CHAVIES — Organizations, businesses, and anyone struggling to find funding for a project geared toward the advancement of youth in the county may be able to stop struggling soon.
The Youth Leadership and Philanthropy Initiative (YLPI) of Perry County, the first such initiative to be started in the state, has begun taking applications this week for what they’re calling a mini-grant opportunity.
Adam Abbott, president of Perry County’s YLPI and a senior at Hazard High School, said the projects being funded will be four $500 projects geared toward recreation, arts, education, or career exploration for school-aged children in the county.
“It’s mainly to engage the youth and get them involved in the community, let them know that there are things out there to do other than sit at home. You can help people by doing one simple thing,” Abbott added.
The group, which consists of four representatives from each high school in the county, was started a year and a half ago, said Robin Gabbard, associate executive director for the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky and the adult mentor for the YLPI.
“They’ve spent the last year and a half getting themselves ready to be a thriving, working group. They’ve learned a lot of leadership development skills. They’ve learned a lot about community service, and not only how to put together a community service project and recruit volunteers and recruit supports from the community for that project, but then how to carry that out and how to participate in it and care,” Gabbard said.
Abbott, who said he was already very involved in the community before joining YLPI, admitted he had done and learned so much already from working with the initiative just in the last year and a half in the process of raising money for and making grants for the community.
“You’ll take kids that’ll say, yeah, I do a lot of volunteer work for the honors society and things like that, just to get credit hours. But you join this group, and it’s to where it’s fun, you want to get out, you want to do things,” he said. “Once you join the group, you want to go, go, go and help people any chance you get with this group.”
A big issue with Eastern Kentucky, Gabbard said, is that the youth is told so much that there are more opportunities elsewhere, they then see no reason to try to help the community for their future and the futures of others. This results in what she calls an outmigration of youth in the area.
“By creating this youth leadership initiative, we think this is one way to combat this outmigration,” Gabbard explained. “We want to show them that they have a place here at home, they have a voice here at home, and if they get involved in their community, when their education process is finished, they will be able to come back and just naturally work their way back into the community.”
Gabbard said the group has been instrumental in planning and organizing the Run for the Hills Charity Challenge, a 5K run where all proceeds are cycled back into the local community through area non-profits. Funds raised during the run are what are fueling this mini-grant opportunity.
“This is their first real pool of money,” she said, adding that each year funds will be added to that pool for possibly larger opportunities in the future.
Abbott said he hopes the mini-grant opportunity is as successful as the group is hoping so that bigger opportunities can become available for the community even after he has graduated and left YLPI.
“We’re involved a lot, but it just takes so much time to get it going, get everything started. We’ve got to get our name out there to let people know that we are there to help in the community,” he said.
Applications for the YLPI mini-grants can be sent electronically to email@example.com, or by mail to YLPI at P.O. Box 310, Chavies, KY 41727.