YSS is launching a new business partnership program, which seeks to build relationships with businesses throughout Story County to support the organization’s mission to “create hope and opportunity” for youth YSS serves.
According to YSS President and CEO Andrew Allen, the Business Partners Program 2020 is being launched “in recognition of all that has been done by businesses in this community to support our mission over the past almost 45 years.”
“The vision was to pull together a single program that tailors to the needs of businesses that are supporting YSS and to expose their support in mutually beneficial partnerships,” Allen said. “We have so much gratitude for all the support we’ve received from so many different businesses over the years, and we have need for continued support.”
Partnerships that make a difference
The new partnership program builds off of relationships built over the years. What the new program does, according to documents from YSS, is bring that under one umbrella which “recognizes (the businesses’) support and gives us an opportunity to say ‘Thank you.’”
It was an idea Allen had due to his 18 years of experience at Principal Financial Group, where he led the corporate social responsibility function and funded nonprofits on behalf of the company.
“It helps us, as an organization, to talk about the businesses that have invested in our mission, and hopefully we can help the businesses that have partnered with YSS to elevate their brand, especially as it relates to corporate social responsibility,” Allen said.
According to Allen, the three most common ways businesses contribute are through time and talent, goods and services, and financial contributions.
The ARENA Nevada Crossfit, for example, has supported YSS over the past two years by providing two free classes each week to the organization’s residents. According to Allen, providing that service has made a “tremendous” difference.
“She encourages and supports, and even holds these youths accountable, in ways that help them mature and grow in their recovery,” Allen said about The ARENA Nevada Crossfit owner, Jennifer Smith.
Smith, of Nevada, said she has known Allen her entire life, and also worked for YSS during her time at Iowa State University. As a result, she said, “I have always felt a bond with YSS and their mission.” Over the years, her business held fundraisers and made financial contributions, but she thought she needed to do something more.
“I asked Andrew what he thought about having kids come over every week and letting them learn about Crossfit, about the benefits of moving their bodies, because I truly believe that is a part of becoming well,” Smith said. “It just gives them an opportunity to move their bodies in a safe environment where people aren’t going to be judging them, and where it’s OK to try new things.”
Smith said being able to give the kids, who are in a structured program toward recovery, a chance to have fun and be active, to help them “feel a little bit more like themselves,” is a rewarding feeling, and her biggest hope is those kids will take the experience with them.
“Falling in love with exercise and finding a community of like-minded people that care about health and wellness is something they can take with them, and it can be a lifelong thing that helps them continue a sober lifestyle,” she said.
She also encourages businesses that have not been involved with the organization to consider how they can make a difference as well.
“I think it’s everything to be able to collaborate and connect, especially with nonprofits like YSS, because I think sometimes people get too focused on the business side of their business,” Smith said. “Anytime we can give back and foster those relationships, I feel like it is only going to benefit both of us, and it’s been an honor to do this for YSS. It’s a win-win.”
A Day in the Life
When YSS looked at ways it could give back to businesses, the conversations led to a fairly unique idea, which the organization is currently beginning to implement with interested businesses throughout the community.
The idea: “A Day in the Life” job-shadowing opportunity where residents spend a day with a local business and “get a vision of what they can do in the future.”
Mardy Medders, a YSS volunteer who helped form the program, said, “Anytime you have hope and anytime you have opportunity, and when you put those things together, it’s very positive. I think it’s very special for these kids who have had troubled backgrounds to see that we’re here for them and they can be encouraged.”
One of the businesses that has agreed to participate in “A Day in the Life” is Gateway Hotel and Conference Center. According to General Manager Samuel Meisinger, the opportunity seemed like a perfect addition to its partnership with YSS.
“We figured a hotel would be a really good option because there’s so many different areas they could step into for ‘A Day in the Life,’ like seeing what the restaurant does, the front desk, housekeeping, sales or conference services,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer when you look at the program, and what they can do for youth, and it’s like, ‘Why am I not doing this?’”
Medders said “the sky’s the limit for these kids,” and she hopes participating in “A Day in the Life” will let the participants see that as well.
Allen, who once was a resident at YSS before becoming its CEO, agreed.
“I was a kid who struggled with addiction and delinquency. I got lucky and was sent to treatment at 17, and today I am a person in long-term recovery,” he said. “If this ‘A Day in the Life’ program and the investment of businesses into our mission can create hope for a young person desperate for an opportunity and for a family, who doesn’t know where to turn, then it’s worth it.
“I think it’s a break in their day-to-day treatment, and work is an opportunity to be exposed to something new. In my mind, it creates a vision of the future and gives them a potential opportunity to follow up on as they work on their own recovery.”
Building new relationships
Allen said he looks forward to continuing the relationships YSS has built with businesses throughout the county and expanding to include new partnerships through the program.
Businesses interested in building a partnership or making contributions to the organization can visit www.yss.org for information.
It is, according to Allen, a benefit to everyone involved, as “Strong communities help businesses thrive.”
“It takes the focus of someone’s business, and the desire to generate profit, and gives it additional purpose by supporting the community,” he said. “YSS helps more than 10,000 kids and families across the state every year, and we’ve got nearly 40 different programs and more than 300 employees.
“Ames and Story County are really lucky to have such a great resource providing services in this community, and we’re grateful for the partnerships we’ve had, and look forward to continuing those and building new relationships as well.”