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United Way of Illinois Valley
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Real Life Stories

There are basic things that we all need for a good life: a quality education that leads to a stable job, income that can support a family through retirement, and good health. Thanks to the generosity of United Way National Corporate Leadership companies, their employees and retirees, United Way is making lasting changes in people’s lives across the country.

We would like to share with you a few real-life stories of lives in the Illinois Valley. These stories made us pause and reminded us of how fortunate we are and why we do what we do. Please take a moment to read about young families, battered girlfriends, children in and out of courts, single mothers...the list goes on. All are recipients of services supported by the United Way of Illinois Valley. Take pride in the fact that through your donations you are a good neighbor - supporting those less fortunate in our community.

Alternatives for the Older Adult

The senior is an 81 year old male who has difficulty with his vision due to glaucoma and diabetes requiring insulin injections. The referral to Alternatives for the Older Adult Money Management Program (MMP) came from the Housing Authority. The Housing Authority noticed that the gentleman’s rent check bounced twice and called Alternatives. The MMP coordinator made a home visit and provided a comprehensive financial assessment. The MMP coordinator noticed that bills were written out along with large sums of checks written out each month to one person. The total amount to this person over the past year totaled $11,000. The senior had a niece that came daily to help her Uncle with his insulin shots and help him pay his bills. The problem arose that the niece did help her Uncle but at the same time wrote checks out of his account for large sums of money. The niece purchased a used car with one check. The MMP coordinator referred the senior for an assessment from Case Management Program for home care services and to the Elder Abuse Protective Services Program. The senior agreed to have a rep payee so that the niece could not get a hold of any more funds from her Uncle’s account. Services have been set up for the senior. After two months of MMP services the senior has a stable bank account. The niece is no longer involved and is paying back the senior with monthly payments.

ADV & SAS (Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services)

Amy* came to ADV & SAS at the age of fifteen. She had been severely battered by her boyfriend, Bob. Through counseling, Amy came to realize what rape was and that Bob had also raped her repeatedly. We assisted Amy in obtaining an Order of Protection (OP). When Bob violated the OP by following Amy repeatedly and threatening to kill and rape her, Amy was empowered to make a police report. Bob was arrested and subsequently incarcerated for violating Amy’s OP.

Both Amy and her parents received information and support throughout the criminal court process. ADV & SAS advocates accompanied the family to all the hearings in both civil and criminal court. During the court case, Amy and her mother met with ADV & SAS counselors to help cope with the trauma in their lives. Mom was unsure how to provide support to her daughter and felt she learned positive ways to communicate and listen. She also appreciated being able to discuss her own feelings regarding her daughter’s victimization. Mom attended counseling for several months and still checks in with her counselor on a regular basis.

Amy also chose to participate in ADV & SAS’ supportive counseling. She was able to see the ADV & SAS Adolescent Counselor at her high school. She expressed appreciation for the ability to see our counselor at school. She was able to talk about her feelings, discuss ways in which the violence disrupted her daily life, and to learn skills to cope with flashbacks related to the violence. Amy continues to see our Adolescent Counselor and has made great strides. *All names have been changed.

Boy Scouts, W.D. Boyce Council

I have seen, and appreciate very much the help and support given the Scouting program from the United Way program. I have been associated with the Boy Scout Organization over the last 40+ years…as a Cub Scout, Boy Scout and an adult leader in/on several different positions and levels of leadership. I know, that if it wasn’t for the deep commitment and continued support of the United Way that many Packs and Troops, and most importantly numerous young boys and young men would never have had the many amazing experiences of Scouting. I speak from the point of view of a father of four boys, all involved in the local program.

My boys all have grown in responsibility, maturity, leadership ability, useful survival skills, communication skills, pride, and overall citizenship and life-long commitments to their community. Many boys gain these qualities and much more from their Scout experiences. Some of these occur while learning and advancing through the Scout ranks and merit achievements. Some have fun and adventure while participating at campouts and summer camp facilities. It would not be possible for all boys that wanted to attend, if it were not through the help and support to the scouting organization from the United Way. It is the funding and public awareness and promotion of their agencies (The Boy Scouts) that allows camperships, scholarships, and support to the packs, troops, council, and individuals. The cost of running and maintaining the excellent programs and experiences for the scouts is staggering, The help from United Way continues to make it possible, and affordable to families in need, so no youth need miss out on the scouting opportunity.

It continues to be a most gratifying association I have with scouting – as a dad, watching my eldest son attain his Eagle Scout rank, and his three younger brothers looking up to him, wanting to follow his path. As a scout leader – it is thrilling and most rewarding to help and guide youngsters in positive directions, as they grow and learn about the world outside of school and to see them truly enjoy it.

As a member of the community, it is wonderful to see all the positive results from the local boy scout involvement as they participate in eco-shaping opportunitues - beautifying and improving our neighborhoods with park clean-ups, nursing home repairs, ballfield improvements, assistance to the Food Pantry and our local firehouse and department. Participation in municipal remembrance parades and many other civic activities.
I again extend my thanks to the United Way for its continued support and longtime involvement in scouting

Saul S. Rosenberg
District Commissioner
W.D. Boyce Council
Boy Scouts of America

LaSalle County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate)

A Day in the Life of a CASA Volunteer Coordinator
9:00 a.m. I start my day by prioritizing what needs to be done. I have a busy day planned, even without any unexpected interruptions.
9:10 a.m. My phone rings. It is a CASA volunteer who needs advice. She arrived for a scheduled visit with her CASA child yesterday and the family would not allow her to enter their home to talk with the child. I advise her how best to proceed.
9:30 a.m. Fax court appointment order to Jackson school to verify CASA involvement and credentials so CASA volunteer can speak with teacher about a CASA child’s educational needs and socialization skills.
9:40 a.m. Called CASA volunteer Sandy Schmidt. Volunteer should contact schools to verify child’s progress – ask for Principal Gail Thompson.
10:00 a.m. Return call from foster parent who wants to know more about CASA’s role in their case.
10:15 a.m. Call CASA volunteer Daniel Foster and arrange to accompany him to first visit to foster family.
10:25 a.m. Fax courtesy copy of CASA court report to social service provider in another county that provides support services for a CASA child.
10:30 a.m. Meet with CASA volunteer Bob Small. Give him CASA’s digital camera to take pictures of home documenting health and safety concerns for CASA court report. Social worker requested CASA take pictures to also verify our observations.
11:00 a.m. Contact counseling service to explain CASA role and obtain their release forms/HIPPA/procedure for permission to speak to counselor about parent’s progress on CASA volunteer Julie Moore’s case.
11:30 a.m. Review case circumstances with CASA volunteer Mary Smith. Review plan for services for family outlined by DCFS. Suggest local resources for support for children/family. Review court proceedings to check permanency timeline. Advise CASA volunteer how best to proceed in case.
Noon Lunch
12:30 p.m. Contact all CASA volunteers via email about upcoming inservice.
12:35 p.m. Prepare Power Point presentation about Attachment Disorder for volunteer inservice.
1:00 p.m. Review new volunteer training curriculum from National CASA.
1:30 p.m. Create training schedule.
1:45 p.m. Review potential CASA volunteer applications. Prepare for volunteer interviews.
2:00 p.m. Send volunteer criminal background checks to Illinois State Police and DCFS.
2:25 p.m. CASA volunteer Jackie Rivera leaves an urgent message. She was concerned about the household where her child resides. After interviewing neighbors about alleged activities at the residence, she visited local police to check if they have had any contact with household. CASA volunteer to obtain copies of any police reports.
2:50 p.m. Contact social worker in Jackie Rivera’s case. Share concerns for child’s safety/review placement options. Determine whether to call hotline. Contact State’s Attorney’s office to request case be put on court docket immediately. Request social worker contact police so protective custody options can be considered if necessary.
3:00 p.m. Arrange to attend regional staff support meeting offered through Illinois CASA.
3:10 p.m. Arrange for CASA volunteer Shawn O`Malley to observe a supervised family visit between parents and their children. Verify CASA volunteer has copy of parent/child checklist.
3:20 p.m. Meet with a CASA volunteer Debbie Carlisle to help prepare court report. Note dates/times/places of visits to child. Help determine recommendations for best interest of the child.
4:00 p.m. Write case notes for CASA office files.
4:30 p.m. Log my activities today for grant reporting.
5:00 p.m. Check my TO DO list one last time. Note what needs to be done first thing tomorrow. Another full day!

Horizon House

What is respite? That’s a question we’ve heard numerous times over the past 20 years. Many people wonder what respite is when I tell them we use respite services from Horizon House. I usually begin by explaining that respite provides well-trained workers who are able togive a much-needed break to parents of a developmentally-delayed child. Respite has provided us numerous opportunities to stepback fromour child care responsibilites and get a new perspective on the blessing of caring for our special child, Gloria.

The Respite program offered by Horizon House is also flexible. There have been times when we've been able to schedule respite services on short notice when we've been faced with an emergency. Respite services have not only benefited us, but they have also given Gloria an opportunity to get to know a lot of really great caregivers. She has learned the valuable lesson of depending on other people for her needs. This has shown her that her parents are not the only people who can help her in life.

After I've had the opportunity to explain respite, people's usual response is one of amazement that such a great program actually exists and is offered in our rural area. Several folks have asked me how they can sign up, either to use respite services - or to become a respite provider. I've always been more than happy to point them in the right direction to get started with the respite program.

For nearly 20 years, respite has been there for us, whenever we've need to get away. It has truly been a blessing to our family and one that we have shared with other families who can benefit from the program.

Janice and Fred Meyer

Illinois Valley Center for Independent Living

I began working with a young woman with autism when I became IVCIL’s Youth Advocate. During our first teen peer support group I sponsored, this young lady was withdrawn, unsociable, and unwilling to participate with the group. She didn’t even sign in.

During the course of the year with five more teen peer support group opportunities, I witnessed a transformation. With encouragement and support, this young woman has become more sociable. Remarkably, she has commanded the attention of others in the group to have her voice heard. She now feels comfortable to sign in, enter a discussion with others, recognize and communicate her feelings, make wise choices, and demonstrate previously unused independent living skills.

I have helped her family also. I have given them information on their rights in special education programs and advocated at school Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings. To foster her transition into independent living situations after high school, I have provided information and referral services. She is currently a high school senior, will graduate in May, and has goals of attending college.

Illinois Valley Food Pantry

After receiving a Food Pantry order, a young mother was excited to see that a few little cartons of juice were included. It seemed her young daughter was going on her first field trip from school and it was suggested each student bring juice boxes for lunch. The family’s food budget was stretched to the limit for the month. They considered the juice boxes a luxury they couldn’t afford.

Now their daughter would be just like all the other kids. It’s important, at that age that children aren’t singled out for having less, even in a small way. The little girl didn’t have to feel less fortunate in front of her friends.

Lighted Way Association

The Lighted Way has been impacting my life for 30 years. I am fortunate to see things first hand, as I am one of four certified special education teachers employed there. The beautiful thing about our school is that the teachers and therapists work closely together to bring out the best in each student. We rejoice when a 5 year-old student learns to walk, or when a student learns to feed herself by holding her own spoon, or when a child who will always be with out speech learns to express him/herself by using pictures or learns to use a high tech augmentative communication device.

Students attend our school for many reasons. We really get to know our students - and their families as well. I have seen many students, along with family members, develop a trust that permits the parents to send their precious children to our school each day. The parents look forward to reading what the teacher has written each day in a child’s home/school notebook, because the children are without speech and unable to just talk about their day.

As I think back to the year 1995, I can remember a parent saying: “Lighted Way accomplishes things that most people believe would be impossible.” With this in mind, I would like to tell you about one aspect of our fine school. Each year our school presents a musical program for our parents. Every student participates in some small way, by playing a rhythm instrument, often with hand-over-hand assistance. The parents are proud, we are proud, and most especially, each student is proud to be participating. In turn, the students’ quality of life is improved. They are doing something that other children -without disabilities - are able to do.

Thanks to United Way of the Illinois Valley who helps fund our educational program, I will always be impacted by these beautiful children who have special needs - including a variety of seemingly insurmountable delays and developmental disabilities.

Thank you, United Way, for impacting my life and the lives of so many people, people who know and understand the accomplishments of our fine school. In 2007, Lighted Way celebrated its 50th year of serving students with developmental disabilities. I am proud to have experienced 30 of those 50 years.

Mary L. Beltramini
Special Education Teacher

Mendota Area Senior Services

My husband and I frequently use the services offered by Mendota Area Senior Services. As we have gotten older, they have been a special blessing. The drivers are friendly, capable and always ready to help. They will drive in larger towns such as Rockford - when we avoid such trips. The people in the office are very good at explaining things. That helps us to avoid costly mistakes.

After several years, these people have become very good friends- and also happen to be helpful! We appreciate and care about each one and are so thankful to have them.

Roger and Shirley Kelchner
Earlville, Illinois

Prairie State Legal Services

I represented our client in the Order of Protection case against her husband. It was an ugly case, involving sexual abuse of our client’s teenage daughter by our client’s husband. The husband, when confronted by our client regarding his relationship with the child, left with four of our client’s five children and did not inform our client of their whereabouts. Our client called the police, but was told that they could not help her.

Our client, who had a history of mental and emotional problems, was so distraught by the events that she suffered a nervous breakdown and was committed to a psychiatric unit. At this point, DCFS contacted our client’s husband, who was in Missouri, and placed our client’s remaining child with him as there were no other relatives with whom the child could be placed. Our client had never been informed of the exact location of her children, and only knew that they were in Missouri. She was very concerned for their welfare and feared that her husband would keep moving them to prevent her from finding them.

After she was released from the hospital, our client contacted our office and we agreed to assist her. She was extremely fragile emotionally and did not trust us initially because of her recent frustrating experiences trying to get help from Police and DCFS.

Because the two states were involved, the situation was even more complicated and it would have been impossible for her to navigate the legal system on her own. We were able to work closely with the domestic violence advocates, DCFS, Catholic Charities, juvenile court representatives, and law enforcement agencies in both Illinois and Missouri.

Through our coordinated efforts, the children were removed from the client’s husband and eventually returned to our client. It was gratifying to me as an attorney to be able to be a part of such wide network of concerned persons and agencies, some of which are funded through the United Way. More importantly, as a parent, I was able to relate to a mother’s need to protect her children and to help her achieve that goal.

Jean M. Fletcher
Staff Attorney

Red Cross of the Illinois Valley

My name is Mary Kay Keutzer and I have been a blood drive coordinator for the American Red Cross for the past 13 years. The drives are held at the Tonica Methodist church every 8 weeks.

I would like to tell you of a very fortunate story of a little girl’s life and how the Red Cross helped her. In June of 2006, a second child was born to Ron and Tami Wiesbrock of Leonore, IL. They named her Mollie Eileen and she was welcomed home by her big brother Devyn. I knew Tami while we were both growing up, and then she became a babysitter for my own children. Living in a small town it seems the news of Mollie’s arrival spread quickly. December of that year, Mollie became very ill and was tested for leukemia and many more diseases a parent never wants to face. Her parents ended up in Peoria, IL for further testing of Mollie and it was discovered that she had a rare blood disorder called Blackfan Diamond Anemia. This is a disease where Mollie’s body cannot produce red blood cells to help her have the strength to grow. Mollie would have to have blood transfusions every 5 to 8 weeks until she was l l/2 years old. At that time she could be put on medication that will produce the cells she needs.

When I found out about her needing frequent transfusions, I thought I would hold a blood drive in Mollie’s honor. I held it in December of that year to ensure the blood was available when she needed it. What parent doesn’t want a smile on Christmas morning? That drive brought out 98 people for this little angel’s need. A total of 83 good units were collected with 21 coming from first-time donors.

Mollie went to Peoria on March 11, 2008 for her last blood transfusion and will start on the medication. While I spent time visiting with Tami and Mollie, she had grown into a typical 2 year old. She has a mind of her own and the sweetest little smile a parent could ever want.

All the blood drives are meaningful, but this drive was extra special. We helped a little angel and today each and every person that knows the family can see what the gift of life can do.

Youth Service Bureau/The Kid’s Place

Randy, a single mom of two young children, is also responsible for caring for her younger siblings. Randy was referred to the Kid’s Place through another family member.

We were able to provide her with information to qualify for Childcare Subsidy Program that helps pay for daycare cost.

During Christmas, Randy fell on hard times financially. We were able to refer her to United Way’s Christmas Drive. Her children along with her siblings received Christmas presents. Also, a donation was provided to take care of her December’s childcare cost. Through your contribution, we were able to help lift this financial burden during a hectic month.

YMCA of Illinois Valley

Preschool Success Story: Our Just for Twos Program is the biggest success in the preschool this year. The children began the year in tears…not wanting their moms to leave and not wanting to participate. As the months passed, they stopped crying and were excited to come to school. Now, as we enter our final months, some of the children are able find their names on their cubbies, follow directions to complete a project, and sing along with the teacher. We are very proud of their achievements.

Scholarship Success Story Single Parent Family
We qualified for a scholarship for summer daycare. I was able to have both my children attend summer camp due to the reduced weekly fees. My children enjoyed summer camp and also coming to the Y to play in the gym or the aquatic center. Thanks to the YMCA, my children were able to attend summer day camp at an affordable rate and I was at ease knowing they were having fun and I could afford it.

Family The YMCA has offered my family a membership at a reduced cost so that we can utilize the facilities for improved health and continuous opportunities for personal growth through community involvement. I have been a gastric bypass patient and have managed to keep the weight off with the help of the YMCA. My family has a better sense of well-being and their overall general health has improved because of practices such as swimming, jogging, weight lifting and core training that we take part in at the YMCA.

Senior The YMCA has helped us financially and is a good positive place to go for me and my son. I am a widow and this helps me to have a place to go with Doug who has special needs. It has helped Doug to get on the “track” to lose weight for the future by being able to use the physical therapy pool. It is special for him to go to the YMCA. Depending on how you mean a “success story”, to me having a YMCA in our community is a success story in itself. I feel blessed to have such a wonderful organization in our midst.

Individual The YMCA has trained me to have some discipline and I have a whole new outlook on life. It’s helped me make new friends, both young and old. I would suggest joining the YMCA to everyone! I make the most of it. It’s a fun place to be and I like listening to the music while I workout. It helps me stay positive and gives me a reason to get up in the morning ... and there is even hope for me to have a great figure. I enjoy going to the YMCA and meeting a lot of people. It’s a neat place to go and very peaceful.

Day Camp My son and daughter spent eight weeks at the YMCA's Summer Day camp. As a single parent with limited income, the YMCA granted scholarship assistance for my children to attend Summer Day camp. The YMCA offers safe care every day and my kids enjoyed the activities and guidance summer camp provides. I appreciated knowing they were safe and happy.

Special Olympics – Young Athletes The YMCA has started a new program through the Special Olympics called “The Young Athletes”. This program helps 2-7 year olds with intellectual disabilities get ready for the world of sports. Seeing their participation and eagerness to learn makes the children successful. Just seeing how happy they are and their improvement in gross motor skills is all that it takes to know that this program is a success.

Before/After School Our “Safe Haven Club” reaches out to over 180 children at five of our local schools. It is a program that the children want to attend, to be with their friends and participate in physical activities. Many parents have expressed their gratitude to our staff for this program. We have been told that they could not work worry free until they enrolled their children in our “Safe Haven Club” (new name for our Before/After School Club). The parents have seen success in their children’s behavior, self-respect, and responsibility after the children have been with our caring staff.
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