De Soto youth ministries recognized with grant
As their peers skateboarded off steps Tuesday in front of De Soto Youth Ministries, Sarah Longman and Cameron Magdalen sat on the porch waiting for a bus that would take them to an outdoor outing.
The two 13-year-olds said they visit the ministry at least once a week, finding companionship, entertainment and religious instruction.
Longman said she hoped to work on her basketball game at the center. But she said she was learning a lot about Christianity, too.
"I usually don't have a chance at church. We learn the same thing over and over again," she said. "I get the chance to learn more here."
The appeal of the ministry was "friends, the Holy Spirit, and God," Magdalen said. The Shawnee teen credited the center with giving him a "second chance at life."
"I was heading off track when I came here," he said. "They kind of got me back on track."
Bill Wilting, who founded the ministry with his wife, Donna, was instrumental in that transformation, Magdalen said.
"He picked me out of the group," he said. "He told me I could be a leader."
That kind of positive presence makes the Wiltings great with teens, Longman and Magdalen said.
The two teens aren't the only ones impressed with the teen outreach programs at De Soto Youth Ministries. The ministry was awarded a $25,000 grant Monday evening from the Servant Christian Community Foundation.
Jack Houghton, ministry relations director with the foundation, said the Wiltings' De Soto Youth Ministries was awarded the foundation's top Passion Award winner at the annual Thurman Mitchell Servant Leadership Celebration.
In addition to the grant award for the Wilting's ministry, seven grants were awarded on the night in each category of $2,000, $5,000 and $10,000.
Houghton said 108 grant applications were submitted last spring for the grants awarded Monday.
"We had more than 50 that scored in the 90th percentile or above," he said. "That tells you something about the quality of the applications."
Site visits were scheduled for those remaining in contention after the written applications were scored, Houghton said. The Wiltings' work with teens witnessed during the visit impressed judges, he said.
"They have an unconditional love for teens," he said. "Although it was true their scoring was good on both accounts, I think what came through was their passion for teens no matter what their background."
In a statement Tuesday, the Wiltings said they were humbled to be awarded the top grant in the largest Christian awards program in the United States.
"We are deeply humbled by this incredible award and recognition of our work with youth. It is our passion to make a difference in the lives of teens, helping them make right choices in their lives.
"We applaud the Servant Christian Community Foundation for its compassion and its gifts and encouragement to many non-profit organizations and missions of mercy in the Kansas City and regional area."
Donna Wilting said the De Soto ministry was up against "incredible competition, representing local, regional, national and international organizations. Among the winners were Camp Barnabas, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Calvary Bible College.
Donna said the ministry knew it was well received when the grant application she and Allison Chambers wrote last spring scored well enough to earn a site visit. Before Monday's reception, they were aware they were among the eight finalists for the Passion Award, so they went to the banquet knowing they would be awarded $10,000 or $25,000.
"It was an exciting evening," Bill said.
It got progressively exciting for them as one by one the $10,000 grants were awarded. The Wiltings only became aware their ministry had earned the big grant when the final $10,000 grant was announced, Bill said.
The money will be used to help balance the ministry's books and launch new programs, Donna said.
"It's going to help our shortfall, right now," she said. "We have plans to expand, and more staff is part of our expansion. We have a goal right now to hire additional staff.
"We believe each teen we encounter is a life worthy of investment in time, energy and resources. Additional resources will allow us to rescue more teens, more effectively."
The Thurman Mitchell Servant Leadership Celebration is named for the former KCTV reporter who left broadcasting to become a pastor. Before his death in 2000, he played a key role in establishing the Servant Christian Community Foundation.