Project Compassion has been helping metro-residents in need for the last 10 years. Now, the Belleville non-profit organization hopes to help even more people.
Executive Director Rachel Jackson announced Friday afternoon that Project Compassion will expand. The nonprofit organization was gifted the neighboring property on each side of its current office located at 6609 West Main St., which was also donated as the group was previously leasing the space. Project Compassion now owns 6611 and 6607 West Main St. as well as 6609.
“We are no longer limited to doing programming based on availability of other sites. We can keep a continuous role of (programming),” Jackson said. “We will be able to operate more programming consistently.”
She estimated the value of the three properties to be between $200,000 and $250,000. The donors wish to remain anonymous, according to Jackson.
Project Compassion is a nonprofit group that enhances the lives of people through education, compassion and empowerment. The organization helps young women ages 15-25, youth in grades fifth through 12th and low-income residents who are homeless or in jeopardy of becoming homeless.
With the expansion, Jackson, 36, said the organization will be able to hold more on-site training and in-house workshops and programs and allow for more space for its free store available to low-income residents.
“We will have a campus now,” Jackson said.
She said the two additional buildings are “all in good standing” and will only require cosmetic improvements such as new carpeting and fresh paint.
“We are hoping we can get local businesses or contractors to come in and help,” Jackson said.
She doesn’t know exactly what will be housed in 6607 West Main St. yet as it was previously a duplex and business. However, 6611 West Main St., which was formerly a cookie shop and bakery, will be Project Compassion’s Youth Force Training Center as well as house a larger free store and a computer lab.
“It gives us some classroom space and some open space to do some things for training,” Jackson said.
The current office at 6609 West Main will serve as the organization’s “main in-take center,” she said.
We started with $150 just to make the sandwiches (for the homeless). Now to see where it’s gone. It’s humbling but exciting at the same time. I am in awe.
Rachel Jackson, founder of Project Compassion
Jackson, a Belleville East graduate, was just 25 years old when she started the nonprofit group.
“We started with $150 just to make the sandwiches (for the homeless),” she said. “Now to see where it’s gone. It’s humbling but exciting at the same time. I am in awe.”
Jackson contributes the success of the nonprofit to her faith in God.
Just months after launching Project Compassion, it was featured on “The Tyra Banks Show” in 2006.
In October 2011, Jackson opened a resource center in the 7700 block of West Main St. for women in need of training, and she started hosting workshops such as life, social and leadership skills, job etiquette, job readiness, financial literacy, health and wellness, self-esteem and self-worth, parenting and mentoring.
Over time, the center expanded to include a free store for low-income women who could use some additional clothes or bed linens for themselves or their children. A family in need can come once a month and get new or gently used outfits.
Project Compassion moved to its current location in November 2012. In 2014, Jackson was selected as a L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth honoree.
Project Compassion continues to help the homeless population by distributing non-perishable food like a noodle cup and hygiene supplies once a month.
In an effort to end the cycle of generational poverty, Jackson, a certified self-esteem and self-worth trainer, offers “Empower Me” programs at area schools including Belleville East and West high schools and Signal Hill School in Belleville. She also hosts one-day workshops at other schools.
Jackson estimated Project Compassion helps between 100 and 200 clients a year. “We have seen a great increase at least by 10 to 20 cases a month,” Jackson said, who are “getting one-time emergency assistance or they are actually entering into a long-term, requiring a 12-month action plan to actually see them do a life change or some form of systematic workforce change.”
Jackson hopes to have a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony for the new Project Compassion campus in September. She anticipates programming to begin in the new spaces in the fall. Jackson said the nonprofit is looking for donations of office furniture and equipment for it’s new sites.
“It’s exciting to know if you just get started with something and put forth your best everyday that a lot of good can come,” she said.
How to help Project Compassion
- Donate online at www.projectcompassionnfp.org or by mailing a check to Project Compassion, NFP, P.O. Box 24312, Belleville, IL 62223
- Donate items for the free store such as children clothes, body wash, wash clothes, lip balm, deodorant, toothpaste, lotion, soap, toothbrushes, wet wipes, blankets, socks, sanitary napkins and Pampers diapers, especially in need of size three and four
- For more information, contact Project Compassion at 618-397-1790 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.