The Abraham Connection is excited to welcome a new youth board member to its board of directors. The youth seat is the idea of Delta High School senior Lizzy Ward, who will fill the seat until May.
While her seat on the board will certainly look good on college and scholarship applications, the move is more than a resume builder. "My dad's motto was 'God is Good -- No one Stands Alone,' " Lizzy said. "I think that second part really speaks to the Abraham Connection and its mission."
She had the idea of serving the shelter and its guests in a larger capacity due in part to her dad, the late Eric Ward, who was the youth pastor at Delta Christian Church and a community volunteer before he passed away suddenly from cancer in 2009.
Lizzy and her two brothers, Adam and Alex, all have big plans for after high school, none of which entail staying in Delta. "I was thinking about my dad's legacy and about how when we're gone there would be nothing left to represent him and his love of service," Lizzy said. "I wanted something that would continually serve people in his name. I thought about the Abraham Connection, and how I love serving here, and how he would have loved serving here."
She is a member of the DHS Key Club, the youth arm of the Delta Kiwanis Club. Key Club members volunteer once a month at the shelter, preparing and serving an evening meal to the homeless men, women and families who stay at there. Lizzy served as the meal coordinator for the group. There were times when serving at the shelter was chaotic ... sometimes other members forgot to bring items for dinner, or didn't bring enough food, or they were late. "Sometimes, by the time I got to the shelter, I was frazzled," she said. "But every single time I left, I felt rejuvenated. It felt good to do that service at the shelter."
From that love of service, the idea of the youth board position was born. She continues to help serve dinner once a month, but wanted to help in a bigger way. In addition, as a senior, she knew her time was limited, so she wanted to create a lasting impact within the organization, so that this fall, another student can step in. The GIG youth board position was created, "GIG" standing for "God is Good," a tribute to her father's servant heart and to his motto.
She said she wanted to help expose students, including herself, to how things work in the real world, versus in a school club, and wanted to learn how businesses and nonprofits are truly operated. "I wanted a more involved, real life experience," she said. "I want to get other kids excited about what's happening at the shelter." It's also important that youth are exposed to what's happening in their town and get a feel for how to react and address problems within the community, she said.
Plus, many kids are anxious to help, she said. "There a lot of kids who want to get out and do things, but they don't have a lot of outlets," she said. "This position is a good way for kids to get involved in a non-school sponsored outlet and give back to the community." She also hopes that a youth board member can bring fresh new ideas to the board.
Cheryl Oeltjenbruns, board president for the Abraham Connection, agreed. "Sometimes at our board meetings, we get so bogged down with issues, we get so involved in the nitty gritty and the day-to-day overwhelming sadness of what we're trying to accomplish down there. Lizzy brings a vitality and a youth perspective to the board that is so helpful. Many times, just her questions about why we do things a certain way help us focus and prioritize. She brings a lot of energy to the board."
For her part, sitting in board meetings and discussing policies and procedures that affect people's daily lives was a new insight, she said. "I didn't realize how much the board does outside of this building," she said. "It was cool to realize that so many people are doing a lot things on a much larger scale."
"Lizzy has a particular way of looking at the world that always seems to involve hope," said Ben Magtutu, one of her teachers at DHS. "She perseveres toward a positive outcome even when others around her have given up. This is such a wonderful sight. What amazes me most about her accomplishments is that she does it all with grace. Lizzy isn't boastful. She doesn't put herself above others. Although we are thankful to have her here, she seems even more thankful to be here. She is truly an amazing leader, student and human being."
The board of directors is excited to have Lizzy come on board and look forward to a great working relationship, Oeltjenbruns said.