Pictured (lr) are Paulding County Juvenile Probation Officer Dustin Westhoven; Kari Gathany, Juvenile Justice Ministry Coordinator of Defiance Area Youth for Christ; Adam Gubernath, director of the Paulding County Family Resource and Assessment Center; and Paulding County Juvenile Court Judge Michael Wehrkamp.

Defiance Area YFC and Juvenile Court Partnership Changes Lives

March 24, 2022 – Through a partnership between Defiance Area Youth for Christ (YFC) and Paulding County Juvenile Court, local youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system discover that there are people in the community who care about them and their well-being.

YFC has offered programs for the past few years to youth referred from Paulding County Juvenile Court. The youth participated in a 10-week cooking class at Paulding Church of the Nazarene and a 10-week fishing program at Paulding Reservoir. The program is called LIFT, which stands for Living in Frustrating Times, and is run by Kari Gathany, who coordinates the Department of Juvenile Justice at YFC.

“Being able to work with the Department of Juvenile Probation has been an encouragement as we all seek to encourage teenagers in these difficult days,” said Gathany.

Paulding County Juvenile Court Judge Michael Wehrkamp is grateful for YFC’s ministry. “Kari has done a tremendous job with our young people, who often find themselves in disheartening life circumstances with little stability,” Wehrkamp said. “They discover in the LIFT program that there is hope for them and that there are people who care about them and their success.”

Gathany leads the classes and is assisted by several community-minded volunteers. Some of the bonds formed have changed the lives of young people. “Providing a fun and interactive way to discuss life issues and skills that teens can take with them throughout life through mentoring relationships impacts teens’ lives,” said Gathany. .

Wehrkamp was invited to the last cooking class of the 10-week program. “As the children prepared and served the food, you could see on their faces how much of an impact the program had had on them. Their faces told the story,” Wehrkamp recalls. “And all the while, they’re learning a valuable life skill.”

The next classes are scheduled for 2022. Next month, the LIFT program will return to fishing while incorporating outdoor cooking skills.

Young people who participate in the LIFT program are not required to participate in religious activities, and a young person can apply for an alternative to the YFC program if they wish. “We respect the different religious beliefs of the children who participate,” Gathany said.

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