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Welcoming Hugs

It’s hard to believe that 4 years ago we took our activities with kids after school to the next level. With a small group of precious girls, we had no idea what we were doing. We knew we wanted to create a space for meaning and connection. We knew we wanted to support and empower youth to take direction over their actions and choices. We knew we wanted the youth to know that there were people out there who cared about them and were cheering for them to succeed.

We never imagined that it would be so hard. We didn’t know vans would break down at the worst times, that it would be hard to find filling, healthy snacks, that relationships would take so much time, and that we wouldn’t see a lot of fruit right away.

We were ready to help kids with homework. We weren’t ready to help them find jobs, get their driving permits, help them deal with drama at school or home, or assist with getting into college. But we did it. With a lot of grace and love and welcoming hugs.

Every time one of those girls came through the door, we hugged them. We knew we couldn’t give them everything they needed, but it mattered that they know we loved them. In so many ways, those hugs held us together. We were all going through the ups and downs of how we could be there for each other and as our group grew, welcoming by hugs took longer and longer.

4 years later, our program is so much better equipped to help youth, boys and girls, k-12 with all the areas we weren’t ready for before. We see more youth than ever. We’ve grown so much. We don’t always hug every kid when they walk in the door now, we have a lot of doors and a lot of kids to keep up with, but it still matters that each one is greeted by name with a smile from a familiar face. And those original girls who held on tight with us, some of them are still around and they insist on hugs. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Annalisa KeipertComment