Faith leaders and community members gathered at the Cache Valley Youth Center on Monday afternoon to celebrate the completion of the facility’s interfaith youth chapel.
“All of us need a time and a place sometimes to be able to pause and reflect and re-center ourselves, especially when we are in crisis,” said Brett Peterson, director of the state Division of Juvenile Justice Services.
The Cache Valley Youth Center houses youth who are at-risk or court-involved until a decision is made as to where they will go next.
Elder Gary Stevenson, a member of the quorum of the 12 apostles from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also attended the meeting.
Before Stevenson gave the dedicatory prayer, he addressed attendees and said that in the Biblical story of the world’s creation, God said “this is good” after each part of the creation was finished.
“At the end of the creation of this space, I think that we can pause and say, ‘This is good,’” Stevenson said.
Peterson said although the reasons why children and teenagers are at the center vary, all the youth who spend time there are experiencing trauma.
“They deserve that type of grace, that type of love and that type of intervention,” Peterson said. “A building like this is just another tool, another place where you can come and have a moment of peace.”
The creation of an interfaith youth chapel has been years in the making. Construction on the 1,000 square-foot addition began three years ago.
Before that, Doug Younker spearheaded the five-year effort to raise the $200,000 needed to build the chapel. As part of his efforts, Younker created the nonprofit organization Interfaith Youth Chapel, Inc. in 2015.
“Today we have a beautiful place where the spirit of Christ and our creator can come and visit us and youth who have blemishes,” said Younker during the dedication service for the chapel on Monday.
In honor of the chapel’s completion, youth from the center created a piece of collaborative artwork to show what hope and faith mean to them.
One of the youth who participated in this project painted a picture of hands pressed together in prayer with the word “family” written above and music notes surrounding the image.
This youth, who for privacy reasons is identified in this story by his initials I.F.C., said he chose these two things because they bring him the most peace. He also said being in the chapel brings him a feeling of peace.
“When I’m over there in detention it’s a whole different feeling,” I.F.C. said. “When I walked in here, I had a good feeling.”
Monday was the first time I.F.C. had visited the new chapel and said he was surprised to learn the space had been built through community donations specifically for the kids at the center and not the public.
“I was thinking, ‘Man, people actually care about us,’” I.F.C. said.
To access the chapel, youth at the facility exit the building and walk through a small, grassy courtyard.
This opportunity to be in a space separate from the facility will be important for youth, said Rachel Allen and Lynette Sevilla, two Latter-day Saints who previously served as Young Women’s leaders at the center.
“This will give them an opportunity to leave their lockdown facility, their classroom, their confinement,” Sevilla said. “This will bring them peace, coming here. It takes them away from all that heartache.”
Allen said although the youth may forget the words they hear during a church service, she wants them to remember how they feel while in the chapel.
“This chapel has a feeling about it,” Allen said. “A wonderful feeling of peace and healing and hope, and if they don’t remember any of the words that we teach, hopefully they remember the feeling of hope they have here.”