Launch Pad Independent Living was established in 2019 as a faith-based corporation and non-profit foundation. The Launch Pad exists to support and empower older youth who are transitioning out of government care and into successful adulthood.
In 2015 Lia Fourlas and Bethany Wheeler became co-workers providing therapeutic and crisis management services to adolescents involved in Child & Youth Services and Juvenile Probation. Through their work with families, both Lia and Bethany began to see that the lack of safe, stable housing impacted every area of their clients’ ability to meet their goals and become successful adults.
As a PA Independent Living Coordinator, Lia worked with older youth preparing to age out of the foster care system. Lia quickly learned about the overwhelming challenges that transitioning youth face, including immediate homelessness, poverty and lack of employment and education opportunities. These issues that were outside of their control often result in unplanned pregnancies, incarceration, and substance abuse. Thanks to google search, a number of transitioning youth found Lia’s address and begin literally showing up on her doorstep with nowhere to go. She reached out to her friend and local landlord Rob Frey to ask for help. He offered them temporary shelter in his vacant apartments. From these experiences, Lia and Rob started to talk about how to create a safe, stable environment for transitioning youth. Rob not only supported, but partnered with her and the vision started to become a reality.
During their years working together, Bethany and Lia shared a concern about the future of the youth they served. They would watch youth make progress, grow personally and complete goals while in a supervised program. Yet time and again, as youth were discharged, they struggled to maintain these changes without positive support systems. It became evident that Pennsylvania youth were in need of more long-term interventions. They dreamt together about a place to provide longer and more complete care. In October 2019, Bethany joined the Launch Pad team.
In 2019, they purchased a building in the small, rural town of Newville, PA. Lia grew up in the community and graduated from Big Spring High School. She knew this community well and was confident it would support the mission and help the youth feel at home. The Launch Pad has created 8 full and part time jobs in the community, and are truly honored to employ outstanding local adults to supervise and guide the Launch Pad youth.
Throughout the past year, the Launch Pad has been in the process of renovating the 1800s-built home. The days have been spent refinishing hardwood floors, painting walls with a trauma-informed color palate, repairing plumbing, updating electricity, and even doing some critter-evictions from the attic. None of this could have been done without the support and assistance of the community and dedicated volunteers. After 9 months of lovingly renovating the building, the Launch Pad anticipates opening for referrals in August of 2020.
We look forward to strengthening the relationships with the community and helping older youth launch into a healthy adulthood.