After 40 years of caring for troubled youth, Trinity Youth Services in Ukiah closed its doors for good Friday.
Dozens of its 102 employees and a few grown, former wards gathered mid-morning for a buffet and emotional farewell.
This is home. This is my family, said Lancy Armstrong, as she tearfully hugged her boss, Mone Tate, in the facilitys chapel, which doubled as a child care center for employees children.
The facilitys 54 wards have been gone for almost two weeks, placed in other residential institutions or reunited with their families, said Tate, the facilitys director.
Trinity owned by a Colton-based private corporation that runs four other residential youth facilities closed for financial reasons, Tate said. Its Colton office did not return phone calls.
Throughout Friday morning, Trinity employees stopped by to visit and pick up their final paychecks.
Some were afraid of what the future might bring while others were hopeful.
Ive been working until the bitter end so I havent had a chance to look for work, said Sandy Whitman, a 33-year employee who managed payroll and transcribed psychiatric reports.
Looking for a job for the first time in three decades is scary, she said, but I have faith.
Clark Pearson, an employee who already had planned to get a degree in radiology, was actually pleased with his situation. He advised others to use the time to reinvent themselves.
This was perfect timing for me, Pearson said.
Everyone was sorry the facility will no longer be there for troubled children. The residential facility provided them with a place to live as well as educational and counseling services.
Its a sad thing, said Ryan Larkin, 28, who credits Trinity with turning his life around.
I came to Trinity and they encouraged me to see theres more out there in life. It really opened up my eyes, he said.