Posts Tagged 'Christmas'

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




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Christmas Needs Update

A couple of photos from the conference room in the youth shelter at Polk County Youth Services where we keep all of the presents for the kids at the shelter.  We are doing very well, and we just received $275 in Target gift cards yesterday, as well as, we know more presents are coming.  Also we can praise God for the Detention Center needs are taken care of, as well as, the needs at Youth Homes of Mid-America.

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We will give an update at the final results, but we are excited about how people have responded this year!  Go God!

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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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Christmas Thanks from Youth Homes of Mid-America

We just received thank yous from the kids who were the recipients of the Christmas presents (there were 10 on campus during Christmas) and some of the staff at Youth Homes of Mid-America in Johnston. The picture above is the inside of one of the cards that was made. The messages are below.

  • “Thanks alot for the gifts it really means alot to all of the kids here.” – James

  • “I appreciate your time and thought. You make the world a better place” – Cory

  • “Thanks for the presents, I’m very grateful. Merry Christmas.” – Josh

  • “Thanks SOY”

  • “Dear SOY, Thank you for the gifts that you donated to us.” – Justin

  • “Dear SOY, Thank you for all the gifts you gave all of us. They’re very thoughtful and kind thank you.” – Dylan

  • “Dear SOY, I want to thank you for the presents and I am having fun with them, so thank you.” – Jon

  • “Thank you SOY family. Thank you for the great gift. I really appreciate it.” – Travis

  • “SOY, thank you guys for all the gifts. I really appreciated them, and thank you for thinking of us.” – Brian

  • “Dear SOY, thanks for the gifts I enjoyed them very much. I’m glad there is a service for our youth and I hope that some day when I’m older I can become part of a similar organization.” – Ray

  • “Shane, please thank everyone for their generous gifts!” – Bob MacKenzie – Director of Development at Youth Homes of Mid-America

Awesome Response

By Shane Vander Hart 

You should have seen how packed my car was (I’ve got to remember my camera) when I delivered presents to Youth Homes of Mid-America, the clinical treatment director, Chrys Bitting’s jaw dropped. The ten boys who will be staying there over Christmas will have four packages each to open.

The kids at Polk County Youth Services will have a brighter Christmas as well.

This isn’t an exhaustive list (I will update it), but on behalf of the kids I would like to thank those who have provided Christmas programing and/or donated toward Christmas needs:

  • Otley Reformed Church Youth/Chris Van Kooten – Leader
  • West Des Moines United Methodist Church Youth
  • West Des Moines UMC – Mission Committee
  • West Des Moines UMC – Mits-Wits Adult Sunday School Class
  • Windsor Heights Lutheran Church Youth/Erik Ullestad
  • Mark & Diane Drury
  • Ben & Jean Lounsbury
  • Dan Kapler
  • Jim & Lori Kapler
  • Doug Kapler
  • Connie Terry
  • Glenn & Ericka McKnight
  • Dan & Linda Vander Hart
  • Scott & Tami Vander Hart
  • Richard Vander Hart
  • Des Moines Orthopedic Surgeons Office
  • Roxane Munyon
  • Ashley Clark
  • First Federated Church/Allene Cooper
  • Angela Forret
  • Children’s Christmas Program Participants – Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church/Angie Spann
  • DZ Manufacturing
  • St. Theresa’s Catholic Church
  • Meredith Drive Reformed Church
  • Ann Yanda
  • Katey Murphy
  • St. Paul A.M.E. Church – Missionary Society
  • Several groups from Pella (we’ll acknowledge once we identify them)

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