By Crystal Hayduk
Thanks to a Chelsea teenager who dared to dream, an Ypsilanti organization has a bus to increase their outreach to at-risk youth.
Kate Vanderspool, a rising junior at Chelsea High School and youth group member at Chelsea First United Methodist Church (CFUMC), has spent the last few summers volunteering at Mentor2Youth, a non-profit organization in Ypsilanti whose mission, according to their website, is “to ensure youth have a promising future by preparing them to excel in life, academics, and work.” Volunteer CFUMC youth group members help by befriending the kids who attend programming and participating in the activities with them. “I really enjoy it and love going there,” Vanderspool said. “That’s what I want to do with my Monday or Wednesday.”
Jeanne Franks, director of youth ministries at CFUMC, said the group supports Mentor2Youth because they’ve seen firsthand the growth of the children as a result of attending the program. “Their opportunities are limited by their circumstances, not by their intellect,” she said.
But Mentor2Youth, and the children it serves, faced a huge challenge in 2017. Emmanuel Jones, Mentor2Youth’s executive director, said that many children in Ypsilanti’s Parkridge neighborhood who had attended the program housed at Parkridge Community Center were displaced when the neighborhood was redeveloped.
“The homes were originally built during World War II to house workers for the Willow Run bomber plant,” said Jones. “They were demolished and new, affordable homes were built in their place. But the established kids were gone. They lived too far to walk and are too young to take public transportation.”
Franks said, “Our youth group kids were talking about the problem of the displaced children not being able to attend Mentor2Youth when Kate said, ‘I want to get them a van.’ It was clear she spoke from a place in her heart that hurt for those kids.
“The youth brainstormed what they could do to buy Mentor2Youth a van. They figured they’d need about $11,000, but how could they raise that much money? We even talked about flipping a house.”
Franks said they prayed about the problem. None of the things they pursued seemed to work out, and they felt God was telling them to “chill and trust.”
After nearly a year of continued prayer and trust, a member of the CFUMC finance team told Franks that Silver Maples of Chelsea was getting rid of a van.
Franks phoned Julie Deppner, executive director of Silver Maples, to check into the rumor. “It was better than we could have hoped for – they had a bus. They let us have it for $375, which was the cost of removing their decal,” said Franks.
Deppner said Silver Maples usually sells used buses or turns them in for credit toward a new purchase. “When Jeanne Franks presented the great need Mentor2Youth had for transportation, the Silver Maples Board of Directors fully supported donating our bus to this worthy cause. We are overjoyed our former bus has a second life, providing this critical resource for disadvantaged youth in Washtenaw County.”
Jones said the bus exceeds their initial desire for a van. “I’m so grateful and very appreciative of CFUMC and Silver Maples for helping to make one of our dreams become possible. Mentor2Youth is critical because it pulls the children out of a toxic environment, if only for a few hours, with access to our afterschool programs. It’s our goal to provide a school-to-career pathway for the children we serve, because all children deserve the same opportunities in life. I look forward to the opportunity to make an impact, not just in Ypsilanti, but across Washtenaw County,” he said.
Franks said that what started with Vanderspool sharing the desire of her heart proves that one person can make a difference. “This is our way of helping to bring them justice.”
God’s method and timing of provision of the bus was extra special to Vanderspool. Since she works part-time at Silver Maples, she’s glad that her employer was the benefactor. The deal was finalized in early July on Vanderspool’s birthday – a fitting gift for the girl who voiced the vision.
Next steps: Now that Mentor2Youth has a bus, fundraising will continue to cover other necessary costs, including a license, insurance, future repairs and maintenance, and a driver.
For more information and to support this mission, visit https://www.mentor2youth.com/.