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A Content Marketer in Action

Outside, it was October. Green trees were turning suddenly brilliant orange, yellow and red. The sun still shone through thick, rolling clouds and winds stirred fallen leaves to life.

 

It was his favorite season, but Matt was busy at his computer, in the basement. He was finishing up his latest science fiction novel. The humans of the Alpha 5 colony had discovered (spoiler alert!) that what they thought were aliens attacking the planet were actually humans from Earth. There were battles to be fought and a big secret to uncover.

 

He’d have to finish up fast if he was going to get his ninth grade homework done before bedtime.

“It was terrible,” says Matt Bloom, owner of Matthew C. Bloom Copywriting Services. “The characters were one-dimensional, the story was poorly paced. I was apparently not a prodigy.”

A few years later, at Anderson University, Matt’s love of writing would lead him to declare that he would study English. Then his disgust and terror at the idea of being an English teacher – the only thing he figured he could do with an English degree – changed his course.

“After flirting with a major in journalism I settled on social work. Like any good late Gen X/early Gen Y college student, I felt like I had to do something that would save the world,” Matt says.

As part of his practicum studies, Matt spent time working with the elderly as a case manager, and with boys serving probation in residential housing. He soon found himself graduated as his wife was preparing for her final year of college. Needing a job fast, Matt took a job answering the phone for a local plumbing company.

In his off hours, Matt was writing. Later, while working at AT&T, he started a nonprofit venture called Getting Discovered, a website to showcase the work of unknown writers, artists and musicians. The project was short-lived, but laid the groundwork for more.

Matt began offering scriptwriting services to advertisers as an account executive for WQME Radio, and later for underwriters of Indiana Public Radio and WIPB Public Television. He was also putting his social work degree to use writing home study reports for a local adoption agency.

In 2013 Matt began to put the pieces of his varied career life together.

“The social worker in me was driven to encourage good in the world, the journalist felt compelled to tell these kinds of stories, and the salesman had to take advantage of every opportunity,” Matt says. “MCBC was born.”

What began with work writing adoption stories is today Matthew C. Bloom Copywriting Services, a versatile provider of compelling content for businesses, nonprofit organizations and marketing managers who need help educating their audience about their brand.

“I’ll interview just about anybody,” Matt says. “Even myself … you know, if it ever made any sense to do that.”

 

When You Need a Good Copywriter in Indiana

I recently flew out to Denver, Colorado for a friend’s wedding and to visit my wife’s brother. My wife and I left the kids with grandparents and spent a long weekend enjoying the vibe of the city and the beauty of the Rockies. It was an amazing trip.

Of course, nothing’s perfect. We went out for brunch one morning to enjoy a good meal before heading north to Carter Lake. The restaurant was slammed. We were lucky to get a table.

 

A young woman rolled up to us in a giant ball of stress and asked my wife what she wanted to drink.

 

When she replied, “Just water for me,” the waitress nodded and left. There were three others at the table left blinking, confused, at one another. Some of them (me!) hadn’t had a drop of coffee yet that morning.

 

A few minutes later a teenage girl in a cook’s apron returned with a pitcher of water. “Sorry, we’re like totally slammed today,” she said. “I don’t usually do this but the servers are wigging out.”

 

That was when she poured water directly onto the table in front of me.

 

The night before, at the wedding, a guy a few years my younger turned away from his conversation to flash me a grin and stuck his hand out. I shook it, initiating the ritual of figuring out how we were each connected to the newlyweds.

 

He was the bride’s realtor, and had helped her find a house in one of the most difficult buyers’ markets in the country today. He asked me how my trip was going. I told him Denver was beautiful and I could stand to live under a mountain or two. He was friendly and easy-going. It was clear that he enjoyed what he did for a living.

 

“When you decide to move here you already have a realtor,” he said, raising his glass.

I returned home to Indiana to ponder how some people are thrown into positions they shouldn’t be in, like a nervous cook at a diner’s table, while others take to their post like birds to flight, selling their wares almost as an extension of themselves.

 

I’m thankful to be in the latter position. Doing what I love means I’m comfortable asking important questions and making helpful suggestions. It means I could just as easily generate content ideas for you in casual party conversation as I would in a formal consultation. It comes naturally.

 

In other words, Matthew C. Bloom is that good copywriter in Indiana you’ve been looking for. Let me know how I can help you. The work is fun. It’s my pleasure.

And I promise I won’t spill anything on you.

Wear Your Brand (Marketing & Advertising)

http://www.starocketmedia.com/2015/05/wear-your-brand

There are lots of advantages to sporting branded apparel. It unites your team, communicates your corporate culture and gives your customers opportunities to become walking billboards for you. Most importantly, 87 percent of people you meet will remember you and your company because they meet you wearing your logo.

Not bad. In a comprehensive, top-to-bottom, wall-wraps-to-business-cards marketing strategy, wearing your brand is a must.

We offer several options for how to do this, which we break down into two general categories – screen printing and embroidery.

SCREEN PRINTING
We have a detailed process for printing high-quality artwork onto fabric. Ink is applied with the use of a stencil one color at a time, layer by layer. What’s most important for you to know is that printing works well for rich, vibrant designs. The screen printing process will really bring your brand to life.

The greatest strengths of screen printing are vibrancy, intricacy and versatility. We can print just about anything you throw at us.

EMBROIDERY
Incorporating your logo into finely-stitched thread gives your shirts, hats, bags, etc. a classic, professional look. Although stitching isn’t quite as versatile as printing, it tends to last longer, likely as along as the medium itself. The embroidered look is very well-suited to some corporate cultures.

The strengths of embroidery are durability, traditional look, and sometimes lower cost (though this depends on a number of factors including the type of apparel, size of the embroidery and quantity).

Please don’t make any ordering decisions with us or your promotional supplier based on this article alone. The decision on how best to wear your brand should be based on a thorough consultative process.

We’re happy to answer any questions you have about how that process works here

Indiana Planting Guide (Service Industries)

http://www.winklemowingservice.com/2015/03/indiana-planting-guide

Spring is here! If you have hearty perennials that survived the winter, start nurturing them right away with water, weeding and fertilizer. If some of them didn’t make it, or you planted annuals last year, it’s time to think about what you’re going to plant this season.

Many people plant shrubs and flowers based only on appearance. That’s fine if you don’t mind rolling the dice on your plants’ chances of surviving a frost. If you want to better ensure your plants will thrive you have to know your growing zone.

Planting by Zone
The USDA designates nine growing zones and here in East Central Indiana we’re in Zone 5. This means plants must be able to survive an extreme low temperature of -20 F. (A close look at the map shows that some parts of Central Indiana are in Zone 6, but it’s best to take the lower number when in doubt.)

Lots of beautiful flowers, fruits and vegetables do well in Zone 5, from asters to zinnias, and from asparagus to watermelon. A great resource for suggestions is the Old Farmer’s Almanac. There’s a lot of information on the website and even more in the book.

Planting by Locality
Some Hoosiers prefer plants that are native to Indiana. They point out that native plants are best for the environment as native plants promote healthy wildlife populations and help prevent the spread of invasive, exotic species. The Indiana Wildlife Federation lists (and sells) native trees and shrubs such as American Highbush Cranberry, Silky Dogwood and Spicebush.

Why not plant species that are attractive, hearty and promote a healthy environment all at once? Feel free to contact us with questions about plant selection. We’re here to help!

Mobile-Friendly is the Wave of the Present (Marketing & Advertising)

www.farmhousecreative.net/2015/05/mobile-friendly-is-the-wave-of-the-present

Look around you. Heads are bowed at the grocery store. Drivers are taking longer to react to green lights. People strolling through neighborhoods are snapping photos.

They want the coupon, the directions, the realtor’s specs – right now. Not back at home on their desktop computers, not anymore. It’s a hassle even just to fire up a laptop.

Although it’s getting late in the mobile revolution (we’re already a few years deep), it is not too late to optimize your website for visitors on mobile devices. This is a pretty good time. Google has recently changed the way their search engine works so that mobile-friendly websites show up higher than mobile-unfriendly ones.

You know a website that fails the mobile friendliness test right away when you look at it on a smartphone:

  •  You have to zoom in and scroll around to be able to see anything.
  •  It’s tough to tap on the link you want.
  • Pictures get in the way, shoving text off to the side, making it hard to read.

Is this what your site is like on a mobile device? Think how your visitors, who use their smartphones to do everythingelse online, feel when they find you. They may or may not consciously judge you for the inconvenience, but you better believe they will likely put off exploring your site and may not remember to return.

So talk to your website developer about making it mobile-friendly not only because Google said to, but because it will keep visitors on your site long enough to take the action you want them to.

Want to know if Google considers your site mobile-friendly? Follow this link, enter your web address, and don’t panic if you don’t like what you see. We’re here to help.

 

Hope is Never Lost – The Beiers Family Story (Not-for-Profit)

Source: www.adoption-connections.com/stories/the-beiers-family

“We were just going through the motions, like this is just something we do now. We had lost all hope. This is how our life is, but there will be no baby in the end.”

This was how Jen Beiers and her husband Bob felt about their adoption journey in the spring of 2014. They had every reason to feel this way. Years of disappointment, hurt and what seemed like rejection had brought them here.

And yet, this is a story with a happy ending.

Jen and Bob always wanted to adopt after having children biologically. They talked about it when they were dating.

When they were unable to get pregnant, their infertility treatments brought then to the point of having to decide.

Would they pursue in vitro fertilization?

No. They had always thought they would adopt, so for them it felt okay to move right into pursuing adoption. They had a friend who adopted internationally and thought that’s what they would do. About two years into saving money, however, they decided the cost was too high for them. Instead, they became foster parents.

They told DCS (the Indiana Department of Child Services) they were interested in a young child, under age four. What they discovered was that it was far more common for there to be placement opportunities with older children through the foster care system.

“We got a call in the middle of the night,” Jen says. “They said, ‘We have a four-year-old, but they have a 16-year-old brother.’ Maybe in the future, we thought, but right now to build our family it didn’t feel like that was the path we wanted to go through.”

That was when Jen and Bob connected with a friend from college who had adopted a child through Adoption Connections. They met with Executive Director Rebecca Bruce and felt like the agency was the right fit for them.

“If we were going to adopt, we didn’t want to put ourselves into a financial situation where we couldn’t provide the life we wanted to for that child. Adoption Connections was a godsend,” Jen says.

Jen and Bob entered into a new chapter on their journey toward parenthood when they became a waiting family with Adoption Connections. They had come from infertility to international adoption, to foster care, and now domestic adoption. For the first time, they felt they had a chance to be matched with a baby they could call their own.

That is just what happened. Jen and Bob were soon chosen by a birth mother. It was thrilling for Jen as she began to connect with this woman. Jen would go to all her doctor appointments, where the birth mom would introduce Jen as the baby’s mother. They planned a baby shower at the birth mom’s encouragement.

“The day we had the baby shower – that night – she sent me a Facebook message saying she had changed her mind,” Jen said. “I just stopped breathing.”

Jen struggled with thoughts that, looking back on it now, she knows were not rooted in truth. She thought the birth mother had changed her mind because Jen wasn’t good enough. A teacher, she was thankful this happened over the summer so she could grieve during the break.

“Bob was amazing through the whole thing,” Jen says. “He was my rock.”

A year later, the same birth mother contacted Adoption Connections to indicate that she had changed her mind and would like to consider Jen and Bob again to adopt her now one-year-old child. The agency dutifully contacted Jen and Bob, with cautious optimism.

They tried to go into the situation with eyes open. Jen was apprehensive, but Bob couldn’t help but be hopeful. He took it harder than Jen when the birth mother changed her mind three days later, on the day they were to pick up the child.

“The first time, my heart was open. The second time, his heart was open,” Jen says. “He was a mess.”

They joined Facebook groups about adoption struggles and found a community there of others who understood what they were going through. They understood that the decision to place a child for adoption belonged to the birth mother alone, but that didn’t stop them from having feelings of anger they didn’t know what to do with.

“The support groups could only go so far,” Bob says. “The experiences other people had were never quite the same. Some were suggesting that we should accept that it wasn’t going to happen. That was frustrating.”

Jen is thankful for the support she received from Adoption Connections in this difficult time. She recalls receiving waiting family emails just when she was feeling the most depressed.

“It seemed like it came at the perfect time. It was so uplifting – ‘We’re thinking of you.’ With some larger agencies you’re just a number. No one knows who you are.”

Jen and Bob tried to not to think or talk about adoption too much throughout the following fall and winter. When spring came around it was time to renew their home study – their eligibility to adopt – and that’s when it really felt like just going through the motions.

On July 4th, 2014, Adoption Connections contacted Jen about a new situation. The message she got acknowledged that it was a holiday, but did she want to talk?

“I called first thing in the morning!” Jen says.

Two weeks later, with guarded hearts, Jen and Bob met a new birth mother. It felt right. It felt like it was going to happen … but it was their third summer believing they were about to become parents. To protect the hearts of their friends and family along with their own, they told no one but Jen’s parents, her sister and her boss. None of Bob’s family had any idea what was happening, right up to the night the birth mom was to be induced.

Jen recalls that being at the hospital waiting for the baby to be born was a very odd feeling. She wanted to be happy but when she looked at the birth mom, she understood that there was sadness in the decision this young woman was making, a trial shared by her mother and cousin, there at the birth mother’s side.

“She gave me a big hug and said, ‘It’s okay to be happy,’” Jen says. “She was so thankful to us. That was something we never saw coming. Her mother just held onto me and said, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’”

Jen and Bob brought Tytus home in August of 2014 and finalized the adoption in November. At that moment, their journey to adopting their son ended. The journey of parenthood has finally begun.

The couple does not want their story to be a cautionary tale. Rather, they want it to be a source of hope for those who are waiting for their child.

“Everything is worthwhile,” Bob says. “The pain evaporates, like it never happened. I’m glad we saw it through and didn’t give up.”

“Your story is going to be different from everyone else’s,” Jen says. “Don’t compare notes. Don’t obsess over your profile book. Don’t get discouraged.”

Bob urges those still waiting to try to keep the wait in perspective.

“We waited just a few years, but we’ve got Tytus for the rest of our lives. What’s a few years of pain to have that?”

All In God’s Plan – The Tader Family Story (Not-for-Profit)

Source: www.adoption-connections.com/stories/the-tader-family

Sherry had wanted to adopt a child since she was 11. Her mind was made up after she saw a documentary on Chinese orphanages. It touched her to see so many children in need who might not ever be connected with a loving adoptive parent. The looks on those children’s faces left an imprint on her heart that would never go away.

Matt says Sherry told him about her plans to adopt “about 25 seconds after we met.” It was actually about six months into their dating relationship when she spilled the beans, just about the first time they spoke seriously about their future together. Matt accepted that this plan came with the territory, and the couple was married in April of 2004.

The Taders had their first child biologically, a girl they named Camryn in 2006. When she was about two years old they began to pray and talk seriously about adopting a little brother or sister for Camryn. Their church, Grace Community Church in Noblesville had a program called Grace Hands of Hope for the purpose of helping people through the adoption process. Their friends in that group referred them to Rebecca Bruce, adoption attorney (now Executive Director of Adoption Connections).

Matt and Sherry were excited to be connected with a birth mother through a mutual friend of the birth mother’s attorney in late 2009. They got to know the birth mother and grew attached to the girl inside her, whom they already thought of as their second daughter. But while the Taders were adjusting to becoming the parents of two, the birth mother’s boyfriend was threatening to leave her if she gave up the baby. She ultimately cancelled the adoption process. Matt and Sherry had an up close and personal look at what can happen in any adoption: birth mothers can change their minds any time before the baby is born. In addition, as the birth mom they were working with chose not to pursue adoption counseling, they were front row witnesses to a birth mom trying to navigate the emotional waters of an adoption plan without emotional support from adoption professionals.

Matt and Sherry were devastated. The failed adoption caused them to reconsider everything. They researched foster-toadoption to get a better idea of their options, which all seemed full of major obstacles, especially cost. Rebecca told them that she was starting an adoption agency, to be licensed in March 2010. Rebecca shared her vision that the birth mothers working with Adoption Connections would have one-on-one emotional support from an experienced social worker. They thought about it and decided to become one of Adoption Connections’ waiting families, having no idea how long they would have to wait.

About six months passed. It was August and Matt was away on business. She called Matt on a Tuesday, frustrated and defeated. Matt said, “I’ll tell you what. We’ll spend time this weekend and talk about what we really want to do.” They were considering just giving up.

On Thursday that week, Adoption Connections called to notify the Taders that a Ball State University student had showed up in labor at Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie and had decided that she was not ready to parent; she wanted to place the child for adoption with a loving husband and wife. Somehow she had kept her pregnancy secret from her parents and she didn’t want them to know even now, such that she did not want the hospital to issue a claim to her father’s health insurance carrier. That meant that by agreeing to adopt the child, the Taders would be responsible for all related medical bills, including the cost of labor and delivery.

Though the circumstances made them anxious, Matt and Sherry felt like this was an opportunity God was handing to them. They called the agency back to say they had decided to go for it!

There was still some doubt because the birth mother was considering another family. Sherry went to bed that night not knowing whether they would be chosen.

“Matt woke her up at 11 pm on Thursday night and told her, “We have a son.”

The Taders rushed to the hospital to meet Liam, who was now one day old. His new parents spent the day with him, and though Sherry was obligated to sing in a friend’s wedding on Saturday she rushed back to be with her new son for the remainder of the weekend. Once Liam was released from the ICU with a clean bill of health, the Taders were allowed to take their baby boy home.

As it turned out, Liam’s birth mother found out she was not covered on her father’s insurance plan after all such that she actually qualified for Medicaid. Between insurance and tax credits the adoption had actually cost them nothing, given the Medicaid qualification and given Adoption Connections’ very affordable fees which are set on a sliding scale based on income of adopting parents.

Sherry is a stay-at-home mom. She says she loves teaching her children to serve others, to “see them grow and develop and become awesome little people.”

Matt says he loves watching his children grow, seeing their little personalities develop. “I love coming home at night to hear the kids yell ‘Daddy!’ and they give you a big hug. It warms your heart.”

The Taders want people who are planning to adopt to be prepared for ups and downs. “It’s part of life,” Sherry says. “It will happen when it’s meant to happen, and when it does it is the most rewarding thing in your life. All your fears about loving the child as much as you would a biological child are not an issue. God is placing that child in your life.”

They wish they had known before adopting that you can get through a failed adoption. They believe it was not part of God’s plan for them to adopt that baby girl in 2009, but that it was His desire for Sherry to be a part of that birth mother’s life. She later reached out to Sherry and asked her about her faith. Sherry has since been a part of bringing the young woman to Christ, and they are good friends today.

Sherry wishes she could be more a part of Liam’s mother’s life. Liam has a picture of her so as he grows up he’ll at least know what she looks like. Sherry says that if Liam’s mother ever wants to meet him she would love that. Though it is difficult to accept, Sherry understands it is not in her control. It is up to the birth mother to decide how involved she wants to be.

Matt and Sherry say they felt that Adoption Connections had the knowledge and experience required to guide them confidently through the process, and that they would recommend the agency to anyone who wants to adopt.

“It’s not a transaction,” Matt says. “They do it for all the right reasons.”

The Gift of Life (Not-for-Profit)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following is written from the perspective of Amylynn Warners, Communications Manager at Bethany Christian Services. – Matt Bloom
It has been a privilege working with our partner, Initials, Inc., a direct sales company whose sales benefit Bethany’s N.O.W. (No One Without) campaign to provide forever homes to children in foster care. Through this partnership I met Paige, a consultant with a touching story explaining her passion for adoption.

In 2003, Paige was an 18-year-old freshman in college. She awoke one morning in excruciating pain. She drove herself to the hospital, where a nurse asked her so many questions she knew something major was going on.

Then she heard the nurse say, “We need a doctor now! She’s having a baby NOW!”

Paige had no idea she was pregnant. She had shown no signs. Her weight gain was minimal and she was having periods.

But she had no time wonder about it; her water was breaking.

In minutes her baby boy was born. He came at 30 weeks, weighing three pounds, two ounces, with blonde hair and blue eyes. He was placed on an incubator because he couldn’t breathe on his own. Paige checked on him often over the next couple of days as she recovered. She felt ashamed as she asked herself, “How could I not have known?” Then Paige’s father came to her side and, without condemnation, held her and cried with her before they went together to see the baby.

Six months of tears and prayer passed as the boy recovered from surgeries, grew and developed. “I loved that little boy more than life,” Paige says. “I began searching deep within myself and came to the heartbreaking decision that I was not ready to be a mother.”

That’s when Paige found Bethany Christian Services. She worked with a social worker named Mitzi who helped her find a family she thought was perfect for her baby.

[blockquote text=”“As I signed the papers and my rights away, I bawled my eyes out. I couldn’t even see the signature line,” Paige says. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and took me many years to be okay with it, but I know now that I made the right decision.”” text_color=”” width=”” line_height=”undefined” background_color=”” border_color=”” show_quote_icon=”no” quote_icon_color=””]

The adoptive family sent Paige monthly updates and pictures in the first year. Though she chose not to continue sending letters as he grew, she prays for the boy, who is now 11, every day. She hopes to meet him one day.

“I am eternally grateful to Bethany Christian Services for all the kind, loving help that was given to me at one of the worst and weakest times in my life. Bethany will forever hold a very dear place in my heart!”

I am grateful for having met Paige, and for the honor of hearing her story. It continues today through her work as an Initials, Inc. consultant, where she is helping to give the gift of a safe and secure life to children just like hers.

What a beautiful expression of love in the wake of heartbreak. Thank you, Paige!

The Difference a Willing Heart Can Make (Not-for-Profit)

Civil war drove Divine and her sisters from their home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1996. Divine was 19 years old. The family fled to a United Nations refugee camp in Rwanda, which they would call home for the next 18 years.

“Life was hard,” Divine says matter-of-factly about her life there. She and her two sisters lived in a small, one-room shelter, one of thousands of makeshift homes covered with plastic sheeting. They lie in endless rows carved into the Rwandan hillsides.

“You sleep on a little bed,” Divine says of her sparse accommodations in the camp. “Near the bed you have your clothes. Near your clothes you have dishes. You have a small kitchen outside, wood for making fire and to prepare food.”

Divine met Jeanbaptiste in the camp and they were married there. They moved into a separate shelter of their own, the couple’s first home together.

The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) provided Divine’s family with basic necessities: food, water and medicine. Another nonprofit group offered primary education and gave Divine an opportunity to teach children.

Five years ago, Divine applied for resettlement in the U.S. She was moving through the process when she became pregnant and was unable to travel. It took another three years before her request was finally approved. One more year and she and her family would be on a plane to the United States.

Meanwhile, Bethany was organizing volunteers in Grand Rapids, Michigan to prepare for the family’s arrival. Members of Blythefield CRC (Christian Reformed Church) and Gold Avenue CRC collected donations and prayed for this family they had not yet met.

Divine and her family arrived in December of 2013 in the midst of heavy snowfall, which was something new to them. “I was saying, ‘What a cold country!’” Divine says of the experience. “We see everything is white. It’s wonderful, but it’s cold.”

Volunteers provided coats, gloves and boots to all 11 members of Divine’s family. Divine, her husband Jeanbaptiste, their six children, Divine’s two sisters and niece soon arrived at their new four-bedroom home. They were delighted to discover that the church volunteers had completely furnished the house and stocked it with food. They praised God in song for providing for them.

Divine was impressed that even the cold had been accounted for. “They put heat in our house,” she says. “Everything was good!”

Bethany assigned a caseworker to the family. She helped the adults enroll in job skills training, English classes and personal finances management. She helped enroll the children in school and assisted the family in applying for food and medical benefits.

As a result of the job skills training Bethany provided her, Divine not only acquired a job working as a hotel housekeeper, but felt confident enough to apply for a factory job with higher pay a few months later. She was hired and has had a great experience there.

“We have a team,” she says. “We have friends [there]. We like to work in a team. We’re joking, making stories. All things [at the factory are] good.”

Though they are thankful to be here in the U.S., the transition was difficult in the family’s first year here. The children, unable to speak English, struggled academically in public school. Jeanbaptiste’s oldest son tried to connect with some other teenagers in the neighborhood who only made fun of him for being different.

When the church volunteers closest to them learned of the children’s struggles, they mobilized to help. Through their connections with a private Christian school they helped the children enroll there and subsidized their tuition so they could receive a more individualized education.

Divine’s family has found a church home with Gold Avenue CRC, where they attend African community services that give them the opportunity to worship God in French, their native language.

“I thank people from the church. They are my family,” Divine says. “When I am with them it’s like I’m one of them. They love me a lot and I love them.”

“I thank Bethany for what it does for us,” she adds. “I thank case managers and what they did for me. I thank all people from America who have helped us – our neighbors, the people who took the time to look after my kids. I thank God who helped me to come here.”

Divine wants those who are interested in supporting resettling refugee families to know how blessed she has been by the assistance she has received from these people with a “heart of willing.”

“They can feel in their hearts that they are doing something not for nothing,” she says. “They are helping people who are like the member of their own families that have lost.”

No Limits (Not-for-Profit)

Sonya Willis and Nik Sloan don’t easily accept limits. Not for themselves, and not for the kids at the YOC.

Their Independent Living (IL) program helps teenagers transition into becoming capable adults. As IL Educator, Sonya creates hands-on activities that give kids 15 years of age and up empowering experiences. Nik, as IL Coordinator, gives her something to work with.

“My job is to oversee the grand scope of things,” Nik says, “to ensure that we’re finding resources outside of the organization or even within as they relate to independent living skills.”

Then Sonya utilizes these resources – partnerships with local businesses and on-campus departments – to create IL activities. For example, she works with the campus store to give residents realistic work experience.

[blockquote text=”“They clock in and clock out with me; I’m their supervisor. I let them know these are real job skills because when they’re stocking and doing all those things, that’s exactly what you do in a retail store,” Sonya says.” text_color=”” width=”” line_height=”undefined” background_color=”” border_color=”” show_quote_icon=”no” quote_icon_color=””]

Gardening, nutrition education, carpentry, off-campus internships and college tours are some of the other experiences Sonya creates for herself or other staff to implement.

For many kids, these experiences are powerfully transformative.

One girl Sonya worked with had been rebelling against her treatment and running out of time. She was almost 18 and would be on her own soon. It was critical that she learn how to be a responsible adult before she landed in serious trouble.

Sonya showed this girl how to budget her finances and make wise shopping decisions. Empowered to expect a more fruitful life, the girl worked her way up from being campus-bound to having the freedom to go out and obtain her state ID.

“Once she got into the IL stuff, everything started to turn around. She started to see hope. She started to see that she does have a future,” Sonya says.

Last August, Sonya and Nik put on a Youth Summit, an eight-hour day connecting kids with professionals in their passion areas. An interest survey placed participants in one of six groups: trades, culinary arts, arts and creativity, public safety, computers and sports.

The kids loved it. 100% of participants reported that they learned something, and over 80% indicated they were satisfied with the event. One anonymous resident wrote, “Everything you guys did for us, you pretty much made every girl’s and boy’s day. Thank you so much!”

“That was the best thing we’ve done to this point,” Nik says. “It was people from outside the YOC, people the kids don’t see on a regular basis, coming in to invest in them. That was really beneficial for them to see.”

“They also got to dress up and eat Fazoli’s for the day,” Sonya adds with a chuckle. “They liked that.”

This dynamic duo is looking forward to building on last year’s successes. Job search training will become more realistic with increased access to online tools. New partnerships will allow additional opportunities for residents to obtain paying summer jobs.

None if it would be happening without people like Sonya and Nik believing in the potential of YOC residents. With passion and determination like theirs, there is truly no limit to what these kids can become.