By Quinton Arthur
LANSING, Ill. (November 29, 2021) – The local community’s youth have had unique struggles throughout the pandemic. From cancelled graduations and proms to being secluded from friends, many young people have had a rough time over the last year-and-a-half. Freedom Church is hoping to be a beacon of hope for those young people through its WeFree mentoring program.
Freedom Church is a newly established church in Lansing. Located at 2261 Indiana Avenue, the church exemplifies resilience. After using two locations in Country Club Hills and Homewood, the church purchased the former Illiana Christian High School building in March 2020. Unfortunately, the pandemic postponed the official opening until March 2021, but that did not stop the church from creating a program to help youth.
Now in its second year, WeFree is the mentoring program of the church. Led by Youth Pastor Dewayne Sutton, the program is targeted towards kids ages 7-18, with a focus on mentoring, golf, basketball, and music & arts.
Sutton, a psychologist and former college professor, seeks to help youth increase their faith in humanity.
“It’s not about the situation that you are put in, but how you look at that situation and how you overcome,” he said.
With its unique perspective involving sports, WeFree aims to use essentials, such as following directions, to help youth develop into better people. Other lessons in the program focus on self-esteem, peer pressure, and mental health.
As a combat veteran, Sutton recognizes the symptoms in youth who may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. They sometimes suffer from gang violence, drugs, along with issues they may encounter at home. Combined with a pandemic, the mental state of youth can be heavily affected.
“We want you to understand that there is nothing wrong with how you are feeling, and we want to help you overcome,” Sutton said, describing an approach he uses.
As Sutton’s daughter has endured remote learning, he was able to be there and make sure her social and emotional needs were taken care of. He wants to help others as well and not let outside situations define the local community.
WeFree helps youth attain positive mental health by giving effective and relevant coping mechanisms, such as how to properly navigate social media. The program also allows youth to gather in person safely, with precautionary measures such as social distancing and sanitization in place.
Overall, Sutton encourages youth to persevere.
“The Bible talks about ‘no weapon formed against me shall prosper.’ It doesn’t say the weapons won’t form, it just says it won’t prosper. Our kids have dealt with a pandemic, they’re dealing with gang violence, and other issues they may face at home. Just know, it gets better on the other side,” he said.
WeFree meets on Saturdays from 10 a.m. – noon. Contact Sutton at [email protected] to find out more. Freedom Church is located at 2261 Indiana Avenue, Lansing.
- From caddying to college: Freedom Church partners with Olympia Fields Country Club to help local youth (April 16, 2021)
- Freedom Fest draws large crowds to old Illiana field for food, fun, and community (July 31, 2021)