CHICAGO – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today released an 18-month progress report for TEAM Illinois, an initiative involving virtually every state agency. Gov. Blagojevich said the initiative has made great strides in providing assistance to four of the state’s economically troubled communities. TEAM Illinois, a partnership among state agencies, the private sector and community stakeholders, is bringing infrastructure and opportunity to Pembroke Township, Savanna, Alexander County, and Aurora’s East Side.
“TEAM Illinois and its formidable resources are helping to strengthen the communities it serves. Never before have the resources of nearly every state agency been pooled and concentrated in an intensive effort to turn around communities facing so many tough challenges,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Whether it’s better roads, jobs or even a playground, we’re letting these communities know the State of Illinois will not forget them and will continue to work until their needs are met.”
Since its inception a year and a half ago, TEAM Illinois has invested almost $4 million dollars in four underserved communities. The results are tangible -- the first county health department in 35 years, infrastructure repairs, employment opportunities, and other capacity-building mechanisms.
In all four communities, TEAM Illinois works closely with the steering committees and has assisted local stakeholders secure numerous grants, develop youth apprentice initiatives, as well as partner with KaBOOM! to design and construct new playgrounds.
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“TEAM Illinois has completed half of the original 263 action items developed at stakeholder forums and we are working together to accomplish the remaining tasks over the next two years,” said Carol L. Adams, Ph.D., Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), TEAM Illinois’ lead agency. “Over the past eighteen months we’ve made great progress in providing these communities with a blueprint for prosperity and the capacity for restoring hope and dignity for all citizens.”
“TEAM Illinois is proving that through hard work, innovative partnerships, grass-roots leadership, and targeted services, we can make a vital impact at the community level. Although each of these four areas has long been forced to deal with a shortage of fiscal resources, they’ve always maintained a wealth of community resources. Under Gov. Blagojevich’s leadership, we’re leveraging those resources and unleashing the true potential of these communities,” Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Director Jack Lavin said.
TEAM Illinois accomplishments include:
- A new steering committee, The Savanna Vision Network, works on capacity building.
- IDHS, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Carroll County Board assisted with space and funding for the first County Health Department in Carroll County in over 35 years.
- TEAM Illinois, through the Technology Assistance Program (TAP), donated 18 computers to the Illinois Coalition for Community Services and Family Focus, an East Aurora community agency.
· The Savanna Youth Entrepreneurship Program grads created two new businesses, the Emmett Spaulding Distribution Company and the Courtyard Café.
· The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) advanced the timetable for paving and resurfacing of Main Street in Savanna. The project was completed last year.
· The Illinois Arts Council awarded The Savanna Center for the Arts (SCA) a $10,000 grant for operating and program support.
· A VISTA volunteer, partially funded through a grant received by the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University, is working on economic development.
· The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is working with the City of Savanna to revise their five-year infrastructure plan.
- The Illinois Department of Public Aid (IDPA) has approved Pinnacle Place to become a certified Supportive Living Facility (SLF). The SLF will provide affordable assisted living for 21 seniors and persons with disabilities.
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· To date, at least 46 people have found jobs with assistance from the ongoing job program. Forty are in employment and training programs, and 30 are enrolled in adult education/GED classes. The new steering committee brings together the village, township, county and state to work in a coordinated fashion to promote the further development of the community. A grant from FEMA under the Homeland Security Act helped to finance the purchase of the new fire truck and equipment for Pembroke. In cooperation with South Holland and Dolton, secured additional equipment to meet the 10 percent matching funds requirement for the grant.
· Technical assistance provided to Pembroke Library led to accreditation and acceptance into the regional Prairie Library System.
- The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) collected and shredded a large number of tires from Pembroke Township.
· IEPA provided technical assistance to Hopkins Park by collecting and analyzing samples at their public water supply. The sample results and monitoring indicated that systems are in compliance. IEPA will continue to offer technical support as needed.
- IDOT has begun work on emergency repairs to roads in Pembroke Township.
· IDOT previously made improvements on more than 4 miles of roads, put up road signs and completed a 26-mile roadside clean up. The department has allocated $400,000 for road repairs in FY 05 and $800,000 in FY 06.
· IDOT delivered a para-transit vehicle for assisting seniors and persons with disabilities with travel to medical appointments and other travel as needed.
· DCEO provided $150,000 in emergency funding for Pembroke townships sewer/water system. Another $400,000 was approved for “scoping” or assessing the system for what repairs are needed.
· The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has created a Family Support Advocate position, earmarked for a qualified Pembroke resident. The Advocate will serve as a liaison to DCFS as well as other community organizations. They will identify and link families in the Pembroke area to the appropriate services needed to resolve their families concerns and monitor the family's progress.
· East Aurora received a DCEO grant of $146,000 for a high-tech school to work program.
· East Aurora received a $247,000 DNR grant for the redevelopment of Solfisburg Park.
· IDOT has partnered with God’s Gym, an after-school program for youth, to provide needed transportation to youth participating in after-school activities and programs. God’s Gym received their van in June of 2004.
· The IDHS Bureau of Immigrant and Refugee Services provided $35,000 for citizenship application services, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, and Civic/History instruction courses for immigrants.
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· The Youth Entrepreneurship Program was started in collaboration with the Chicago Area Project, Aurora School District 131 and the Quad County Urban League.
· The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services responded to the need of the community for a comprehensive list of services and programs within Aurora by providing a detailed resource directory of various service providers in East and West Aurora.
· IDHS sponsored grant writing workshops to assist agencies with submitting grant proposals.
· The Department of Employment Security (IDES) opened a satellite office to serve East Aurora.
"IDES is committed to its mandate of helping clients become job ready. This East Aurora satellite office will include Spanish-speaking staff to assist the community residents in preparing for successful job searches as well as to file unemployment claims at a convenient location," said Brenda A. Russell, Director of IDES.
· A new steering committee is modifying bylaws to update the steering committee’s 501C-3 status and prioritize TEAM Illinois goals in Alexander County.
· TEAM Illinois is partnering with Western Illinois University in a Mapping the Future initiative to assess economic opportunities in the County.
· TEAM Illinois donated 34 computers to various community service agencies in Alexander County.
· Alexander County’s SMART Transportation system received a federal Reverse Commute Job Access Grant of $125,000.
· The University of Illinois-Springfield and a local sporting goods store assisted the Cairo girl’s basketball team with the purchase of 30 equipment bags.