Our view: Not your typical church | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Not your typical church

Steamboat Springs seems to be a breeding ground for nonprofits. Passionate people like to settle here and create organizations that serve various needs within our community.

And when it comes to serving the needs of local teens, there's one nonprofit that has established itself as a place for youth to gather in a safe, sober environment where differences are celebrated and kids feel accepted regardless of their outward appearance, their socioeconomic class or their personal passions.

That program is known as Sk8 Church, and the organization has grown over the past decade from a small skateboard ministry that met at the city's skate park to a large permanent gathering place for teens on the west side of Steamboat — a place where kids can escape the pressures of life, talk to trusted adult mentors and find meaning for their lives.

Sk8 Church has also developed into an organization that serves those struggling with addiction issues, and in recent years, it's that emphasis that allowed the nonprofit to cross over from a Christian ministry to a respected community resource that partners with the schools, local churches and other Steamboat nonprofits like Routt County United Way, Rx Task Force, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs and Grand Futures to address challenges facing youth of all ages.

After guiding Sk8 Church for a decade, long-time Executive Director Buck Chavarria announced his retirement from the ministry last month. He and his wife, Tara, and their children are embarking on a new ministry in Oceanside, California, and they have turned over the reins of leadership to Nate and Sarah Bartels.

As the baton is passed, we'd like to acknowledge the important work that was accomplished at Sk8 Church under Buck and Tara's tenure at the helm of the nonprofit. The ministry was an extension of the Chavarrias' passion for serving the young people of Steamboat Springs, especially those who felt as if they didn't exactly fit the ski resort lifestyle.

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Buck and Tara began their outreach by serving hamburgers once a week to kids who gathered at the local skateboard park, and as those gatherings grew, the need for an indoor skating facility became more and more apparent. Finally, thanks to a generous landlord and an anonymous gift that paid for 18 months of rent, Sk8 Church opened in Riverside Plaza in 2010.

Since then, attendance at Sk8 Church has grown, and there are activities happening there several nights a week — free skate nights, high school and middle school programs, a weekly recovery support group and a new music program. The facility, decorated with graffiti, brightly painted skateboard decks and chain-link fencing surrounding the indoor skate park, has grown into a cool hangout place for kids looking to escape the snare of drugs and alcohol and be themselves in a safe, loving environment.

The organization is founded on Christian values and provides a nontraditional "church" option, but Buck and Tara had a unique gift for breaking down the barriers sometimes created by religion to meet kids where they were without condemnation or judgment. The couple had servants' hearts, and it was their desire to love the young people of Steamboat Springs and Routt County unconditionally.

Buck may have summed it up best when he was interviewed last week about the leadership transition at Sk8 Church, "I feel that we have helped the church reach out beyond its walls, as well as bridging the church and the community to help young people. We have created a safe, sober place where kids can go be themselves and not be judged."

We want to thank the Chavarrias for creating that special place for local teens to gather and for the love they heaped on any kid who walked through the doors of Sk8 Church on any given night. Their work with recovering addicts saved lives and helped heal the broken hearts of families who lost loved ones to addiction.

It is our hope that Sk8 Church will continue serving Steamboat teens and families for years to come, building upon the strong foundation laid by Buck and Tara.

At issue: Sk8 Church’s longtime executive director has stepped down.

Our view: Buck and Tara Chavarria created a unique gathering place for local teens and the community owes them a debt of gratitude.