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 facility?s chapel, which doubled as a child care center for employees? children.
The facility?s 54 wards have been gone for almost two weeks, placed in other residential institutions or reunited with their families, said Tate, the facility?s 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.
?I?ve been working until the bitter end so I haven?t 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.
?It?s 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 there?s more out there in life. It really opened up my eyes,? he said.
Larkin now lives in a Ukiah group home and works as a clients rights advocate for developmentally disabled people.
The sprawling, three square-block facility has been the focus of efforts to help children for more than a century.
It was first constructed as a convent in 1883, said Judy Pruden, a Ukiah historian and planning commissioner. In 1903, the nuns of the Sacred Heart Convent started a day school for Catholic children. They opened an orphanage, the Albertinum, for boys in 1904. It was expanded to include girls in 1923, Pruden said.
Renowned historian and University of Southern California professor Kevin Starr was a ward of the orphanage for many years, according to a 2005 USC interview.
In 1968, the Dominicans sold the property to the Greek Orthodox church, which converted it into a home for troubled youth, Pruden said.
The facility was purchased by its current owners, a private organization, in about 1984, Pruden said.
While Trinity staff and students are sorry to see it close, many neighbors are not.
The youth were often noisy and destructive, frequently ran away and sometimes committed crimes.
?Trinity had quite a negative impact on the neighborhood,? said Pruden, who lives two blocks away.
?You?d hear screaming. For awhile they had a group who would flush anything they could,? causing sewer backups in the neighborhood, she said.
?It wasn?t like the sound of children?s voices playing,? said Patrice Brindt, whose home abuts Trinity?s property.
The facility also kept police busy.
?We got a lot of reports,? said Ukiah Police Detective Dave McQueary. Calls about runaways were probably the most common, he said.
Pruden said she understands the need for such facilities but they should not be located in the center of residential neighborhoods.
Trinity is located on three blocks of Ukiah?s prime, west side neighborhood. Suggested new uses include some type of planned community for people over 55 or seniors.
Such a development could utilize the facility?s main building, which includes a cafeteria, offices and a Mission-style inner courtyard; its swimming pool and its open space, Pruden said.
There already is interest in the property, said Ukiah Realtor Dick Selzer, who expects to be listing the property for between $4 million and $5 million.
?We have a half dozen people interested,? Selzer said.