Motorists along Interstate 15 between Lehi and Draper will be seeing electronic and static billboards over the next two months promoting “No Sides, Only Love.”
In all, there will be five digital signs and two static billboards sponsored by Encircle carrying the “no sides” motto, according to Stephenie Larsen, Encircle chief executive officer.
“The reason for the billboards is we want to show love for the LGBTQ community,” Larsen said. “LGBTQ youth are really struggling. There are more in therapy than we have ever seen.”
Larsen said the quarantine of the pandemic has brought on extra anxiety and depression for a community that already feels distanced and separated.
“In these (Encircle) homes you see the best in people,” Larsen said. “You see parents who change and learn to love better.”
Encircle, with locations in Provo, Salt Lake City and St. George, and another anticipated in Logan, is a gathering and healing place of LGBTQ youth, their families and mentors. It provides resources, counseling, activities and classes to help youth find a place of belonging and to help parents and family members understand and bond with their youth.
According to Larsen, Encircle sees more than 900 youth each month.
The backstory on why the billboards are going up Monday through July 31 started on the evening of Jan. 23 in north Orem.
“Brenda (last name protected) lives next to Timpanogos High School and asked if she could have one of Encircle’s banners,” Larsen said.
She had two banners on her fence, the one from Encircle and one on suicide prevention.
Recently there had been two suicides at the high school and Brenda wanted to let students passing by know they were loved and recognized no matter who they were.
On the night of Jan. 23, a man was recorded by a home security system taking the signs off the chain link fence and slashing the signs, according to Larsen.
When that news got to Larsen and Encircle leadership, they decided they wanted to make a statement, and a fundraising campaign was started to collect money for the billboards.
In just a short time, and through the COVID-19 pandemic, Encircle was able to collect $15,000 from 250 donors to cover the cost of the billboards, Larsen said.
The Encircle homes are open from 2 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. They offer therapy at reduced pricing for youth. The homes are run by a director, facilitators and volunteers.
For more information visit http://encircletogether.org.