QUINCY -- When Jim Chamberlain moved to Quincy nearly a year ago, he expected to find a vibrant United Way.
"I've seen great things from United Way, and I had no doubt it was going to be the same here," said Chamberlain, CEO of the YMCA of West Central Illinois with branches in Quincy, Mount Sterling and Barry and a program center in Ursa.
Chamberlain said the United Way of Adams County plays a vital role in the Y's after-school program.
Financial support for the program comes through West Central Child Care Connection and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, but "there's a lot of families that maybe don't qualify for those but still don't have additional funds to be able to provide after-school care while they're at work," Chamberlain said.
"United Way helps provide those funds so we can offer those scholarships," he said. "At the Y we say no one's turned away due to inability to pay. The United Way helps make that a reality for our school-age child care."
Without the help, Chamberlain said the YMCA could struggle to provide the services for about 50 to 100 children depending on the time of year.
Studies show the greatest increase in substance abuse and crime occur between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m., crucial after-school hours.
"We want to provide a safe place where kids can come, and families don't have to worry about what their kids are doing or the type of influence they have," Chamberlain said. "They're going to get positive role models, get some help with their homework, get physically active activities."
Additional research shows that after-school programs provide positive outcomes such as an increase in academic achievement, a decrease in behavior problems and improved leadership skills. "Those are all things we try to make sure we're providing and instilling in kids when they come in," Chamberlain said.
While the United Way focuses its support on the after-school child care program, it provides additional financial help when needed, such as when the Y opened as a warming center this past winter for anyone who needed a warm place to stay to be safe in the dangerous cold.
"It just shows the level of collaboration in the community. Each of the agencies aren't out there on their own, just doing their own thing and in some cases competing with each other," Chamberlain said. "It's really how can we work better together. The United Way really helps facilitate those discussions and that collaboration. It's very helpful to have such a strong United Way in the community. We proudly state we are a United Way agency."