Youth Services Bureau of Huntington County (YSB) began in March, 1987, to provide at risk youth in Huntington County with services to address their specific needs.
Today’s YSB has expanded to include all youth, but the initial goal was to open a youth shelter that would provide an alternative for youth, instead of placing them in the adult jail.
The agency began offering programs to provide education and support to youth in May of 1987 in a room in the Huntington County Courthouse. The YSB started without funding, but with a strong desire to meet the needs of young people. A small group of community leaders was committed to this
Thais Wilhelm was one of those community leaders.
Wilhelm was Huntington County Sheriff at the time.
Wilhelm knew the impact a youth- focused agency could have on the lives of young people and their families in Huntington County, according to Jan Williams, YSB director. Wilhelm’s grandson, Adam Fusselman, serves on the current YSB board.
Fusselman said “I just remember my grandmother wanting to help the youth of Huntington County, and I guess that is where my desire began.”
Within the first year of opening the doors, YSB became a funded United Way agency and an accredited member of the Indiana Youth Services Association.
Its programs continued to increase in an effort to provide information, support and encouragement to an ever-growing group of youth and their families.
One of the first paid staff, Sara Landrum, remembers starting directly out of college to provide young people with independent living skills.
Currently, Landrum is Huntington County Community School Corporation’s social worker and continues to collaborate with YSB on a regular basis.
“The strength of YSB has always been the staff and their commitment to serving youth, families and the community,” Landrum said.
“YSB is willing to think outside of the box, and at times with situations there wasn’t even a box, in order to help a youth and/or family.”
Another early board member, Carla MacDonald, remembers feeling relieved that Huntington finally had an organization that would work with the schools and mutually seek support within the community for young people.
Mike Perkins was a long-term board member in the YSB’s early years.
“I remember YSB establishing itself as an important factor in the county’s not-for-profit services to children and families. They had built a strong support network, not only locally but at the state level,” Perkins said.
A challenge faced by the YSB in the early years was the misconception that only “kids in trouble” needed its services offered.
Other challenges included the lack of sufficient funding to do the work needed and the lack of parental involvement, either due to scheduling conflicts, or the attitude of some parents that “It is my child who needs the services. I don’t.”