Immeasurably More

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​On your way south through Colorado, just inside the small town of Monument, you’ll find the Young Life logo overlooking the interstate, hanging beside signage for the Tri-Lakes YMCA. Young Life opened the doors of the North Springs | Monument Teen Center in cooperation with the Y in 2016 — an affiliation that brought to life a long-standing dream.

Desperate for Something More

Area Director Jeremy VanHaitsma’s trip to camp in 2007 planted the first seeds of the vision. “On the outside, Monument kids appear to have comfortable, stable lives,” he said. “Below the surface, though, it was apparent they were desperate for something more.”

At camp, the kids in his cabin told VanHaitsma story after story of perilous, irresponsible behaviors. “They were wrapped up in all these things because they were hurting, bored and didn’t know where else to turn.”

Another leader, Kristi Creps, joined him on the bus ride home with similar tales from the girls in her cabin. Hearts broken for their hurting kids, they began to dream together. There has to be more we can do, they said. Creps felt there was a significant need for a space, somewhere safe and fun, similar to what they had experienced at camp. A place they could call home. “For the next nine years,” VanHaitsma said, “we didn’t let go of the dream.”

They started small. “Grilled Cheese Thursdays” began as a simple way to invite high school kids over to VanHaitsma’s nearby apartment complex where he and his team would feed them lunch. “I wanted another contact with kids throughout the week,” he said. About 50 kids showed up the first week. They told their friends. A few weeks later, his team was serving sandwiches for more than 200 students. “One kid told me it was the only meal he could count on,” VanHaitsma said.

In the meantime, the area was growing on multiple fronts. Increased enrollment at Lewis-Palmer High School led to the creation of a new high school, Palmer Ridge. The North Springs/Monument area began to expand outreach across two school districts. Kids had difficulty squeezing into the multiple houses hosting club each week. With so many kids to feed, to serve and to support, VanHaitsma needed more room.

A church graciously provided space for club (called “the HUB”). Right across the street from Lewis-Palmer, meanwhile, the new YMCA facility had recently opened its doors. VanHaitsma went over and made his pitch for Grilled Cheese Thursdays: his team would provide the manpower and the food, all he needed was the space.

“This isn’t just a Young Life thing,” he told them, “this is for the community.”

When the YMCA said yes, it was only the beginning.

Something More Takes Shape

Since the bus ride home from camp, Creps had not stopped praying. The HUB met the need for space for the time being. Kids all across the area’s wide canvas had a place to come together; walls of division that typically separated area kids were starting to come down. Under resourced as it was, however, the HUB’s permanence was always in doubt.

“Kristi had a real heart for providing and finding a place for kids to hang out in the afternoon,” remembers Paul Sherrill — Young Life’s vice president of Administrative Services, who also served on the North Springs/Monument committee at the time. “She and Jeremy had spoken about it a number of times,” he said, “but we hadn’t talked about what it would look like.”

Conversations progressed, and the area began looking at land on which to build a facility. Questions of sustainability refused easy answers. The potential cost to the area — not to mention taxes, insurance and other forms of overhead — created serious barriers.

Creps and VanHaitsma continued to pray. “I was at the point where I said, ‘I can’t do this on my own,’” Creps said. The moment she confessed this, she said, a number of disparate details at last began to converge.

Boyd Williams, president and CEO of the Pikes Peak YMCA, had two sons in Young Life. He had first come to know the ministry through their eyes, and had watched Grilled Cheese Thursdays develop into a strong community draw at the Y. He also attended a Bible study where Creps’s husband one night shared his wife’s enduring dream.

“Boyd opened his heart,” Creps said. “He had seen firsthand the impact Young Life could have.”

“What if,” VanHaitsma remembers Williams saying, “we offered you the land, you build the building on it, we will manage it and it’ll be a space primarily for teens, but space our members could use as well.”

VanHaitsma and Creps took the idea to Sherrill. “Obviously, we’d have to be real careful,” Sherrill said. “We’d have to think about what that looked like in terms of use, the value of the asset and all these pieces.”

Creps and her husband made a decision. “When you volunteer,” she said, “it’s easier to donate to it because you know how important it is.” To help make the dream a reality, they contributed a gift toward the project. The YMCA offered their support as well. A third anonymous donor also came forward to help complete the project.

“We began the discussion about how we can make all this work,” Sherrill said.

Conversations progressed quickly, each side agreeing to terms over the next several weeks. Prayer covered the grounds as earthmovers broke the soil. Creps and VanHaitsma etched prayers into the drywall as it hung in place.

“The Y built the facility,” VanHaitsma explained. “They manage it, but we have the first rights to it for the first 50 years.”

“The Lord Gave It to Us”

The Young Life North Springs | Monument Teen Center opened on March 5, 2016 — 7,688 square feet which includes a club room, kitchen, gymnasium, stage area and area field offices.

The space hosts four clubs a week, regular Campaigner meetings, free grilled cheese lunches and much more, welcoming more than 300 kids each week. VanHaitsma coordinates the area calendar with the YMCA, which utilizes the facility during the day. “Young Life has become a household name,” he said. “People come to work out, they see our offices and they ask how they can get their kids involved.”

“Our vision seemed so small compared to what God had in mind,” Creps said. “He took over. He put the right people in the right place from the start. I hope this inspires others to never give up on what you feel the Lord has led you to be a part of.”

“The Y was more than fair in terms of how it was set up, and it’s been a great relationship,” Sherrill said. “What’s encouraging is we have a group of people who understand the vision of Young Life; you have somebody whose family was impacted and understands the benefit that comes from relationships with kids and walking alongside them.”

The immensity of the gift continues to affect VanHaitsma. “It’s nothing I did; the Lord gave it to us,” he said. “He just spoils us — if we’re faithful to ask and dream big, and believe He can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, it’s amazing what He’ll do.”