Grace Youth and Family Foundation (GYFF) officially began in January of 1990. It was registered in Pennsylvania as a Domestic Non-profit Corporation July 14, 1994 and received 501C3 Federal Tax Exempt status August 12, 1996. GYFF was born out of a Friday night community outreach volleyball program operating out of a local church gym/auditorium in Cranberry Township, Butler County Pennsylvania. Youth of all ages would attend with the expectation of playing volleyball, eating free food, and listening to a message about God’s unconditional love. What brought youth back to the program week after week was their development of engaging relationships with the leaders who loved and accepted them unconditionally, and truly cared about what was happening in their daily lives.
The truth of the statement, “youth don’t really care how much you know until they know how much you really care” was easily confirmed through this initial program. It was during this period of time that GYFF’s Founder, Bill Halle, developed a simple approach that has enabled GYFF to help literally thousands of at-risk youth and their families. He discovered that by consistently demonstrating unconditional love and acceptance, and simply being willing and available to engage each youth in conversation in a nonjudgmental manner, youth and their families would openly and honestly share the realities of their life experience.
Through years of these open and honest real life relationships, Bill and the staff of GYFF began to see with different eyes. They learned how little help there truly was for youth and their families who were dealing with serious problems and/or needs. They also discovered through research and personal experience that as many as 90% of the people who were identified as having a specific need of services did not receive them due to a myriad of barriers ranging from economic limitations to a simple lack of awareness that help existed. One day when driving to work, Bill decided that he simply could not continue living his daily life as if he did not know the very real struggles of the youth and families he tried to serve. He could no longer accept the excuse that nothing could be done about it. That very afternoon, Bill began the steps that led to the creation of Grace Youth and Family Foundation, his resignation from his job and his answering the call to full time ministry.