It was a billboard on 224 that helped ease Julya Sembrat’s sense of isolation during COVID. “It read, ‘It’s OK to not be OK,’’’ the Connect Summit County Executive Director recalls. “That rang true and really uplifted me. It turns out it was a ‘Connect’ sign!”

Today, Julya’s connection with most people is instant. “They immediately open up about a loved one with mental health issues or their personal story,” she says. Reflecting on her battle with depression in the 80s, she remembers “navigating on my own, without resources, so now I am outspoken about erasing the stigma surrounding mental health.” Connect’s advocacy and mental health services “are a perfect match for me,” she enthuses. “It’s my dream job.”

Advocating for mental health is a long way from conserving significant historical artifacts, which Julya and her husband did for 20 years as founders of Conservation Solutions in Maryland. “We worked on everything from Titanic artifacts to Saturn 5 rockets,” she says of the job that took her to all 50 states. The couple sold the company in 2018, settling in PC with their two teenagers “for the skiing, mountain biking and proximity to SLC’s airport.” She soon discovered PC as a community of “loving, caring, truly passionate people,” which helped motivate her to return to nonprofits, where her career began.

“But at first, I was focused on baking!” she says of her earliest days in PC. “I got my certificate in cuisine, but when COVID hit, I had to rethink.” At home with family and a French bulldog named Snoop Dog, today Julya bakes whenever time permits. “Cakes, cobblers, pies, the sweet stuff,” she says. “Cookies, too!”

More chefs are always welcome in Julya’s Connect Summit County kitchen. You can get engaged as a volunteer, donor or supporter at