Epworth Village leaders meet to discuss future


Through the years Epworth Village in York, Nebraska, has modified, changed and otherwise reinvented itself to meet the needs of the day — the ultimate startup in today’s terms. In fact, we could speak in terms of iterations. What will be the next iteration of Epworth Village?

Epworth Village was founded as Mother’s Jewels Home in 1889 by the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Women’s Society determined that opening this home would be an effective way to address the need to care for orphaned and abandoned children in the central United States.

Task group member Marilyn Zehring explains her groups next steps during a meeting held Aug. 5 in Mills Hall at Epworth Village. The group used every available space in the meeting room, including the space shown around a fire extinguisher. Photo by Kathryn Witte.

Service needs have changed mightily from the days of Mother’s Jewels Home. As a result of changes in child welfare policies and services, Epworth Village Board of Directors formed a task group of board and staff members charged to work on matters relating to the transition from residential care to more community-based (nonresidential) programs and service; using the recently revised mission statement as their guide:

Our mission is to provide comprehensive family-centered services that bring hope and healing to children, youth and families across Nebraska and in a compassionate and caring manner.

Epworth Village CEO Margaret Donovan said, “Collaborating with the York County Health Coalition is providing an essential link to the community and the needs of families as well as developing community responses and services to reduce the risk factors of child abuse and neglect. We want to work with families, children and youth before it gets to the point that children and youth are entering the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Additionally, connections with behavioral health agencies provide a solid link to identifying the role Epworth Village can play in meeting the social service and behavioral health needs of women, children and families in Nebraska.”

During a task group retreat on Aug. 5, the group drew a timeline of Epworth Village and then set their personal interactions with Epworth Village and their life experiences alongside it. It made for an interesting blend of discovery of what experiences and knowledge the task force members shared. It helped the group have a common understanding of the current reality of Epworth Village and enabled deeper relationships and community among the task force group.

Epworth Village’s in-home family service program continues with steady, fast-paced growth. It more than quadrupled the number of children, youth and families served since this time last year. The foster care program has remained on a moderate yet steady path of growth and continues to recruit, train and support foster families.

Epworth is marshalling its many assets and positive attributes to help bring brighter futures to families, children and youth. To serve even more families, children and youth, the task group is attacking its work to repurpose its campus with the zeal of a startup. They are dividing and conquering research and needs assessment with a goal of repurposing buildings and expertise in new and exciting ways. All while in keeping with its mission set by United Methodist Women.

Louise Niemann, chair of the task force said, “Over the next few months you will see new plans and ideas for services generated by Epworth. Our dream is that we are a hub for social services in the region and in the state, offering the best of the best in programming and in the delivery of services to help women, children, youth and families in the throes of life’s challenges.”

Progress on project development will be reviewed by the group in September. Kathryn Witte, a former conference staff member, is working as a consultant and facilitator for the group.

--Kathryn Witte

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