QUINCY -- Quincy's Teen Reach after-school program strives to assist at-risk students age 6-17, and the financial support it receives from the United Way of Adams County is vital to that mission.
Each weekday after school -- and on many other occasions when school is not in session -- between 45 and 50 youths take part in Teen Reach. They get help with homework, take part in fun activities and talk with others about concerns in their lives. They also receive free meals and snacks.
While most of the program's costs are financed through a grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services, the agency also relies heavily on private donations and financial support from the United Way.
Because the state grant stipulates that only 15 percent of Teen Reach students can be younger than 12, the program began looking for other ways to provide services to younger students.
In January 2016, Bella Ease -- the not-for-profit corporation that oversees Teen Reach -- partnered with the Quincy Housing Authority to offer Teen Reach services to elementary-age students at Frederick Ball Community Center, says Cheryl Williams, Bella Ease executive director. The United Way now helps pay for those services.
"United Way's assistance has made it possible for us to expand to help the younger kids," Williams said.
"United Way's financial support is used so the younger students have a safe place to go after school to receive tutoring, mentoring, recreation, life skills and a nutritious snack and meal."
Williams said having resources to serve elementary-age students also benefits older youths by enabling them to take part in Teen Reach.
"Often, the older kids would need to go home after school so their brother/sister was cared for," Williams said. "With United Way's assistance, both kids get to come to Quincy Teen Reach -- a safe place for all kids."
This year, Williams said, the United Way increased its funding to Bella Ease to help cover costs associated with the organization's college-bound program.
"In conjunction with Quincy Teen Reach, we work with high school kids to plan for college," Williams said.
"Most of our kids are first-generation college students, so we help the families throughout the steps of searching for a college, applying to them, completing FASFA and (applications for) scholarships, and selecting a college," she said.
"United Way's assistance allows us to pay for books, dorm items such as bedding, towels, toiletries, cleaning items, school supplies and other necessities," Williams added.
Many of those items are "something low-income households struggle to provide," she said.