Eight organizations that provide summer youth programs in East St. Louis have received a combined $262,000 in grants from the United Way.
Francella Jackson, United Way’s Illinois division auxiliary board of directors chair, said, “This is a monumental investment generously provided by caring individuals and companies in our region through United Way to help our youth residing in East St. Louis.”
Zachary Lee, a local pastor, said: “Our children want what every child wants — safe, positive activity camps to engage in, and you’re going to provide that.”
Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority received $25,449. The organization plans to launch new dimensions of service to address community needs in several targeted areas. The group also will distribute food and school supplies, and two playgrounds will be restored. Also, the group plans to educate the community on littering, waste management and recycling.
Community Lifeline was awarded $25,440 to provide a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum for area youth involved in the organization’s after-school programs.
Wyvetter Granger, program director for Community Lifeline, said, “Our money is going to be used for our summer programs. And, we use it for leadership and mentoring throughout the year. We are looking to serve about 200 youth.”
Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation received $25,440 to operate its curriculum in partnership with Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville Higher Education Center in East St. Louis and the Christian Activity Center. It will serve 100 children in grades second through fifth during JJK’s summer camp.
Joyner-Kersee choked up as she thanked United Way for welcoming the JJK Center back into the organization.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank United Way on behalf of JJK Center. It truly means a lot for us to be in consideration with the United Way. We have been through some ups and downs. It is my dream to inspire the community to be the best it can be,” Joyner-Kersee said. “This money will allow us to continue to do STEM along with the other programs we are doing. Thanks for bringing us back into the family.”
Jackson, who is also director of community programs for the East St. Louis Police Department, said the grant money will help organizations in East St. Louis who are providing summer youth programs to “improve outcomes for our youth through innovative and unique programs.”
Other organizations who received $25,440 were Nu Chi Foundation and the Sinai Family Life Center.
Dennis Jackson, from Mount Sinai Development Corp., said the group’s grant will be used for summer jobs for youth in the Winstanley neighborhood.
“We’ve built houses in that neighborhood and are trying to revitalize the neighborhood. If you don't give youth something to do, we all know what these houses will turn into,” he said.
Will Robinson, from Nu Chi, said his organization is working to try to improve the lives of young people in East St. Louis.
“We talk to them about real-life issues. We talk to them about how to engage young ladies,” he said. “We have a chess team. We’re looking at putting together a robotics team. We want math and science to be our leading subjects.”
Irma Golliday, who runs the city’s parks and recreation program, thanked United Way officials for the $80,000 check she received.
“We didn’t know where the money was coming from. We prayed. We have 62 children already enrolled,” Golliday said. “We’re going to take them on field trips to water parks, teach them conflict resolution. We are going to partner with East Side Health District. God is real.”
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.