YSS marks 35 years in Hamilton Co.

Open house commemorates anniversary

— Daily Freeman-Journal photos by Anne Blankenship Andrew Allen, Chief Executive Officer of YSS, speaks to the crowd gathered for the 35th anniversary celebration held Tuesday afternoon.

Community leaders, advisory board members and YSS staff gathered Tuesday afternoon at the Adele and Dean Bowden Youth and Family Clinic to celebrate the 35th anniversary of YSS of Hamilton County.

YSS Founder and former Chief Executive Officer George Belitsoes talked about the history of the Ames-based organization. What started as a drop-in center in Ames quickly grew to include many services to the youth and families of Central Iowa.

In 1979, the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors visited the YSS Shelter and Youth House in Ames. It was then they donated $5,000 to YSS which would reserve beds to guarantee placement for young people from Hamilton County.

Two years later, Janet Adams, Adele Bowden and the League of Women Voters conducted a survey which revealed a lack of services for youths in Hamilton County. In 1982, YSS of Hamilton County opened it’s first office as a drop-in center.

In 1984, following a tragic suicide in Hamilton County, the drop-in center was restructured to provide outpatient counseling. Bob Schulz was named the center director in 1987.

Dean Bowden, the lead donor in the 2015 capital campaign for the new Youth and Family Clinic, talks to the crowd about the need for ongoing fundraising for the agency.

“I didn’t know how lucky I was when I interviewed for that job,” Schulz said. “Twenty-four years … gosh, that went quick.”

He retired in 2011. Jane Adams took over as director at that time and continues in that position today.

YSS of Hamilton County broke ground on the new Adele and Dean Bowden Youth and Family Clinic in 2016 after the capital campaign surpassed its goal of $547,000 by more than $100,000. Dean and Adele Bowden were the lead donors for the project. They pledged $150,000 as well as the property that the clinic sits on today.

“We appreciate you coming to see our facility today, and we appreciate your support over the years,” Bowden said in his speech to the audience. “And being real frank as a fundraiser, we’re going to appreciate your support for the next 20 years.”

“Adele and I believe in the early intervention concept that George (Belitsoes) delivered when he first started this thing. He believed that early on you had to take on the problems,” he said.

Former YSS Director Bob Schulz. left, visits with Kyle Swon after the program during the YSS anniversary celebration Tuesday. Schulz was one of the speakers at the event.

“We believe it’s even more effective to have this facility in Webster City, Iowa,” said Bowden, adding that parents don’t have to travel to larger cities to get the care their child needs.

Also speaking to the audience was Andrew Allen, CEO of YSS. Allen was himself a client of YSS in his youth.

“I just feel blessed and I feel grateful,” Allen said. He said that was thinking about seconds and inches as Belitsoes was talking.

“Had the things not happened, had the people not stepped up, had the community not have been there, how many kids would not have been helped?” he asked. “How many kids would still be struggling?”

“I was one of those kids,” he said.

Allen said that YSS, at its core, is about “believing in kids more than then believe in themselves and encouraging them to become the person they were meant to be.”

“It takes a community of people to believe in them more than they believe in themselves, to surround them and encourage them,” he said.

Tours of the new facility, which opened in December 2016, were provided before the program.