Editor’s Note: Our Chive On Iowa chapter is nothing short of stellar. The sheer volume of local charities y’all support has blown us away and we wanted the Chivers to know that it was Iowa Chive’s generosity who inspired this story and donation. We’ll be there for an official chive meetup soon.
In the nursery at Youth Emergency Services and Shelter (YESS) Iowa, an 8-month-old baby girl was crying uncontrollably. Nobody could get her to stop. The infant was brought to YESS Iowa because her mother had mental health issues. She was about to lose her house. The baby needed to be somewhere safe. As the Development Manager for YESS Iowa, Kristen Huinker is used to seeing children in distress. She lifted the baby girl and tried holding her tight. At first, it wasn’t making a difference, but the little girl fell asleep after almost 2 hours. Kristen remembers how tired her arms were after that. She continued to visit the baby, and after a couple days the girl started to feel safe and began smiling at staff. The experience reminded Kristen why she entered this rewarding field. This might seem like an intense situation, but the dedicated staff at YESS Iowa go above and beyond to support troubled youth every day.
YESS had a humble beginning as a drop-in center for runaway teens in 1973. It wasn’t long before the program expanded into an emergency shelter. It has since grown into the largest youth emergency shelter in the state of Iowa, helping over 1,200 kids each year, ranging from newborns to age 17. YESS provides a safe place for children in need.
They help children with different levels of need. Some of these kids have been physically and sexually abused. Some have run away from home, usually to escape a bad environment. Some are having issues with alcohol and substance abuse. Some may be struggling at school because of troubles at home. Some are placed in the care of YESS if their caregiver can’t take care of them due to incarceration, emergency hospitalization, or worse. But all of these kids need someone to believe in them, take care of them, and help them work through their issues.
YESS prides itself as being more than just a shelter. It is a “one stop shop,” offering a comprehensive support and treatment program. They have the only site-based, 24-hour emergency shelter for newborns, toddlers, and young children in Iowa. It’s a safe place where children receive education, counseling, medical care, and case management. They stay as long as they need to and when they leave, they are completely transformed.
Art Therapy is one of the innovative ways that YESS provides treatment.
“I’ve never been respected so much,” says Ben, a 17-year-old whose parents are incarcerated due to drug charges. He had a history of substance abuse and was brought to the shelter after allegedly stealing money from a family friend. He participated in the counseling program. “Staff made me feel better about my situation and hopeful for the future,” shares Tori. Tori was only 15 and had been living on the streets for 5 days before coming to YESS. A close family member had repeatedly abused her. Tori received individual counseling and was placed with a foster family.
YESS wants to be available to all the youth who need their services. Unfortunately, they are struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing need. They have had to turn away as many as they’ve brought in due to limited capacity. The average stay of a child has tripled from 2-4 months to 6-8 months. What YESS needs most is space. They have outgrown their modest building. This is where the Chivers enter the story.
At Chive Charities, we always champion the underdog. One of the causes we will always stand up for are underfunded special needs education initiatives, which is why we are super excited to announce our largest donation in that category yet. In order for YESS to be able to keep up with its demand and provide essential services to our youth, they need to aggressively expand. Thanks to the Chivers continued generosity, Chive Charities provided YESS with a $50,000 grant from the Chive Fund. The grant goes towards an essential expansion to their emergency shelter, which will provide crucial educational services. This new structure will almost double their capacity, allowing for 92 children to stay at their facility. With the help of the Chivers, YESS won’t have to turn away as many kids and will now be able to provide hope to more children in need.
The “Duck Derby” is YESS’s signature fundraising event that takes place the first Saturday in May each year. Adopt a duck and race it on Race Day! Learn more HERE.
This is Tango, the therapy dog that YESS uses for treatment. He has “a profound effect on the kids.”
YESS Iowa has grown from a small drop-in center for runaways into Iowa’s largest emergency youth shelter. At YESS, children get a second chance and hope. Thanks to the Chivers, more kids are going to have access to that second chance and a fair shot that they desperately need. It is unfortunate that the needs of our troubled youth keep increasing. Thankfully, there are organizations like YESS that are in the trenches, defending and helping the children who truly need it. Kristin explains, “These kids are no different than the kids at our schools, our churches, or our neighbors. They aren’t here because of something they did, they are here because of something that happened to them. There’s no such thing as a bad kid.”
Thanks again to all the Chivers who donate to Chive Charities. Thanks to y’all, we are expanding the size and scope of our capacity to help in ways we never imagined. Chive Charities exists to seek out and help the orphaned causes of the world, we are the underdogs ourselves after all, and we’ve found a genuinely great cause with YESS right here. We’ll be sure to bring you photos of the new expansion. You’ve helped a lot of deserving children today.