Our History

We have been serving the high school kids in the area for over 50 years.

History of Itasca Youth for Christ

Itasca Youth for Christ began in 1970. A local group of clergy met to discuss their concerns that adolescents were no longer involved in the churches. From that meeting, the group inquired about beginning the Youth for Christ program in Itasca County and a screening committee was formed to solicit and review potential board members. From this selection process seven board members were chosen to comprise the Board of Directors of Itasca Youth for Christ.

The board began to raise funds and draw up By-Laws and a Constitution for the newly formed organization. In September 1971, Duane Geisler was hired as its first Executive Director. Shortly after moving to Grand Rapids, Geisler began the programs of Campus Life and Youth Guidance. Campus Life clubs were started in Grand Rapids, Greenway, Big Fork and Deer River high schools. The first Youth Guidance program, Lifeline, was established in 1972. The new program consisted of week-long canoe trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). Boys placed on probation in Itasca County were referred to the program.

Itasca Youth for Christ is a local relational outreach ministry chartered with the National Youth for Christ/USA organization, headquartered in Denver, Colorado.

There were existing Youth for Christ rallies held in some major cities around the United States. And in 1944, a group met in Winona Lake, Indiana, to discuss ways and means of handling the many requests for help in establishing new YFC ministries. That same year, a follow-up meeting was held in Detroit, Michigan, where the National Youth for Christ organization began.

From 1945 until the early 1950’s, YFC essentially consisted of large Saturday night rallies. The development of Youth for Christ, after its initial beginning, came in three historic periods with philosophies overlapping to some degree.

History of the YFC Organization

First Period: The Mid 1940’s to the Mid 1950’s
From the beginning the organization experienced fantastic expansion. Youth for Christ was a very loose knit federation with rallies being set up all over America and in many foreign countries.

Second Period: The Mid 1950’s to the Mid 1960’s
This period was the beginning of specialized adolescent programs, camping trips, bible clubs and Youth Guidance clubs.  Youth Guidance was a ministry for youth that were adjudicated delinquent.  These groups were teen centered, not leader centered. 

Third Period: The Mid 1960’s to Today
The early part of the third period was characterized by YFC’s involvement with church orientated youth. In 1962, a group of YFC directors met in Salt Lake City to develop a new outreach to teens.  The new program formed was named Campus Life.  This required YFC staff to spend significant amounts of time with high school students.  The format was now focused on, “winning the right to be heard”. Thus began the relational model of ministry and the discontinuation of Saturday Night Rallies.

Itasca YFC

412 N Pokegama Ave
Grand Rapids, MN 55744

Office: (218) 326-9079
Ground Floor: (218) 327-0344
Email: duane@itascayfc.org

Our Team

Duane Geisler

Duane Geisler

Executive Director

Duane grew up in Pine City, Minnesota and is a graduate of Pine City High School. In 1969, he graduated from Oak Hills Christian College in Bemidji, MN, with a major in Bible. While attending Oak Hills he met Caralee Ostrom and they were married in November of 1969. Duane has four adult children, three sons and one daughter. He has 12 wonderful grandchildren and 2 great-grandsons.

Duane began his ministry with Youth for Christ in the summer of 1969, in Virginia, Minnesota. He moved to Grand Rapids in 1971, where he began the Itasca Youth for Christ chapter and became its first Executive Director. Duane is a member of Community Presbyterian Church of Grand Rapids and a lay-preacher for the Presbytery of Northern Waters. In December 2000, he graduated from Bethel College with a B.A. in Community Service and Leadership.

By being in direct contact with teens in Campus Life Clubs, the Juvenile Justice Ministry, and the Ground Floor Youth Center, his work for more than 50 years has been a major contribution to Itasca YFC and the community.

Caralee Geisler

Caralee Geisler

Administrative Assistant

Caralee grew up in Hammond, Indiana, and graduated from Hammond Technical/Vocational High School. She then moved to Bemidji, Minnesota, where she graduated from Oak Hills Christian College with a major in Bible. While there, she met Duane Geisler and after graduation they were married in November 1969. She joined her new husband in Virginia, Minnesota, as they became a team in their work with YFC. In 1971 they moved to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, with their infant son and began the Itasca Youth for Christ chapter. They added to their family two more sons and one daughter. Caralee was a stay-at-home mom, doing volunteer YFC office work from home until their children were all in school full time. She was then hired as the part-time Administrative Assistant. Her responsibilities include running the day-to-day office work, helping with YFC events, chaperoning a number of Campus Life activities and trips, and helping to staff the Ground Floor, most recently taking on the position of interim Ground Floor Director. She communicates with the board of directors and also serves on one of the functioning board committees. She thoroughly enjoys spending time with her children, 12 grandchildren and 2 great-grandsons.

Heather Schjenken

Heather Schjenken

Deer River Campus Life Director

Heather began her work with Itasca YFC on May 1st, 1997. She graduated from Bemidji State University with a B.A. in Social Work.

Heather is married to Lance Schjenken. "Lance is an amazing man; it's not easy being married to a spouse who works with teens." Heather has a son, a daughter and a step-son. Heather says, "In looking back over my years of youth ministry, my life has been blessed by the opportunity to spend time with Deer River kids.

Nettie Yunk

Lennetta (Nettie) Yunk

Office Assistant

Nettie is a long time resident of the Deer River, Cohasset and Grand Rapids, Minnesota areas. She was married to the late William (Bill) Yunk for 61 years. Together they have 4 adult children, 10 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Nettie's duties include: helping- with monthly mailings, miscellaneous office work and soliciting some local funding, which she loves to do. Nettie has a “big heart” for teens and will do all that she can to help reach them with God's love and forgiveness. She feels her work in the office and the contacting she does frees up a time to enable the ministry staff more direct contact with the kids in the YFC programs. Nettie has served Itasca YFC since 1986, as a volunteer for two years and then as part-time paid staff.

“YFC is not about the programs, it’s about the people in the programs.”

The majority of all funds donated to Itasca YFC are invested in people who spend their time working in full or part-time positions. They are YFC’s number one asset. Staff must have their B.A. degree and go through internship training in their first year. Additional training is required every two years.

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