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Young Life to include teen moms, disabled kids

Peter Paulson and Dianna Hansen, at left, accepted two $2,500 checks from Family Needs Ministry, Inc., representatives Bo Huntley and Pastor Gary Haugan. Vicki Gerdes/Record

Though it has been in existence since 1998, the local non-profit known as Family Needs Ministry, Inc. has kept a fairly low profile.

"It's a little-known foundation that has helped a lot of people in this area," said Bo Huntley, who serves as treasurer of the group's governing board.

But all that is about to change, as the foundation has stepped forward to provide start-up funding for two new youth ministry programs being organized by Lakes Area Young Life.

FNMI has provided two grants of $2,500 each for the local Young Life group to establish the Young Lives program, which provides mentoring and support to teenage mothers; and Capernaum Ministries, which facilitates the integration of teens and young adults with disabilities into Young Life activities.

According to Peter Paulson, area director for Lakes Area Young Life, the grants will provide critical funding to help train volunteers for working specifically with teen moms and young people with special needs.

"These are both demographics that we've wanted to serve for many years," Paulson said. "The challenge has been how to do it."

"Each has their own, unique needs, yet there is still room for both groups to be a part of general Young Life activities -- we just need to know how to best serve them," he added.

That's where the FNMI funding comes in, Paulson said.

According to Pastor Gary Haugan, FNMI vice president, the foundation's efforts up to now have typically involved helping a handful of families at a time, through referrals provided by Becker County Human Services, Lakes Crisis and Resource Center, and other organizations.

"This is an opportunity to touch thousands of lives," Haugen said of the Young Life grants. "There's no putting a number on how many lives are going to be changed through these two programs."

"I spent 23 years as the director of youth guidance for Red River Youth for Christ (in Fargo)," Huntley said. "My heart has always been with the young mothers ... so often the church forgets them."

But in many cases, all these young mothers need to turn their lives around is to have somebody to stand beside them and support them, he added -- which is where the Young Lives ministry can help, Paulson said.

Meanwhile, the Capernaum Ministries program will be able to help youth with special needs to participate in Young Life summer camps and other activities, by providing them with mentors who help remove the barriers that might otherwise keep them isolated from the main group.

"These two demographics are often the forgotten among our young people -- nobody pays attention to them," Huntley added.

Dianna Hansen, who chairs the Young Life committee tasked with establishing these programs, said the Capernaum ministry has a special meaning for her.

A mother of three, Hansen said that her middle child is developmentally delayed, and "to know all three of my kids could be involved in Young Life together -- it's beautiful," she said.

In addition to providing training for the mentors who will be working with these two programs, the FNMI grants may also help to establish scholarships so special needs youth and teen moms can attend Young Life summer camp and other organized events, Paulson added.

In addition, the funding will enable local Young Life leaders to do some research and development, "to see who is already serving both of these demographics in the area, and to work alongside them. We don't want to duplicate services ... we want to fill the gaps in what is already available," Paulson said.

Anyone who is interested in working with either of these programs, or who would like to donate to the cause, should contact Lakes Area Young Life at 218-847-3567.

Family Needs Ministry

Initially established by WE Fest founder Jeff Krueger in 1998, the Family Needs Ministry, Inc., is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization aimed at meeting the crisis and circumstantial needs of area families.

To accomplish this goal, the foundation provides funding to existing non-profit organizations for existing programs targeted at addressing those needs.

Since it began, FNMI has distributed over $76,000 in grants to serve families in need, as well as in support of local youth events and programs.

For more information, call 218-847-1681, send a fax to 218-847-0533, or write to Family Needs Ministry, Inc., P.O. Box 885, Detroit Lakes MN 56502.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454