Epworth Village in York, Nebraska, has undergone many changes since its founding as an orphanage in 1889 under the name of Mother’s Jewels Home. But one constant to this day has been its commitment to preserving families whenever possible by following the teachings of Christ.
The village that once accepted children from the orphan trains now provides a variety of services for kids who have gotten into trouble and need an opportunity to turn their lives around. The village provides a group home for boys and, later this year, for girls. It also provides outpatient therapy for families and individuals. It provides in-home family services, education and foster care services.
Harrietta Reynolds, CEO of the village and a United Methodist missionary, has led the effort to reposition what was a financially troubled project supported by the church. But she is ready to step back into retirement, so a search is under way to find someone who will continue the momentum built over the past year.
“We’re going to make it, thanks to a lot of people stepping up,” Reynolds said while giving credit to a dedicated staff and a board of directors who take an active role in making sure Epworth not only survives but prospers.
The CEO reports directly to the board of directors and oversees a staff of approximately 60 people engaged in the many services provided at Epworth. The board prefers for applicants to hold a master’s degree in social service work. A bachelor’s degree and a minimum of five years of experience in this or related fields is required. Applicants should be self-motivated, skilled and professional with a strong commitment to helping kids achieve their goals.
According to Epworth Village’s recently released annual report, in 2014, the facility provided residential services to 48 youths, helped educate 51 children and provided in-home services to 50 families, including approximately 200 children. Counselors provided more than 700 individual therapy sessions, almost 200 family sessions and more than 200 group sessions. And more than 20 children were placed in foster care with the help of Epworth Village.
Reynolds said the village was able to provide that kind of assistance because of a grassroots fundraising effort built using presentations meant to educate United Methodists in the Great Plains about the ministry taking place at Epworth.
Trained speakers have given presentations in approximately 115 churches, and a team of people known as the Epworth Village Foundation Partners has provided support.
The partners agree to pray regularly for Epworth, stay informed about what is happening at the village and pledge financial support in
one-time donations or in recurring donations – monthly, quarterly or annually – in amounts as small as $20. Click here for a partnership form.
The goal is to move Epworth away from its dependency on contracts with the state of Nebraska. Whereas the village used to focus more on finding homes for children or providing homes for abandoned youths, Epworth Village now provides a large percentage of its services to children in the juvenile courts system. In 2012, about 92 percent of Epworth’s budget came from the state. In 2014, that amount had decreased to about 76 percent.
Marcia Schlegelmilch, public relations and fundraising officer for Epworth, said the village has taken steps to get its expenses in line with its revenues. In 2012, the village had approximately 150 employees. Now, it has less than 50, with about 60 expected to be on staff when a new girls group home opens later this year.
“Now, we’re better focused on our mission,” Schlegelmilch said. “We have identified what we’re good at, and we do a really good job of providing those services.”
She said Epworth also is holding true to its longtime mission of helping families.
“We assist with transitional living for young adults who have ‘aged out’ of the program and foster care,” Schlegelmilch said. Epworth also helps families by providing a trainer who will go into homes for six weeks to help with addiction treatment, education and to help hone life skills, such as managing money.
Reynolds said Epworth’s turnaround can continue, but it will take more than what can be done with the efforts of its relatively new board and smaller staff.“The thing that will change Epworth is when the whole church gets involved and we can be less dependent on funding from the state,” Reynolds said. “We need every United Methodist church and other denominations to get involved because everything we do there is based on the teachings of Christ.”