Christmas Celebrations at YSB

(Left to Right) Residential Program Director – Mackenzie Ashley, Training and Facilities Manager – Scott Bissell, and Executive Director – PJ Corwin deliver Secret Santa presents to residents at this year’s Residential Christmas Party.
Each year, at Christmas time, the Residential Program takes steps to insure the residents have one of, if not, the best Christmas ever! There are several activities that take place. Here are a few of our favorites!  Paper chains hanging on beds- one of the activities they participate in is creating paper Christmas chains to count the number of days until Christmas. Each resident makes their own paper chain with each link symbolizing a day leading up to Christmas Day. Each day the resident tears off a chain link for the day and turns it into staff for candy! Another fun activity is the 12 Days of Socks, also known as the sock advent calendar. For the twelve days before Christmas, residents participate in fun holiday games with the winner “punching” the advent calendar for a new pair of socks. Our absolute favorite activity leading up to the Christmas party is Secret Santa! For the last few days leading up to our big Christmas celebration, each resident begins receiving gifts from their Secret Santa. Each resident has a staff person that becomes their Secret Santa. This staff person purchases small gifts for the resident for a few days before the Christmas party. When the resident gets home from school they find a small wrapped gift waiting for them. Then on the day of the Residential Christmas Party, the residents receives a big gift from their Secret Santa! After receiving and opening their gift the resident tries to guess which staff person is their Secret Santa. It is very entertaining watching and listening to the residents as they try to figure out who their Secret Santa is leading up to the party. It becomes hysterical as we (staff) get to watch them guess which one of us was their Secret Santa. It is a highlight of the party, and always seems to be a big hit with residents!
The Residential Christmas Party feast prepared by Tina Bechtol.

Lastly, we have our Christmas Party. On the night of the Christmas party, YSB staff and residents have a big feast, residents get gifts from their Secret Santa, open that gift, guess their Secret Santa, and then receive their Christmas presents. There is not an adequate way to describe the emotions felt, as an adult watching these children open their presents, some of whom have never experienced a Christmas anything like this one! This is what I have witnessed from our residents: there have been residents who have cried, saying that this is the best Christmas they have ever had, there have been residents that have smiled all night and not said a word, there have been residents that could not sit any longer and had to get up and literally jump for joy. A resident this year was so excited about her gifts that she had to stop and show everyone in attendance what she received after each present opened before moving on to open the next present! Many times, we have had residents tell us that they have never had name brand items before. They are so excited to have received a pair of Nike tennis shoes or Levi jeans that they get up to immediately go try on their new things. The joy they feel is contagious and as we leave for the evening we take a piece of that Christmas spirit with us. Celebrating Christmas at Residential is definitely my favorite part of working at the YSB!

We would also like to give a special shout out to Yvonne Duff who does an amazing job of picking out just the right presents for each resident every year! Scott Bissell and Tina Bechtol for decorating the house beautifully each year! Tina Bechtol for preparing the amazing feast that we have each year, not to mention the super tasty desserts! And to all the YSB staff who go out of their way to make Christmas extra special for our Residents!

As a Resident at the Youth Service Bureau

As a resident at the Youth Service Bureau, I would have to say that the abundance of support and opportunities given to me have completely changed the course of my life. Before YSB, I was a terrified, depressed, and freshly graduated kid with no one in my corner to help me make the healthy life-altering decisions that I was being forced to start making for myself. It’s been clear from the beginning that my circumstances would never lead me to any success in meeting my short-term goals, but compared to my peers, I was bound for long-term failure. 

YSB changed that for me.

At the Youth Service Bureau, they provide 24/7 assistance to the residents living here. We all meet with the therapist and case manager at least once a week to work on dealing with our trauma and on independent living skills so that we are better prepared for the future. Also, I believe that the entire experience of learning how to coexist with the other kids living at the Residential House is more than a necessary skill that all of us are bound to work on and learn from each day we live here.

Though, I do want to say that the kids who are placed at the Youth Service Bureau are definitely not bad kids. It is my belief that the kids that come through here have been dealt bad cards in the game we know as life. We just need a nudge in a better direction so we can become the strong, independent, and healthy adults we deserve to be.

Honestly, I can’t say I’ve ever had the stability and support of a real home before YSB. Now I have both of those things and more from my YSB family, and I could not be happier.

I believe that, at least for me, the YSB is that nudge.

Thank you!

Madelyn Stratton

Residential Care

“The reason I initially wanted to be a part of YSB is that it aligned with my degree. I thought that YSB would help me get a good start on my career once I finished college. I knew that I would be caring for children, and that is where my heart is. The third shift does not allow me to interact with the residents often, but I do feel like the residents are a part of my life and I’m keeping them safe. I do believe in this program, and it has helped me to realize that I do not want my own classroom once I graduate. My goal is to work with children who need guidance and counseling in dealing with personal or family issues.

As far as the program goes, I think that the kids have an abundance of opportunities while being given a safe place to live. The residents can engage in extracurricular school activities and join the workforce, depending on their age. The recreation calendar is full of daily activities to keep the residents occupied and giving them the opportunity to try new things. The residents have taken trips, and they are always doing outdoor activities during the warm months. I know that there is so much more to the program. These are just a few things that I believe would spark interest because a lot of people that I have spoken with portray YSB differently. Not really in a negative way, but they see it more as a jail rather than a program providing stability and support to kids and families.

There are also plenty of free resources and training opportunities for staff. Our boss is pretty cool too.” ~Amy Wicker, Direct Care Worker, Residential