Valley Youth House

By Sara Vigneri

On a cold day in January, a man is pacing the streets of Bethlehem looking for something. There is a boy on that street as well, and he is also looking for something. The man is looking to help children and youth who need protection from the cold, from abuse, from gangs or from their troubled life. The boy doesn’t really know what he’s looking for, and probably won’t until much later in his life. But for the moment, the man and the boy both head to the same place, Valley Youth House.

Valley Youth ‘House’, is a bit of a misnomer–their services are so widespread and far reaching that they are more of a village than a house. In addition to the brick and mortar structures that provide shelter, food and counsel to children who face problems that seem insurmountable, they also bring counseling and other services into schools and homes from Lehigh County all the way down to Philadelphia. “For our social workers, it’s not just a job,” says Jeff McCausland, development officer for Valley Youth House. “They have a vested interest in the youth they serve; they aren’t just clocking in.”

This drive to help has produced results–Valley Youth House clients have double the high school graduation/GED rate compared to the national average. And their work doesn’t stop after high school: Valley Youth House has a $2.5 million contract to work with the Achieving Independence Center in Philadelphia helping young people who get transitioned out of the system at age 18 and have nowhere to turn. They help them learn how to live on their own, get jobs, pay bills and open bank accounts. “A young man named Jeremiah never had a bank account,” says McCausland. “So we taught him about interest and how a bank works. One day, he went to the bank and opened up an account. He was so giddy with excitement that he hugged the security guard at the bank and said to him, ‘Today I am a man…I opened my own checking account!’”

The lifelong impact of Valley Youth House on these at-risk youth is powerful. One day, a school teacher from North Carolina called McCausland requesting the opportunity to talk to the kids at the shelter about the best day of her life. “When I asked her what that day was,” says McCausland. “she said it was the day she got her masters degree and her counselor from Valley Youth House traveled to North Carolina to attend her graduation.” There is a teen mom who came to Valley Youth House for help and now works as a counselor with their Moms & Babies program. A man named Jason who had nowhere to go after turning 18 became an apprentice with the Valley Youth House maintenance staff and is now a master plumber who owns a home in Bethlehem.

Another Valley Youth House project is Camp Fowler, a 41-acre camp in Orefield that has a pool, cabins, zip lines and allows children to get what McCausland refers to as ‘adventure therapy.’ “Some of these boys and girls seem so tough,” says McCausland. “But I once saw a gang member flashing gang signs at the camp, but when he walked into the woods he was terrified that he actually might meet a bear. It made me realize that he’s just a young person in a lot of pain.” McCausland frequently visits the shelters and the camp and spends time getting to know everyone there. “These children think that they’ve hit the bottom, that nothing can make life better. But I tell them that if they are willing to work hard, Valley Youth House will be the first day of a new beginning.”

The organization relies heavily on donations and runs several fundraisers each year including an annual Gala, a Sporting Clays Tournament and a golf outing. The money is used to help fund important programs such as SAAD, which helps kids learn to make better life decisions, and the PATH program which helps rehabilitate young boys who have been abused. During 2009, more than 15,000 children and families received services from Valley Youth House including that kid on the street who was looking for something and ended up safely in a Valley Youth House shelter. The shelter, on 8th street in Bethlehem, provides beds, meals and counseling for homeless and runaway teens as well as children suffering from abuse and neglect. “There’s no safety net for these kids,” says McCausland. “When there’s a need, we send someone to help. We’re basically the best kept secret in the Lehigh Valley.”

Valley Youth House is now very pleased to reveal the plan for their first annual community yard sale and auction, aptly titled “Clean Out for Kids.”  Created in partnership with Wells Fargo Advisors and several other business and community leaders in the Lehigh Valley, this daylong event will take place on Saturday, June 26 at Camp Fowler in Orefield, Pa.  100% of the proceeds will benefit the Youth Education Program of Valley Youth House. At this time, the organization is actively seeking participants and sponsors. Lehigh Valley Marketplace is proud to be amongst those sponsoring this wonderful event.

For further information and continuous updates, you can also go online to

Go to for information on how to donate or volunteer, or contact Mac McCausland at the Development Office at 610-820-0166.


MAY 31ST – 13th Annual Kiwanis Race to Erase Child Abuse 5K
JUNE 7TH – Silver Anniversary Annual Golf & Tennis Tournament
JUNE 26TH – Clean Out For Kids
OCTOBER 30TH – VIP Gala Reception, Allentown, Symphony Hall
Sara Vigneri, an experienced health journalist, sleeps better at night knowing that organizations like Valley Youth House are helping mold Lehigh Valley youth.

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