Senior Nate Sgro returned to last weekend’s Christian Youth Center of Morris banquet even though the former Morris Community High School student moved to Rochelle a couple of weeks ago.
MCHS senior Jacob O’Mara sang a duet at the banquet, and fellow seniors Hope Pulvermacher, Destiny Fulkerson, Drew Chlebek, and Lauren Sokolinski were there, too, leaders in this strong senior class at the Christian Youth Center.
“It’s great being around everyone,” Nate said. “CYC is extraordinarily welcoming. It’s just like a family.”
Nate started going to the center, which is in CanalPort Community Center on Illinois Avenue, at the far southwest side of downtown Morris, because he had friends who went there. What he found was a second family with new friends and a new center for his life.
“It has taught me so much,” he said. “I made a relationship with the leadership here, too, and grew with Christ. You will feel very welcomed here, no matter your background.”
CYCM is a not-for-profit, non-denominational Christian youth organization that works with local churches to share the gospel of Jesus with junior high and senior high school students. The center has weekly worship nights and also games, drama, music, and special events.
Its members also go on local and international mission trips, such as recent ones to Guatemala.
Hope said she got involved in the center after her friend Lauren knocked on her door one day and invited her to a community service project they were doing in the park next to Hope’s house.
She’s been active in the center ever since.
“Everyone was so nice there,” Hope said. “After that, I went to a St. Paddy’s Day dance, and it was so much fun. I started going there, and I fell in love with Jesus. It strengthened my relationship with him so much. I read the Bible every day.”
Hope said one of her favorite parts of CYC is the Identity Project, or IDP, where high school students get together and talk in depth about the Bible and their lives.
“The world right now is full of so many things that will make you feel bad about yourself,” she said, “but Jesus accepts you the way you are.”
Emma Harrington, a Joliet Junior College student, came back to help out at the banquet and said CYC had quite an impact on her life. Always wanting to go into a medical profession, three CYC mission trips to Guatemala solidified her goal to do medical work in a third-world country after she graduates.
“I have a big heart for the world outside America,” she said. “I grew up in the church, and my family has always been very mission-oriented. I always had a knowledge of the outside world. But going to Guatemala and on a couple of mission trips here in Ohio and Arizona. . . It was an eye-opening experience.”
Emma said CYCM is a non-denominational center and doesn’t meet in a church.
“That’s a huge advantage,” she said. “There are some kids who aren’t Christians and who have never stepped inside a church before, and they probably wouldn’t have come to CYC if it was in a church. We respect that. I see it as such an opportunity.”
The language used to tell about the Bible at the CYC is not quite like how regular church-goers sometimes talk, Emma said.
“Here, they talk to you real,” she said. “This is plain, raw Jesus.”
Guest speaker at Saturday’s banquet, which was held at Chapin’s East in Minooka, was Chip Russell, who spoke about his father, Harv, the founding member of the Joliet CYC, who just passed away last September. Harv Russell played a large role in helping the Morris CYC get on its feet.
“CYC-Joliet started with a group of Christian businessmen concerned about the direction of the youth,” Chip Russell said. “Kids then and today still need love, acceptance, and a place to go to be safe and to get advice. . . Where they can sit and breathe with no one judging them.”
A video was also shown at the banquet of the four members of the CYCM steering committee – Judy Hefner, Rick Barnard, George Kresse, and Paula Lutz.
Pete Vienne, CYCM’s director, led the banquet.