Chaplain Mark Yeager

Chaplain Mark Yeager is the new Director of Champlain Services at the Crescenta-Canada Family YMCA, in front of the Foothill Blvd. location. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / October 23, 2012)

A chaplain service program launched this month by the YMCA of the Foothills has been met with an overwhelming positive response, organizers say.

“I've been quite busy,” said Mark Yeager, senior chaplain and director of the new program. “Since we began there have literally been hundreds and hundreds of folks that [have come in].”

Yeager, a La Crescenta resident who has worked with the local YMCAs for 18 years, estimates that nearly 1,000 people have been helped through the program, which offers itself as a listening ear and resource for anyone in the community.

Officials stress that the service is free, that chaplains are not pastors, and that people of all backgrounds and faiths are welcome.

“Most people have questions about what they should be thinking or feeling about a particular circumstance in their life,” Yeager said, noting that people seeking the service could be parents needing advice about how to deal with their teen or empty nesters just wanting to chat.

The program will also refer people to professional resources as needed, and Yeager said plans are in the works to have an emergency response chaplain team in place to deal with natural disasters.

Chris Motte, a member of the YMCA's board of directors, said the program was created out of an effort to better serve the community.

“We believe the chaplain services program fits well into this effort,” he said, adding that only a handful of other YMCAs offer a similar program.

Yeager, senior pastor at the Verdugo Hills Church in Tujunga, said the board recognized that there is a large number of people in its service area who are unaffiliated with any religious or faith organization.

“Although we do have a very strong faith community that does outstanding work, we have a lot of folks who are still not connected to any of those organizations,” Yeager said. “Through the YMCA, we hope to provide them an opportunity to pursue any spiritual, mental or emotional questions or answers they might be looking for.”

There are currently 13 chaplains in training for the local YMCA's program to supplement the dozen already volunteering in the program.

“We have a huge heart of collaboration with other organizations within our community,” Yeager said.