Editor's note: Through the next several Saturdays, The Columbus Telegram will highlight different aspects of the Columbus Area United Way, a nonprofit organization committed to focusing resources to measurably improve the education, health and financial stability of the community. One of the "pillars" of the Columbus Area United Way is to “help children and youth achieve their potential in education.” Programs funded by the United Way including Teen Parent and Out of School Suspension (OSS) programs at Youth for Christ, as well as mentoring programs such as Teammates and Big Pals,Little Pals. These programs aim at helping students improve in the classroom. This story takes a look at the pillar by reviewing Youth for Christ.

The Columbus chapter of the nonprofit organization Youth for Christ USA has recently announced its separation from the national organization. The chapter will now be entirely locally based with the name changed to Youth and Families for Christ.

The Columbus chapter was started in 2001 and runs programs for local youth between the ages of 11 and 19. Executive Director Katie Losekee said the decision to go independent came as a result of the national organization deciding to change their IRS classification from a religious nonprofit organization to an Association of Churches.

“We have always stated that we are not the church, we’re just an arm of the church,” Losekee said. “We’re not really changing anything we are doing here, but we are not willing to go that step, so we are separating from Youth for Christ.”

The YFFC’s programs will be unaffected by the recent changes. The organization puts on several programs geared towards teenagers, like out of school suspension, bible studies, anger management and support programs for teen parents.

By going independent, the organization will maintain its religious nonprofit organization status with the IRS. Losekee said though some chapters within Youth for Christ USA conduct worship serves, the Columbus chapter has opted not to while still providing religious-based programs. She said the organization strives to complement the church rather than replace it.

“We just feel that our place here in this community is that liaison between local teens and the church itself,” she said. “Our whole goal is to support the church, love these kids, to share life with them and hope to one day get them involved within a local church, but we’re not that church.”

Jeremiah Penn, the YFFC's director of young men’s ministries, said the move toward independence was beneficial to the group's mission.

“I think it is wonderful and good to show that our mission is going to be the same, that we’re sticking to our roots, that we’re focusing on the kids,” he said.

Losekee said the nonprofit will not lose any funding by separating from the national organization, as all their funding comes locally. Some of their programs, like their Teen Parent, Out of School Suspension, Teammates and Big Pals, Little Pals, are in part funded by the Columbus Area United Way.

“We are very privileged to be a United Way agency. They do so much good in our community," Losekee said. "United Way just makes a big difference."

To get to graduation, many United Way agency partners and programs like YFCC are focused on working one-on-one with students to overcome challenges hindering their academic performance like classroom attendance, self-confidence, anger management/coping skills and other social and emotional skills. 

An upcoming event the YFFC is hosting is its second annual spaghetti feed fundraiser. The event is put on by the organization's teen cooking classes and uses homemade pasta sauce.

The fundraiser is from 4-6:30 p.m. Oct. 18 and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-6:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at 2809 13th St. in downtown Columbus. Each plate costs a recommended donation of $10. All money raised goes towards supporting the YFFC.

“Who isn't excited about the spaghetti dinner?” Penn said. “It's a great time and we get to eat, too.”

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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Eric Schucht earned his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Oregon in 2018. He has written for The Cottage Grove Sentinel, The Creswell Chronicle, The Pacific Northwest Inlander and The Roseburg News-Review.

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