Scores of young people, unable to find jobs in a sluggish economy, are returning home to Mom and Dad until things get better. But foster children don’t have that luxury. Legally, they’re on their own as soon as they reach 21. Up to two-thirds of young people in the foster care system don’t graduate from high school or get a GED. Of those who do, only one in 10 pursues post-secondary education. “Aging out of foster care, a real issue for our region, is a significant focus for Epworth Children & Family Services,” says Greg Boyce, chairman/CEO of Peabody Energy. “My wife, Lisa, and I are advocates of empowering young people, and we’re fortunate to live in a community where at-risk youth are able to get the services, help and guidance they need to live productively on their own.”

On Feb. 4, the Boyces will be honored for their efforts with Epworth’s 2011 Pillar of Strength Award. Premiere sponsor for the fundraising gala, which takes place in the Khorassan Room at the Chase Park Plaza, is Peabody Energy. “Each year, we give the award to individuals or organizations that embody Epworth’s mission: helping at-risk young people build their strengths while learning the skills necessary to thrive in society,” explains Epworth executive director Kevin Drollinger. “Lisa and Greg Boyce have contributed time, energy and resources to give youth in crisis a stable foundation. The Boyces have a clear, passionate commitment to building confidence and fostering independence in these kids—and they have a gift for inspiring others to do the same.”

“Greg and I are honored and humbled to receive the Pillar of Strength Award,” says Lisa Boyce. “Our hope is to spread Epworth’s message that, through shared understanding, acceptance and effort, we can all make a fundamental difference in the lives of others.” The event, hosted by The Friends of Epworth, is co-chaired by Nancy Haas and Lisa Smith.

At the Boyces’ request, proceeds from the 2011 Pillar of Strength celebration will fund Epworth’s aging out programs. The St. Louis Aging Out Initiative, begun by Epworth and eight other local youth service organizations in 2007, provides education, skills training and advocacy for young people preparing to leave the foster care system, following them through age 25. “The goal is to help them become stable, productive members of the community,” Drollinger says.

Epworth Children & Family Services, established in 1864, provides support to at-risk youth with severe emotional and behavioral issues. Services for young people from birth to age 25 and their families include residential and day treatment programs, therapeutic counseling, education and special education, family reunification therapy, foster care case management and foster family recruitment and training. Based in Webster Groves, Epworth is nationally known for its independent and transitional living programs, and also operates a youth emergency shelter with a 24-hour hotline. It serves more than 2,000 people each year.

“Imagine you’re a quarterback on the 20-yard line, about to drive the ball into the end zone,” Greg Boyce says. “All of a sudden, the rest of the team walks off the field. That’s what happens when we abandon youth who age out of foster care. It’s up to us to get them down those last 20 yards so they make that touchdown.” LN

On the Cover: On Feb. 4, Epworth Children & Family Services honors Lisa and Greg Boyce with the 2011 Epworth Pillar of Strength Award. Proceeds from the annual gala, held in the Khorassan Ballroom at the Chase Park Plaza, fund Epworth’s services for young people who are leaving the foster care system. Premier sponsor for the event is Peabody Energy.  For ticket information, call 961-5718 or visit