Calming the Chaos

Abundant of Life Community Church is hosting a training conference called, “Calming the Chaos” on September 29th from 12pm-4pm. The training is designed to help ministry leaders and volunteers that work with children and teens to better understand the behaviors of children that have been through trauma. This event is open to all churches and denominations – all leadership and volunteer staff are encouraged to attend.

Pastor David Anderson with Abundant of Life Community Church is excited to bring this training into the community, “Our communities are full of teens and children who live in very tough circumstances.  It can be very hard to reach them when your teams don’t understand how to effectively relate to them, and meet their specific needs.”

“I can remember becoming very frustrated trying to get kids to behave and participate, and often feeling like I had no clue on how to keep control.  This training will transform the way we minister to these kids.  It’ll help us understand how these children think and react, and have the tools to engage them in effective ways,” says Anderson.

Anderson has collaborated with local nonprofit, Refuge to help facilitate the training. Refuge is a nonprofit that serves children and families in Madison County who’ve been exposed to childhood abuse and trauma. They help address and prevent childhood abuse and violence exposure with therapy and training. Executive Director, Erin Bickle and Case Worker/Parent Educator, Angie Darden are the special guest speakers for this training.

Bickle and Darden will share information on: Adverse Childhood Experiences, Mental and physical impacts of childhood exposure to trauma, Understanding the behaviors of children with trauma, Tools to use in the church setting and the Burnout of volunteers: How to stop secondary trauma.

“We’re very excited to participate in the Calming the Chaos training as we feel strengthening and educating the different aspects of community are crucial to the resilience of our children,” said Bickle. “We feel like this training will help those working with children and youth look through a different lens when attempting to support, build up and ultimately bring hope to those they’re working with.”

Bickle said trauma training is important because without the knowledge of how trauma impacts even our youngest children, we cannot properly support and help them heal.

“Refuge can’t wait to participate in this training because there’s a need in our faith-based community to support volunteers working tirelessly with children who come from hard places,” said Darden. “This training will help those volunteers to understand the impact of trauma on the developing child.  Trauma training is so important because it gives us insight, tools, and empathy to continue building the strongest connection with our children, their parents, and ultimately showing the unconditional love of Christ.”

Pastor Anderson hopes to equip church teams to better meet the needs of at risks kids.  He’s hoping church leaders, youth/kids pastors and volunteers will sign up for this training.

The cost is $25 per church team (up to 20 people per team). Lunch will be available from 11am-12 pm and can be purchased that day (proceeds helps children in Thailand). The training will take place at the Abundant Life Community Church; 3986 Humbert Road, Alton, Illinois.

Registration is encouraged.  Tickets are available to purchase online:

Refuge’s Golf Scramble

Refuge is hosting their Annual, “Build a Refuge” Golf Scramble on Friday, September 21st at Belk Park Golf Course in Wood River. The registration deadline is Friday, September 14.

The four-person team entry is $300 and includes golf carts, dinner following play and prizes.

“We look forward to this event every year because it’s always a fun, well-attended event where we can enjoy a relaxing afternoon with our special donors,” said Refuge Executive Director, Erin Bickle. “Our board members work very hard at continuing to make this event even more successful than the last one.”

Sponsorship levels are: Event Sponsor ($1,000), Dinner Sponsor ($500), Beverage Cart Sponsor ($250) and Hole Sponsor ($100). Sponsor’s banner/sign will be used if available. If banner/sign is unavailable, organizers will obtain small signs. Larger signs for event sponsors will be provided by sponsors.

Participants interested in registering for a team, or becoming a sponsor, please visit Refuge’s website:

Proceeds from the golf outing benefits Refuge, which is a self-funded nonprofit. Refuge is a nonprofit that serves children and families in Madison County who’ve been exposed to childhood abuse. They help address and prevent childhood abuse and violence exposure with therapy and training.

Rising Temps, Rising Bills

With temperatures rising, more families are struggling to afford their increased energy bills. Our Client Service Department is working hard to keep up with the high demand. To ensure we can keep up with the demand, we need more donations.

“Our Client Services Department is seeing an increase in the people walking in the door that need help paying their energy bill, especially our senior citizens,” said Riverbend Family Ministries Executive Director, Tammy Iskarous.  “Although we offer solutions to help offset these problems, funding is limited and our families struggling to balance the rising cost of food, housing, and utilities are finding themselves in real crisis.”

Just a reminder for those not familiar with our Client Service Department – we are open to the public Monday through Thursday from 9a.m. – 1p.m.   We do accept walk-ins during those office hours, during that time, each client will be asked to fill out paper work and asked back for an interview.

Anyone who lives within the Riverbend community area is eligible for financial assistance for rent or utilities. You must live at that residence for at least 6 months, and balance cannot exceed $750.

Madison County Cooling Sites 

Make a donation to Riverbend Family Ministries 

2018 Grace Skief Scholarship Winners

Riverbend Family Ministries (RFM) board members presented this year’s winners for the Grace Skief Memorial Volunteer Scholarship. The three winners are: Erin Zobrist (Civic Memorial High School), Skylar King (Civic Memorial High School), and Darby Hobbs (Roxanna High School).

Skylar King is going to major in special education and plans on attending Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville in the fall.  Erin Zobrist is going to major in Science and will be attending Lewis and Clark Community College in the fall. Darby Hobbs is interested in Pharmacy and has received a scholarship to St. Louis College of Pharmacy and will attend this fall.

The scholarship is named after 11 year-old, Grace Skief, who was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (D.I.P.G.), a type of cancer that attacks the brain stem. She was diagnosed in April 2015 and lost her battle just a few months later in July. Skief and her family attended RFM’s Annual Trivia Fundraiser and she would volunteer as a “runner,” collecting everyone’s answer sheets.

“I’ll always remember her energetic smile and personality,” said RFM Executive Director, Tammy Iskarous. “Gracie’s time on earth was precious, she touched many lives and knew the importance of volunteering and giving back in the community and that’s what made me realize we had to do something in her honor.”

The scholarship targets students who exemplify the importance of community service and helps Grace’s story live on.

“We looked for applicants who believed in the volunteer spirit and who did more in the community than just fulfill school requirements,” said Iskarous. “Her spirit of loving people and life continues through the recipients.”

Her family continues to raise awareness for D.I.P.G. and started, Grace’s Gift. They raise money to offer financial assistance to families with children with pediatric brain cancer and D.I.P.G. that seek uncovered or alternative treatment options in the form of non-income based grants.

“In the words of our Grace, while fighting D.I.P.G. at the age of eleven and already understanding the value of life; she would always say, ‘life is too short, you gotta get to the point,’” said Grace’s mom, Kim Skief. “We at Grace’s Gift strive to do just that, by loving others the way that she would have with her actions of creativity, passion and generosity to beat brain cancer in kids, especially D.I.P.G.”

The family encourages anyone who’s interested in learning more, or to become more inspired by Grace’s story, visit For more information on D.I.P.G. you can go to

CASA Superhero Night

Every child needs a hero, but abused and neglected children need superheroes. That is why CASA of Southwestern Illinois hosts a super hero themed event every year.

The mission of CASA -Court Appointed Special Advocates- is to recruit, train, and support volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children. Last year, Our CASAs served as a voice for 500 of these children in the juvenile court systems of Madison, St. Clair and
Monroe counties.

Through a partnership with the Gateway Grizzlies, CASA of Southwestern Illinois and Riverbend Family Ministries are hosting the Fourth Annual Superheroes Night at the GCS Credit Union Ballpark on June 23, 2018. This will be an exciting evening with many activities including good food,
kid’s parade, raffle, bounce house, and more!

Become a sponsor or patron for our CASA Superheroes Night with the Gateway Grizzlies, and be a superhero to abused and neglected children in our community. By choosing to support CASA and Riverbend Family Ministries, you will be making a positive impact in the life of a child in our community. You will be taking a stand against child abuse and neglect.

Click here for sponsorship opportunities.

Connect with your Struggling Teen

Hearts in Faith Launch Parent Enrichment Program

Are you struggling to connect with your teen? Have you tried everything and nothing seems to work?  Local nonprofit, Hearts in Faith may have the solution for you and your family.  They’ve launched a programed for parents called, Parent Enrichment Program.  This three-week program is designed to educate and support parents of youth who may struggle with being a victim of violence or engaging in violent behavior.

“The Heart Beats Youth Violence Prevention Program serves our youth ages 12-17 who have experienced violence as a victim, witness, or perpetrator,” said Hearts in Faith Executive Director, Leslie Davis. “We recognize that the changes our youth make while in the program can sometimes be short lived without the support from their parents. This has prompted us to start the Parent Enrichment Program as an extension of Heart Beats. These programs together will support the family and as a result support our communities in efforts to live in peace and harmony.”

Heart in Faith is a faith-based nonprofit that serves Madison County and St. Clair County. Davis says she started the Heart Beats Youth Violence Prevention Program because she knows the effects violence can have on teens, physically, emotionally and mentally. That’s why she’s fighting hard to stop the cycle of violence, starting within the homes they’re raised in and the communities in which they grow up in.

David says she hopes this new approach, involving the parents, will help the entire family.  The program kicks-off on Saturday, May 19 at 10:00am and continues on Saturday, June 2 and Saturday, June 9.  All parents are required to meet with Davis prior to enrolling in the program.

Please be mindful that children are not allowed to attend these sessions and childcare is not provided.  Only individuals who have registered are allowed to attend group sessions. Please be mindful that children are not allowed to attend these sessions and childcare is not provided.

The program will be held at the Riverbend Family Ministries building, 131 E Ferguson Ave, Wood River.  For more information, or to register, call 314-529-0214.


Women of Achievement Award

Riverbend Family Ministries’ Tammy Iskarous was recently included among a select group of women honored as 2018 Women of Achievement.

Iskarous is one of 10 extraordinary volunteers from the St. Louis metropolitan region to receive the 2018 honor. The St. Louis Women of Achievement Award, which was founded in 1955, is the oldest, ongoing program in the area whose sole mission is to honor and recognize the volunteer service and volunteer leadership of women.

“A hard-working volunteer who has clocked more than 30,000 volunteer hours and believes there is always she would be the first one to tell you that there’s more work to be done,” the St. Louis Women of Achievement announcement said of Iskarous. “She had a vision to bring smaller nonprofits all under one roof in order for them to work together holistically for families in crisis due to violence, addiction, homelessness and poverty.

“She founded Riverbend Family Ministries, an incubator model of care that has been recognized by leaders in Madison County and Illinois. She has served on the boards of other nonprofits, including YWCA-Alton, Wood River Library, Phillips 66 Community Action Panel, Wood River Business Alliance, Wood River Women Club, and was a past Wood River Rotarian and PEO. She is active in her local church and has a strong voice in the mission work that is done through her congregation.”

Iskarous was chosen for her “social enterprise.”

“The Women of Achievement Class of 2018 is a strong, inspiring group of women who have decades upon decades of impactful volunteerism,” said Women of Achievement President Gwendolyn Packnett, Ph.D. (Class of 2006). “It’s truly an honor for us to recognize these outstanding women and highlight the many years and many ways they’ve donated their time, energy, talent and leadership to enhance our region’s nonprofits and make a noticeable difference in the community.”

“The annual luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis is our special way of celebrating the honorees alongside their families, friends, civic and community leaders, and nonprofit organizations they volunteer with,” said Phyllis Langsdorf, chair of the 2018 Women of Achievement Luncheon. “Not only do the honorees receive their awards and enjoy a gourmet lunch, but we also feature a 30-minute video about the honorees and their history of volunteer service. It’s a touching gesture that reminds us of the power and unity in volunteering.”

Women of Achievement honorees are selected from nominations from the St. Louis metropolitan area, including Metro East Illinois, who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to the betterment of the St. Louis region through voluntary contributions, volunteer leadership and a significant breadth of a volunteer career. Women of Achievement considers nominees with significant volunteer impact in areas such as, but not limited to, education, arts, health and human services, youth and family, philanthropy, social justice and advocacy. For additional information about the awards, luncheon and honorees, please visit


Amare Ribbon Cutting

It All Started With A Vision 

I can only give credit to God because he gave me the strength

Wood River, IL – On Friday, March 23rd Riverbend Family Ministries opened their doors to welcome their new partner, Amare and hosted a ribbon cutting in their honor.  Executive Director of RFM, Tammy Iskarous said she met Ty Bechel, Executive Director of Amare at a Madison County meeting and knew she wanted to reach out and help them grow.

“I told him afterwards, ‘If you’re serious about Amare, we will talk,’ I could feel the passion he had for families of addiction,” said Iskarous. “It’s a blessing for us to showcase what Amare has grown into over the last 3 years and the change that Ty is making in the lives of the families with addiction.”

“When I fell to my knees on August 19 2012, I was lost, my mother didn’t know what to do and asked me to leave,” said Bechel.  “I was part of the Madison County Drug Court, which helped me out a lot with my addiction.  And I didn’t know what to do…I was sitting in  my mom’s house all alone, I looked out the window at the blue sky and I fell to my knees and starting balling.”

Bechel said he as he reflects on this day, he remembers asking out loud, “I don’t know what else to do, either help me or take me out of this world because I cannot continue like this.”

“Something changed that day when I fell to my knees, the obsession to use left and I went to detox,” said Bechel.  “When I came home I started walking a lot in the morning and prayed talking with God, that’s when the idea of Amare came into my head.”

Bechel started Amare three years ago with the same vision it has today; help people full circle with addiction.  They help people get treatment and help guide them on how to get their life back on track.  He’s currently working on getting a scholarship started to help those recovering who want to go back to school get the opportunity to do so.

Amare’s mission is to achieve the highest standard in the involvement of the community to promote personal and public wellness. Amare will advocate, communicate and encourage change for those suffering from drug/alcohol addiction, depression, and/or suicidal tendencies along with the families and community. All of this is to happen with the most obtainable success through charitable campaigns and dedicated work so we may preserve the most precious gift – life.

For more information, contact Amare Founder, Ty Bechel at  


2018 Trivia with a Twist

10th Annual Trivia with a Twist

Reflecting on what was another successful and FUN “Trivia with a Twist.”  We hosted our 10th annual trivia fundraiser night with hundreds of participants.

We love seeing everyone’s competitive side at this event and how it brings everyone together! THANK YOU to everyone who participated & congrats to our winners!