What is Encircle's Mission and can you tell us a little bit more about the programs that you currently offer?
Each Encircle home provides essential support, tools, and resources for LGBTQ+ youth. These homes look and feel like home, and provide a safe space for these youth to open up and feel comfortable being themselves.
We offer numerous programs at our Encircle homes, the most popular being our Friendship Circles - weekly age and identity-based groups where youth and young adults can tell their story and connect with peers in a safer space facilitated by our volunteers. We also offer insurance-based, subsidized, and specialized therapy - a service that every LGBTQ+ person deserves. Our youth and family programs include creativity-based offerings that foster community, connection, and improved mental health. Utilizing our data-driven research, we also provide pamphlets, books, and training to empower families and communities.
What are some of your biggest initiatives?
One of our biggest objectives right now is getting our newest Encircle home in Heber City, Utah, ready. This is our fourth home, and is expected to open in June, bringing mental health services to a community who, historically, has little to no resources for LGBTQ+ youth and families.
Our highest priority is to continue to raise money to fund the life-affirming mental health services that we provide at our existing three homes, and our newest home in Heber City, opening this June.
Why is mental health so critical to this community?
We know that when individuals are emotionally healthy, and have coping skills to work through difficulties, they are able to thrive. Why wouldn’t we want to provide the tools and resources to those who feel alone, isolated, and rejected? That’s why we exist - to ensure good mental health of these youth and families, and to remind them that they matter and they’re worth it.
Can you share the direct impact you’ve seen from your programs? Any great stories you can share from over the years?
Two days after our third home opened in 2020, I returned to the home to attend our youth group and art night. A mom and her son had just walked through the front doors and it was clear that she was distraught and had been crying. Her son wouldn’t make eye contact with me and was very distant and disconnected. She said, “I found out today that my child has been bullied at school because he’s gay, and I didn’t know he was gay until today. I had no idea what to do, so I just drove about an hour to get here from Cedar City.” “I heard this was new and so we headed here to see what it’s all about.”
I thought that this was perfect timing because a Friendship Circle was just about to start. Her son agreed to go to the Friendship Circle, and the mom was sitting on the couch and was still visibly so upset. There happened to be a volunteer in the home at the time who sat down and told her, “I want you to know that I used to live in Salt LakeCity, and I have been right where you are, experiencing the same things you’re feeling right now, just at another Encircle home. My family just moved to St. George, and I just want you to know that Encircle saved my son’s life. You’re here, and I’m here with you.
This mom had such a powerful experience, talking with and confiding in someone who had been in her same situation.
Her son returned from participating in the Friendship Circle, his eyes looking up, his shoulders back, with a smile on his face. I will never forget when the mom said to me, “I don’t remember the last time I saw my son smile. I had no idea that it has been this bad.” She had tears in her eyes again, but this time they were tears of joy, and no longer tears of sadness.
This is just one story of hundreds that we have heard, but it is a perfect example of the holistic effect we have on families at Encircle. If you are a parent, child, brother, sister, friend, or ally - we are here for you.
Can you share more about how the partnership with Stance will support Encircles initiatives?
We are extremely grateful to Stance, whose generous support has funded 11 Encircle Therapy Assistance Grants. Each grant will provide six months of free weekly therapy sessions for an LGBTQ+ youth. For this community, this is such a big deal. There are so many young people who can’t afford therapy, and are able to provide quality mental health care for free or reduced costs. This support is irreplaceable - Stance is helping to set these youth up for success. There is nothing you could do, in my opinion, that is greater than fund a therapy session for a young person who is in crisis or who needs support and guidance. This is life-saving work, and Stance is setting the footprint and tone for that with Encircle.
What are different ways that people can get involved or help support Encircle?
There are three main ways to support - time, money, and your voice.
you can give of your time, to support our youth. We have online programming, so you can even volunteer your time online. You can also volunteer in one of our homes if you live in proximity to one of our existing Encircle locations.
Donating money helps support the critical work that we do at Encircle. A lot of people think that they can’t give enough to make a difference, but I can tell you that we are thoughtful with every dollar that is given, and every dollar counts. We stretch every single dollar. Whether it’s $5 or $500, you can trust that we will be great stewards of your financial support.
Finally, I would say you don’t just have to give your time or money to support Encircle, you can use your voice. Help spread the message that LGBTQ+ youth matter, they are worth it, they deserve happiness, and they deserve all the love in the world. We also offer online programs and support, so our reach is beyond just Utah. If you’re in Utah, come to one of our homes. If you aren’t near an Encircle home, participate in our online programs or utilize teletherapy. Spread our message by using your voice, your platforms, or simply sharing with your friends and family - anyone can do that and it all makes a difference.