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The Relationship Issue  |   November 2021
QUARTERLY STORIES AND INSIGHTS FROM

Welcome to the second installment of True + Possible, The Relationship Issue.

In the stories and insights shared below, you will hear from two staff and an alumna about what relationships mean at TreeHouse and how we build them as a way to instill in teens the belief that they are loved without strings and never alone.

Thank you for believing in this mission, and we hope you enjoy.

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THE RELATIONSHIP ISSUE

Vanessa’s Story: “The Holidays Are About The Connections We Share.”

The holidays can be difficult for TreeHouse teens experiencing volatility at home, but we work to share with them a belief that, even in the toughest seasons, they are loved without strings and never alone. Hear from a TreeHouse alumna about what the holidays mean to her.

By Vanessa Hughes | TreeHouse Alumna

16 YEARS AGO, when I was in middle school, I listened to music on an ugly $20 gray MP3 player. I loved it. But after my family moved from North Minneapolis to Plymouth, other girls started making fun of it because it wasn’t like the iPods they had. I had no idea what an iPod was, but I went home and asked my dad if he could buy me one. He Googled the price and said “Honey, I will never be able to get you an iPod.”

Once Christmas came around, I got jealous of all the presents the other kids were getting. They walked around school in name-brand clothing. One girl got plane tickets. It made me angry and resentful of my situation—why did they have so much more than me just because they were born into a different family? I even felt the urge to take things from the kids whose parents I knew had enough money to replace anything I stole. But I stopped myself, and TreeHouse helped me move forward and see the holidays differently.

At TreeHouse, my mentors showed me that the holidays are not about the situation you’re in, but the connections you make. And they did that by demonstrating what healthy, loving connections looked like. My mentors listened without judgment, affirmed my struggles, and treated me with respect. At school, I wouldn’t talk about my parents or my life at home because I was scared people would judge me and my family. But I could share anything at TreeHouse because I knew I wouldn’t be judged. I was constantly told I was loved, and I was introduced to God in a way I had never experienced before. Because of TreeHouse, I stopped seeing God as a huge, scary entity and started seeing Him as someone who believed I was lovable, capable, and worthwhile.

I started believing that no matter my situation, I was loved.

Through all of this, TreeHouse helped me see the holidays differently. Instead of focusing on materialistic things, we focused on helping others. We did toy drives for kids who didn’t usually get Christmas presents, and sometimes we would volunteer to pack meals that would be sent to hungry children overseas. I also started believing that no matter my situation, I was loved. And I learned to give that glory to God.

Now I’m a mother, and I try my best to share the same wisdom with my children that TreeHouse shared with me. Before we open presents on Christmas morning, we go out in our community and do something kind together. This year, we’re going to give treats to all the cats and dogs at the local Humane Society. And when we sit down for Christmas dinner, we start by sharing one thing we love about each other and one thing we’re grateful for. Because, to me, the holidays aren’t about the material things. They’re about the connections we share—the arms we wrap around each other.

Vanessa Hughes attended the Plymouth, MN TreeHouse from 2005 to 2009. Today, she has three children and lives in South Dakota.

Getting To Know Our Neighbors

At all our sites, we work to connect teens with their communities. Read how one site does this through relationships with local leaders and organizations.

THIS PAST SEPTEMBER, officers from the Bloomington Police Department served hot dogs and hamburgers to our teens during a program night. They stuck around after to chat, play games, and donate some backpacks. Another time, in the midst of a tense 2020, officers came to TreeHouse and gave our teens a chance to share their thoughts and ask questions. Now, when those officers see our teens at the mall, they say hello to them by name.

Our relationship with the Bloomington Police Department is just one example of how and why TreeHouse builds deep relationships within the communities that surround our sites. In Bloomington, like all TreeHouse communities, there is a vast network of people and organizations who love teens and want to afford them as many opportunities as possible. From DeLeo Bros, a pizza shop that feeds teens for free on program nights, to Headway, a counseling center that refers teens to support group, these connections help bring hope to more teens who need it.

This exposure brings hope, connecting teens to more people and organizations who will speak truth and love into their lives.

By collaborating and networking within the community, we are showing teens a brighter, more diverse picture of the world around them. Some of our teens attended a Q+A with the Racial Equity Coordinator for the City of Bloomington, and others have been hired at local businesses. Jimmy, our Program Manager, has built a close relationship with Richfield Middle School, allowing us to work with educators to support teens outside normal TreeHouse gatherings. And Hometown Church offers their space to us for multiple program nights every week. This exposure brings hope, connecting teens to more people and organizations who will speak truth and love into their lives.

After the Bloomington police officers volunteered at a program night, one teen connected with the department to set up an informational interview because he was interested in a career in law enforcement. Others will learn accounting and business skills through a future partnership with DeLeo Bros. And some verbalize dreams of being teachers or pastors. Every time a teen connects with a local leader or lands a part-time job, they not only hear messages of hope, but they visualize their future.

That’s the beauty of community collaboration. By connecting teens to people who care deeply about them, we can provide a fuller, richer view of life for teens to grab a hold of. We get to spark relationships and see them develop, walking alongside teens as they start believing in hope. From the police department to a pizza shop, our community empowers everything we do—helping us go after our mission of ending hopelessness among teens.


Mike Ashley has been the Area Director of the Bloomington TreeHouse since March 2020. Before that, he served as a youth pastor for more than 20 years.

19 or 90: TreeHouse Mentors Can Be Any Age

The TreeHouse model of mentorship doesn’t rely on the age of mentors. Read insights from a TreeHouse trainer about why that model works.

AT THE CENTRAL Wisconsin TreeHouse, there is a mentor named Phil who is 65 years old. For the past three years, he has devoted time to connecting with teens one-to-one. Last month, he shared a letter with these words: “Even though I’m old enough to be [the teens’] grandfather, we all understand the same language of love.”

At TreeHouse, we agree with Phil. Because we believe the mark of an effective mentor is not age, but approach. No matter if a mentor is 19 or 90, if they are driven by an authentic heart and desire to truly get to know teens, they can be a voice of hope and love in teens’ lives. And the TreeHouse model of mentorship provides the tools and confidence they need to demonstrate that approach in every relationship they build with a teen.

Our training starts with an invitation. We welcome any and all people who desire to be part of this grace-based community and genuinely want to walk alongside teens. We then invest in their growth, teaching them the six key elements of all TreeHouse programs: safety, resiliency, grace, fun, caring relationships, and expertise. Coming from a wide range of life experiences, some may not be too much older than the teens they mentor, while others may have a few teen grandchildren. Regardless, we work to foster an awareness of the value all mentors can bring to teens through authentic connection and an identity rooted in the living hope of Jesus.

All teens want is someone there to listen and care.

The TreeHouse model makes these connections possible wherever there are mentors willing to serve. In Pipestone, MN, there is a TreeHouse operated mostly by grandparents, and one of the mentors is 90 years old. At the Minnetonka TreeHouse, the Youth Outreach Associate graduated from college just this year. Teens at both sites have verbalized the impact made by these mentors, and that’s because all mentors are trained to follow the exact same model—one that relies not on age, but on an authenticity.

Teens see right through inauthentic people. All they want is someone there to listen and care. So, it’s crucial for TreeHouse mentors to know why they are serving. It can’t be for their own gain. It can’t be because they want to “fix” teens. It can’t even be because they can easily sympathize with teens. No matter their age, mentors need to have a heart for teens and a deep desire to come alongside them in every moment and instill the living hope of Jesus. Like Phil says later in his letter, “everything we do is [to show teens] that they are loved in the same way God loves us.”

Nick Frenzen is the Partner Training Manager at TreeHouse, working to equip future mentors across the country with the TreeHouse model. Before transitioning into that role seven years ago, he worked at New Hope, MN TreeHouse first as the Youth Outreach Associate and then as the Area Director.



MILESTONES TO CELEBRATE

NEWS + UPDATES

We work every day to serve more teens in more communities. Read these brief stories of success about how that work gets done. 

SEPTEMBER

Sites held fall kick-offs that featured plenty of opportunities for teens to connect with TreeHouse. More than 1,400 teens have participated in programs and activities at our more than 40 sites across 10 states.

SEPTEMBER

The Chaska TreeHouse began its transition into no less than three parter sites, reaching more teens in more Carver County communities.

OCTOBER

TreeHouse staff and volunteers started serving in-person at schools again, helping teens through the transition away from remote learning.

OCTOBER 18

Teens at the Eden Prairie TreeHouse took a pottery class at the Eden Prairie Art Center as part of a grant for teens to experience art, music, and dance.

OCTOBER 23

Teens at the Mahtomedi TreeHouse spent their fall retreat—a tradition for all directly-operated sites—exploring Minnesota’s North Shore with staff and mentors.

NOVEMBER

TreeHouse Central Wisconsin celebrated National Kindness Month by participating in several service projects in Waushara County.

SEPTEMBER

Directly-operated sites held fall kick-offs that featured bounce houses, snow cone machines, and plenty of opportunities for more than 1,300 teens to connect with TreeHouse.

SEPTEMBER

The Chaska TreeHouse began its transition into three parter sites, reaching more teens in more Carver County communities.

OCTOBER

TreeHouse staff and volunteers started serving in-person at schools again, helping teens through the transition away from remote learning.

OCTOBER 18

Teens at the Eden Prairie TreeHouse took a pottery class at the Eden Prairie Art Center as part of a grant for teens to experience art, music, and dance.

OCTOBER 23

Teens at the Mahtomedi TreeHouse spent their fall retreat—a tradition for all directly-operated sites—exploring Minnesota’s North Shore with staff and mentors.

NOVEMBER

TreeHouse Central Wisconsin celebrated National Kindness Month by participating in several service projects in Waushara County.

SEPTEMBER

Directly-operated sites held fall kick-offs that featured bounce houses, snow cone machines, and plenty of opportunities for more than 1,300 teens to connect with TreeHouse.

SEPTEMBER

The Chaska TreeHouse began its transition into three parter sites, reaching more teens in more Carver County communities.

OCTOBER

TreeHouse staff and volunteers started serving in-person at schools again, helping teens through the transition away from remote learning.

OCTOBER 18

Teens at the Eden Prairie TreeHouse took a pottery class at the Eden Prairie Art Center as part of a grant for teens to experience art, music, and dance.

OCTOBER 23

Teens at the Mahtomedi TreeHouse spent their fall retreat—a tradition for all directly-operated sites—exploring Minnesota’s North Shore with staff and mentors.

NOVEMBER

TreeHouse Central Wisconsin celebrated National Kindness Month by participating in several service projects in Waushara County.

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