Valerie Utsler had been searching for a way to serve. A friend, who knew of her desires, called and told her to turn on her radio. The young girl speaking on the radio was telling how Freedom for Youth impacted her life. “The girl’s voice went straight to my heart not my ears,” Utsler says.
Freedom For Youth began in Des Moines in 2003 as an outreach for homeless teens to hear God’s word. The six-acre campus in Des Moines has grown to serve K-12 students helping them see their God-given talents and plan their future. Aside from worship, the students can learn practical things like woodworking, mechanics, or culinary skills to name a few. When Ustler visited, she knew this was the ministry for her. Fortunately, the Des Moines campus had been looking for an opportunity to open their doors in Winterset.
Utsler came home and told her husband, Corey, about the program. They had been looking as a couple for a more global ministry. “He was just going to support me,” Ustler says, “But he fell in love with it and now it’s our family ministry.”
Utsler credits God for paving every step of the way to opening the center. Freedom for Youth has no debt and all money donated goes to support the kids and the centers. So she was not surprised when a location in Winterset with reasonable rent opened. Volunteers to renovate the space and donations to get the center stocked have been never-ending.
The center, located at 108 E. Court, is currently open from 5-7pm Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. They are not a social club or a church. They are in support of all other ministries in the community. The kids do not need to be impoverished or unchurched to attend but those are the kids they are trying to reach. They are simply trying to help kids be successful in school, faith, and life.
Utsler is listed as the site director but she and her family serve on a volunteer basis only.
“I had to get out of the way,” Ustler says, “because this is not about us. This is truly for the glory of God.”