By Roberta Codemo

Two local nonprofits recently received grant monies to help continue to fund the work they do in the community.

William Legge, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Central Illinois, was thrilled to receive a $15,815 grant from the Community Service Committee of the Capital Area Association of Realtors to create a space for teens to congregate, relax and socialize with their peers. “I’m humbled by the selection,” he said. “The money will be used entirely for capital improvements.”

The 19-member volunteer committee each nominates a nonprofit to support. “We look for an organization that has a special project they need help with,” said Misty Buscher, vice president of mortgage lending at Marine Bank, who served as this year’s committee chair.

“We felt we would make the most impact there,” said Buscher. The estimated cost of the project was $12,000 which the committee believed it could raise, but they ended up with much more than that.

The biggest fundraising event was trivia night, which raised $12,441. Additional monies came from a golf outing, which brought in $510, and a holiday party, which brought in $2,864. “We work hard to give back to the community,” said Buscher. “We want people to know we care.”

According to Legge, a quick Internet search shows that teen violence is on the rise in Sangamon County. “There really aren’t a lot of avenues for teens,” he said.

The club is converting a former locker room into a teen club. Between 50 and 70 teens utilize the facility in a given week. “We have more than we have space for,” said Legge.

Planning has been underway for more than a year. The first step was to create a space that made a difference to teens and got them off the street. Legge envisioned a Starbucks-like modern environment with computers, a high-end audio system, storage space and plenty of comfortable seating.

Construction has already started with an estimated completion date of Sept. 1. Prather Tucker Associates, Inc. designed the space and Lowe’s employees are donating their time and labor to the project, along with several volunteer and religious groups. The Bunn Corporation is doing the rewiring. “This frees up money for equipment and supplies,” said Legge.

“Teens vote with their feet,” continued Legge. “It’s important to offer the programs and services they want. Teens want access to technology and digital entertainment. Otherwise you lose them.”

Future plans include developing a solid foundation of academic, social and athletic programs. “Kids don’t realize the opportunities they have,” said Legge. “Kids from impoverished backgrounds aren’t hopeless. It’s important to show them the future available to them.”

Legge said that teens are aware something is happening. “I’m looking forward to the big reveal,” he said.

“There’s always a struggle with getting funding,” said Bridgett Burke, executive director of The Parent Place, which helped more than 7,000 clients last year. This year marks the organization’s 40th anniversary of preventing child abuse through teaching positive parenting skills and techniques to nurture the family.

The organization received a $5,000 mediation grant from the Illinois Bar Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the Illinois State Bar Association. Established in 1951, the foundation funds organizations that provide direct legal representation, pro bono legal services and legal information.

The foundation awards 30 grants statewide annually, according to David Michael Anderson, executive director. This is the third year The Parent Place received a mediation grant and it is the only nonprofit organization in Springfield to receive grant monies.

“The Parent Place offers a unique service,” said Anderson. “We thought it was a great investment.” It helps families who can’t afford court-mandated mediation services. “They fill a niche,” he said.

The foundation provides access to justice services to people who otherwise cannot afford to pay for an attorney. “We want to help our profession do some good,” said Anderson.

Burke said the grant allows The Parent Place to assist low-income families by offering family mediation services at significantly reduced fees or, in some cases, for free. Mediation teaches parents how to work together for the sake of the children. “It lets us put a parent plan in place,” she said. “We spotlight the future and moving forward.”

Parents are going to be in each other’s lives. “You have to learn to get along,” said Burke. “You have that connection.”

The Parent Place is the only nonprofit organization providing family mediation services in the Seventh Judicial Circuit and was recently added to the Fourth Judicial Circuit’s list of approved mediators. “We serve 14 counties,” said Burke. There are two contractual mediators on staff.

“We have a great relationship with the legal community,” said Burke. “We are fortunate to have family court judges who truly are very compassionate.”

Burke said every little bit helps. “We would not be able to do this without the Bar Foundation,” she said. “We feel fortunate to receive it.” Without it, the organization would not be able to offer the services it does to as many.

Burke said the number of families needing help is increasing. “We definitely stay busy,” she said. “We would not be able to serve as many as we do without their help.”

Roberta Codemo can be reached at rcodemo@hotmail.com.