JEFFERSONVILLE — As technology improves, so does the ease with which shoppers can make purchases — whether at the grocery or with online superstores like But many might might now know that a couple clicks can let shoppers help some of the young people in Clark County who need it the most.

And it doesn't cost anything extra — by simply opting in, shoppers can use their Kroger and Amazon accounts to help give the nearly 250 kids who are helped by the Clark County Youth Shelter each year a better quality of life.

With Amazon Smile, users can link their existing Amazon accounts to the program, select from one of almost a million nonprofit organizations, and then shop as normal. Products are the same price whether in the program or not, and 0.5 percent of every purchase goes toward the selected organization.

Shoppers can also register for the Kroger Community Rewards program, which donates a percentage of each purchase if using a Kroger Plus card.

“There's probably a lot of people who have Kroger cards who they have registered and they go and check their coupons and their [fuel] points and don't know the rewards program is there,” Laura Fleming-Balmer, Clark County Youth Shelter CEO and executive director said. “It's literally making a click."

The Clark County Youth Shelter helps young people referred by the Department of Child Services, usually for reasons of abuse or neglect at home, and by the Clark County Circuit Court No. 4, for nonviolent juvenile offenses. Sometimes they get to the shelter after running away from home or being truant from school.

While the organization receives most of its funding from DCS, and other private and community funding, much of that goes toward basic needs and maintaining a strong set of programs to help the kids learn, heal and cope with situations in their lives that have brought them to the shelter.

But that's not all it takes to help a child, the director said. Extra activities in the community can both help them learn and grow while providing a fun outlet.

“We have a license and there are things that we're required to do,” Fleming-Balmer said. “And we choose to do more — a lot of that is based around the activities or the learning experiences.”

Often this could mean cultural experiences, like going to museums or the theater. Last week, a grant from Actors Theatre allowed the kids to see "Dracula." But without support, these activities can become prohibitively costly, she said.

“Even if you think going to the movies, we're typically taking 13 people,” she said. “Just to get in the movie theater can literally cost us $150 to $160 — and that is just to walk in the door.”

“These types of donations allow us to do those extra activities.”

And the activities are valuable teachable moments for the kids, Fleming-Balmer said. Once a month, Buckhead's in Jeffersonville covers the cost of the youth and staff to dine in the restaurant.

The kids learn how the to order and to speak to the servers, how the dining experience works.

“A lot of the kids may have never been to a restaurant with a [server,] she said. “So they do not know how to respond appropriately.”

The kids have an allotted amount of money to spend so they have choices — to get a meal and a soda, maybe a smaller meal with an appetizer and water.

“So they're learning money management skills, they're learning how to eat off the menus,” Fleming-Balmer said.

“Everything is teachable.”

For the kids at the shelter, whether it's a temporary emergency stay, which could be one to 21 days, or a longer-term resident of two years or more, the staff wants to make sure they get the best care and opportunity for growth while they are there.

“They get to be a part of a 'home atmosphere' that they really don't get to be a part of when they're in their environment elsewhere,” Nelson said.

Through helping with cooking, gardening or chores at the shelter, which is made to feel like a family home, the kids learn independent living skills and structure.

“We're really from day one digging in to figure out what's going on,” Fleming-Balmer said. “If they need to be in therapy, we get that set up and going before they're out of here. If there are any allegations of abuse, we report those immediately.

“So our job ... is to hit the ground running, figure out what's going on and what things could help them so when they leave and go home, they have the supports in place.”

Part of this foundation comes from consistency. Each day is structured in half-hour or hour increments — everything from school time to homework to meals to video games.

“I think they really grow to like the structure because they come from a life where they've not had any,” Nelson said. “They don't know what's coming next and they don't know where things are going to come from a lot of times.”

This structure is important for all kids, but perhaps even more so the ones who go to the shelter.

“The structure calms the chaos,” Fleming-Balmer said.

Nelson said that since everybody's "normal" is different, the directors want to provide a secure environment while they are there.

“They get to be a part of a 'home atmosphere' that they really don't get to be a part of when they're in their environment elsewhere,” Nelson said.

And often, when they return home, the kids will want to take a copy of the schedule and try to stick to it after.

“They know how to plan their life a little bit and they want to continue to do that,” Nelson said.

Between the youth who live there and others who are in its programs, the facility offers individual and group therapy sessions, anger management and shoplifting prevention classes, parenting classes, and other groups sessions.

The shelter also administers the Safe Place program for Clark and Floyd counties.

The shelter has 10 beds — six for long-term stays and four reserved for more temporary ones. But the goal is the same no mater what — to make sure the kids are safe, to meet their basic needs and to try to figure out the root of the crisis that led them there.

“We want everything here to be calm,” Nelson said. “We want everything here to be very peaceful. We want them while they're here — whether its one day [or] two-plus years — we want it to be something that is meaningful to them, something they can remember.”

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