Thanks to the generosity of members from St. John the Evangelist Parish, Kohler, and Blessed Trinity Parish, Sheboygan Falls, youth from the two parishes have a renovated and remodeled youth center.
The Lodge, located on the Blessed Trinity Parish campus, features a large, designated space for the youth to gather. Located in a portion of the former rectory, The Lodge opened last May and has pool and game tables, a large living area with attractive couches and chairs as well as two flat screen televisions, a selection of movies, board games and a mini-library, a kitchen and snack area, even an area for students to catch a little study time in the midst of their socialization time.
According to Chris Briggs, director of youth ministry at the two parishes, most of the furniture was either donated or purchased with funds collected for the renovation project. Briggs estimated that approximately $3,200 was raised.
“I was overjoyed with the amount of space here. We cleared everything out of this space (which had largely been used as a meeting area) and had an open house in November and invited everyone from both parishes to walk through and dream what this could be. I was excited to find there was a lot of support for this project,” Briggs said.
And while donations from the members of the two parishes contributed much of the funds to make the renovations happen, it was the students themselves – 22 of them – who decided on the décor and put in the time and effort to spiff up the place with bright, jazzy paint colors and accessories.
“I think there would have been a lot of interest for the adults to take over, but we thought it would be more successful if the youth took ownership of it,” Briggs said. “We tried to make it a place where they couldn’t resist coming to.”
The result is a modern, classy looking space, with a youthful vibe.
“From the beginning, I didn’t want it to look like we had emptied out someone’s basement … it needed to look like the parish made a commitment to youth, and the parish was willing to do that. We had far more offers of donations than we could even fit in here,” Briggs noted.
Michelle Reilly, an 11th grader and member of the youth ministry committee and one of the students involved in the renovation, said The Lodge serves a twofold purpose.
“It’s a place to just hang out as well as visit our faith,” she said.
During the school year The Lodge is open on Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; it was open during the summer on Friday evenings. The Lodge is also open on Wednesday afternoons to accommodate middle school students in between religious education classes.
Reilly said the result of the project was well worth the time and effort expended by the students.
“It turned out better than I expected,” Reilly said. “I’m really proud of it.”
Mia Bartel, Martha Mathieu and Allison Dorn, students at Sheboygan Falls High School and members of Blessed Trinity, said the experience was fun and rewarding.
“We worked toward something that benefits the whole community and obviously it looks really nice and it was just cool that we got to help with that and made our space look how we wanted it to look,” Mathieu said.
Bartel added, “I really liked that we could choose the colors, so it was our space.”
“And it was fun being together,” Dorn said.
Lisa Gartman, a member of St. John Parish, was also a member of the youth ministry committee. As a parent, she was impressed with the renovation project.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “We need something for the young adults.”
There are approximately 170 high school and middle school students from the two parishes.
The Lodge has also served as a meeting place for young adult parishioners between the ages of 18 and 39, with two activities last summer, including a “’90s night” as well as a Packer party for the first game of the season. In addition, the Catholic Underground, a Sheboygan County Catholic Young Adult group, meets twice a month at The Lodge.
“It’s important to keep our young people involved in their faith,” Gartman said. “How do we keep them involved? This gives them an opportunity to be in an environment that is faith-filled and safe.”
Parish members have been enthusiastic about The Lodge.
“This is just a great idea,” said Bob Goldsmith, a retired painter who donated the paint and helped direct the kids in the painting project. “It’s a good way to get the young people interested in our faith.”
Fr. Bob Lotz, pastor for the two parishes, said of The Lodge, “This is just great. This really is all the effort of the young people … it allows them to know that it’s theirs. I think it’s just another example of how willing the kids are to get involved.”