Helping our youth

Lindsay Owens | Times Herald Employees of Grain Pressing Corporation presented Youth First with $10,000 Friday morning. Pictured are GPC employees, Youth First social workers from Washington, North Daviess, Barr-Reeve, Pike County and Martin County schools and school administration.

Thanks to a $10,000 donation from Grain Processing Corporation, Youth First, an Evansville-based non-profit that works to provide master’s level social workers to area schools, can continue to grow its services in Daviess, Martin and Pike counties. The award was presented Friday morning at the plant located just outside of Washington.

“Our children are growing up in a complex and challenging world that puts them at greater risk for substance use, suicide, violence and harmful behaviors,” said Parri O. Black, Youth First president and CEO. “GPC’s investment is critical to achieving Youth First’s mission. We are so grateful for their continuing support. Working together, we can protect and heal the hearts of more young people and their families in Daviess, Martin and Pike counties.”

Youth First came to Loogootee Community Schools about five years ago then expanded into Washington schools before coming into Barr-Reeve and North Daviess last school year.

“We are beginning our second year with this partnership and are excited about what it will continue to do to impact our young people,” said Barr-Reeve Superintendent Dr. Travis Madison, adding Barr-Reeve’s social worker is Leah Lottes. “Programs and services like these wouldn’t be possible without their help and support. It is apparent that they are community minded and focused as they are stepping up like this for the kids who are their future employees and our community’s future leaders.”

North Daviess Superintendent Bob Bell said even after just one year, Krisi Mattingly, their social worker, has made a big impact.

“After one year, we can see the positive impact she has on the social and emotional well-being of several of our students,” said Bell, adding the donations are instrumental in allowing us to keep social workers in the schools.

Washington Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Roach said Youth First has been a great asset to the students at the junior high and high school.

“It’s been a great partnership,” said Roach, who said Ashley Hale and Jaclyn Durnil are the social workers for Washington students. “It’s really invaluable to our staff and students. At the end of the year, I see the number of students they serve and spans across all socioeconomic backgrounds. It’s incredible.”

Lisa Klopfenstein, human resources manager at GPC, said two years ago, the company that is subsidiary of Kent Corporation headquartered in Muscatine, Iowa, changed its donation request process.

“We now have the ability to make some of the decisions locally,” said Klopfenstein, adding that when the process changed two years ago, Youth First was the first recipient. “In 2018, we gave almost $30,000 locally and so far this year, we’ve given almost $22,000 not including our United Way campaign.”

The decision to give to Youth First, GPC Plant Manager John Dudenhoeffer said, was an easy one.

“When we first heard about the presence of Youth First in our local schools and the positive work they were doing, it was an easy decision to get on board with our support,” said Dudenhoeffer. “Youth First social workers are in nearly all of the area schools where GPC employees’ children or grandchildren attend. This is one way that we can help support those families and the many challenges facing our youth today.”

Julie Hoon, Youth First vice president of philanthropy, said part of the goal of Youth First social workers is to help students fill those invisible backpacks often waited down with anxiety and burdens with positives.

“We are equipping kiddos with skills to be strong mentally, socially and academically,” said Hoon, who said Youth First, which was founded 21 years ago by Dr. William Wooten, not only offers services to students and staff at the school but also to parents through classes.

Currently Youth First spreads its mission of strengthening youth and families through evidence-based programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors and maximize student success in 78 schools across 10 counties.

For more information on Youth First visit

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