOY 001

Yesterday gift cards were delivered to Youth Homes of Mid-America.  We originally planned to provide Wal-Mart and McDonald’s gift cards for 12 residents.  We learned that they were going to have 14 residents (which is unusual for them).  Fortunately due to the generosity of people like you we were given an extra Wal-Mart card which the amount needed for two individual cards, and we also were given extra McDonald’s gift cards as well.  Praise God.  Chrys Bitting, the clinical treatment director (pictured above), who received the cards shared that the kids get so excited and are so thankful when people think of them over Christmas.  They always send thank-you cards to us, and we’ll look forward to sharing those later on.

We shared the progress made with the PCYS shelter in an earlier post, but SOY 010wanted to give a visual update now that most of the gifts are in.  The shelter conference room has been taken over.SOY 011




SOY 012




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Christmas Blessings & Opportunities

By Shane Vander Hart

It is hard to believe that Christmas is upon us already.  The year has gone by so quickly.  It looks like here in Iowa it will be a white Christmas.  I can’t say that really excites me, but my kids love it.  I’m at home today writing this since Cheryl is having a tooth pulled and that way I can be at home to attend to her needs.  Since we home school, our kids finished some school work and are taking a break sledding and snowboarding in our back yard (we are on a hill and the backyard is a downward slope).  So they are having a blast.  Snow to me just means shoveling, perhaps one day I’ll find some joy it in J.

I can find joy in other things with Christmas though.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14, ESV).

      “For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given;
   and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
   and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
   to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
   from this time forth and forevermore.
  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this,” (Isaiah 9:6-7, ESV).

We can celebrate that in Jesus we have our Immanuel, God with us!  Charles Spurgeon shared the significance of Jesus as our Immanuel.

“Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor.”

The kids that SOY works with, in particular juvenile offenders, often times don’t experience joy in this time.  I attended a couple of weeks ago the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives’ National Summit on Prisoner Re-Entry in Los Angeles, CA.  At that conference I learned that with this population of kids:

  • 64% are under the poverty level.
  • 79% come from a chaotic environment.
  • 55% have a parent in prison.
  • 45% have mental health issues (including depression).
  • 49% have drug abuse issues (I’m assuming that is those who are documented, at Polk County Youth Services about 70% of the kids who are detained are found to be drug involved).

I thank God that with SOY we have the opportunity to share with kids the hope present in Christmas.  Not only sharing in words, but also in deeds – I’m always amazed at how the Body of Christ is mobilized to meet the Christmas needs of our kids.  As I write this the Christmas needs for the Polk County Youth Services’ Detention Center and Youth Homes of Mid-America have been met.  I know that Christmas items for the Polk County Youth Services’ Shelter keeps coming in so we look like we are in good shape for that facility as well.

I would like to encourage those of you who are living in Central Iowa to take time to get involved as well.  Some things that can still be done.

  • We are looking for groups to spend time with kids over Christmas break (since they are out of school over Christmas they have a lot of unstructured time) at Polk County Youth Services in the detention center and transitional shelter.
  • Provide baked goods for Polk County Youth Services workers, Youth Homes of Mid-America staff, or Woodward Academy staff as a practical way to share God’s love.
  • You can contact me directly at if you would like to help

If you live outside of Central Iowa I would like to encourage you to contact your local juvenile detention center or facility and see what some of the needs are and how they can be met within the guidelines of the facility.

Me-closeupbwShane Vander Hart is the Director of Ministries & Volunteer Development with Serve Our Youth Network.  He has been on staff since 2002, and has been involved in youth ministry since 1992.  He also blogs at

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Christmas Needs 2007

Every year we get a list of the Christmas needs from some of the facilities that we work in.  We wanted to share what the needs are for this coming Christmas.  This is a simple way for the body of Christ to show His love to kids who are less fortunate.

If you have any questions regarding this list please feel free to e-mail Shane at or give him a call at (515) 321-5077.  Also we would like to request that if you decide to help out to let him know which facility and how you plan to help.  This will help prevent much duplication.  Thanks!

The List:

Detention Center:

  • 33 Gift bags – gender neutral: 1 toothbrush, 1 toothpaste, 1 non-aerosol deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, candy or treat, 1 word search book, 1 Koosh ball, 1 lip balm. (Size small to medium for personal care items.)

  • Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul books

  • Personal headset radios, and pre paid-phone cards for the wings

Transitional Shelter:

  • Gift cards from K-Mart, Target, Wal-Mart are especially helpful for us to shop for specific needs

  • 20 hand held games (1 for each youth)

  • 10 models and non-toxic glue (for boy gifts)

  • 20 bath sets—soap/lotion etc. (boys as well as girls really like these)

  • 10 games

  • 10 craft kits

  • 20 lip balm (stocking stuffers)

  • 20 decks of cards (stocking stuffers)

  • 20 flannel pj bottoms, 20 hoodies or fleece tops, slippers, robes

  • 20 personal water bottles, 20 plastic soap boxes

  • Candy for stockings

  • Toys (for younger youth)

  • Radios: plug in

Video sport or education games for youth as a group, rated E (Everyone)

  • Koosh balls, nerf balls

  • Jewelry, soft slipper socks (girls)

  • Large duffle bags or suitcases

Youth Homes of Mid-America:

  • 12 $5 McDonalds gift certificates

  • 12 $20 Wal-Mart gift certificates

Christmas (and Year Round) Needs:

Personal Care Items: soap, shampoo, conditioner, non-aerosol deodorant, shaving cream/gel, dual-blade razors, hair ties (plain and colored packets), cologne (boys and girls), body wash, plastic soap boxes, body lotion, manicure/pedicure supplies, bath sets, hairbrushes, **hair products and brushes for African American youth. (Size medium personal care items.)

Craft/Art Supplies: coloring books, fuzzy (velvet) art posters or sheets, sketch books, colored pencils, crayons, markers, glue, glitter, drawing paper, construction paper, etc.


Clothing Items: socks, plain T-shirts, female bikini underwear (sizes 5 to 10), male underwear (colored boxers only – sizes 30 & up), bras (various sizes), scarves, gloves, hats, sweatshirts (plain-no writing, M, L, XL, XXL), hoodies, fleece tops, men’s belts, pajamas, slippers, robes, swimsuits – all for male and female. The kids go swimming at the YMCA every Friday night all year. We always need swim suits.

Recreational Equipment: Legos, games (Chess, Sorry, Risk, Life, Checkers, Janga, Boggle, Cribbage, Scene It Jr., Scene It Disney, Scene It (sports version), bingo, etc.), dominoes, UNO cards, card games i.e. Phase 10 and Skip Bo, model cars (to put together and then paint—a big hit), Matchbox cars, small room/personal-size basketball hoop set, hackey sacks, finger boards (toy), koosh balls, word-search books

Miscellaneous: No expiration date, pre-paid phone cards for youths whose families are not in the 515 area code. We like to keep them on the wing so they’re available to those who need them. Please do not wrap gifts. The staff looks at everything in order to make appropriate selections for the kids. Gift bags are appreciated!

Note: It’s helpful to us if you leave the price tags on so we can account for the donation.

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Thanks from Y-Homes

The kids at Youth Homes of Mid-America wanted to thank SOY and Toad Valley Golf Course for a great time mini-golfing and for lunch. I had the chance to play a round of mini-golf with the 17 kids from Y-Homes who came, and I know they had a lot of fun. The pictures above are just a few of the thank you cards that I received in the mail a couple of days ago. Supporters of this ministry make it possible for us to minister to the kids at Y-Homes and in other juvenile facilities.

Some of the notes said:

  • “Mini-golf was fun. I liked it. I am thanking you for letting us come and golf.”
  • “I really enjoyed coming out to play mini golf. It was a lot of fun. Thank you for the free lunch.”
  • “Thank you for allowing us to go miniature golfing, we had a lot of fun!”
  • “I had a blast! Thanks!”
  • “Thank you for letting us visit. I had a lot of fun!!”
  • “Thank you for letting us go and taking your time to go miniature golfing. I really enjoyed leaving campus and going golfing.”
  • “Hey thank you so much 4 the fun game of golf! And thank u so much 4 the awesome food! It was awesome. It was really beautiful place 2 golf!”
  • “I would like to say thanks for the wonderful time that I had golfing. You guys have a wonderful golf course and the food was awesome. It made my summer at YHMA a whole lot better.”

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