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Dubuque Group Adds Worship Space to Youth Services

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) For nearly a century, Hillcrest Family Services has treasured its religious roots, offering spiritual guidance in conjunction with emotional and educational opportunities for the vulnerable youth it serves.

It is therefore fitting for Hillcrest to have its own worship and reflection space. On Sunday, Oct. 14, the Hadley Chapel on the Hillcrest campus will be dedicated, and the following Sunday it will be open to the public.

"People in crisis need a spiritual connection," said Gary Gansemer, Hillcrest president and CEO. "Now we will have our own worship place for our children and our staff."

Hillcrest was started in 1896 as a training school for young unwed mothers. In 1914, it became a mission of what is now the United Methodist Church. Fifty-four years later, it formed a relationship with the Presbyterian Church, USA. The agency's connections to the two churches remain strong but without operational funding.

Hillcrest secured a chaplain more than 40 years ago, and regular worship services were first held in an old trailer, Gansemer said.

"Then for years, we hauled our abused, neglected children in vans to churches for services," he said.

Although participating in religious services is not mandated at Hillcrest, 90 percent of the youngsters housed there elect to attend, he said. Hillcrest houses 85 children ages 12 to 18 in seven sites.

The airy, bright, triangular chapel can hold 115 people on cushioned chairs that can be set up in various configurations. Sunlight streams through nine stained-glass windows and a cupola in the roof. A custom-built altar and pulpit match the blonde maple floor, which has a terrazzo labyrinth designed into it. Music will be played on a compact, high-tech pipe organ, and two 70-inch media screens will be installed toward the chapel front.

The lower level of the chapel is bright and roomy and has its own entrance portico. Gansemer hopes it will be a well-used religious and secular public resource.

"The community is welcome to meet in this fellowship hall," he said. "That will also serve to have them get better acquainted with us."

While the majority of Hillcrest's funding is from various governmental sources, no public money was used to build the chapel. Private donors, especially Len and Marlene Hadley, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, gave $1.2 million to pay for its construction.

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