In the summer of 2003, Executive Director Mark Nelson read a series of newspaper articles on Des Moines' growing homeless teen population. He began visiting the teens and young adults living under bridges and in homeless camps. Soon, God transformed the life of one young girl addicted to methamphetamines and inspired the creation of Freedom for Youth Ministries in November 2003. The name came from Isaiah 61, where Isaiah foretold how Jesus would come to "bind up the broken-hearted and set the captives free."
The ministry began in a small building near downtown Des Moines where more than 250 homeless teens could come to be loved and hear the truth of God's Word. In 2005, God's plan to reach more youth continued to unfold, as Freedom opened the Promise House for young adult men ready to change their lives. In May 2006, the ministry acquired a six-acre property in inner-city Des Moines. The campus underwent major renovations and in 2007 we launched elementary, middle, and high school programs. The campus now includes buildings for woodworking, employment training welding, auto mechanics, art, culinary training, computers, worship, and large group activities.
In 2009 and 2010, Freedom built and opened a 5,000 square foot transitional home for young women in addition to starting a statewide outreach ministry to help towns across Iowa reach hurting youth. Now there are Freedom Centers across the Des Moines Metro and in Mitchellville (opened 2009), Stuart (2011), Perry (2013), Winterset (2015), Knoxville (2016), Huxley (2016), and Carlisle (2017).
In 2011, the ministry founded Freedom Blend Coffee, a coffee business that empowers youth and young adults through Christ-centered employment training. In 2014, Freedom for Youth purchased a car wash located next to the Des Moines campus and began renovating the structure into a retail coffee house projected to open in summer 2017. Freedom Construction Services was founded in 2015 as another enterprise providing supportive employment training.
Today, more than 450 youth participate in programs each week at Freedom Centers across the state. Young people are discovering their God-given talents and planning their future. Some graduates are attending a 4-year college or trade school, or starting careers in health care, manufacturing, construction, and ministry.
Throughout its history, the ministry has seen God consistently provide all we need. Consequently, Freedom has no long-term debt, and all donor contributions go toward supporting programs rather than debt.
Click here to watch a video about our story!
Ready To Get Involved
We knew God was changing and working in the lives of the kids at Freedom for Youth. What we didn’t know was how He was going to change our hearts through serving... We feel blessed to be a part of Freedom and to be building relationships with leaders, volunteers, and youth for eternity.