2019 RPC Year in Review – A Year of Effective Strategies and Exceptional Outcomes

A meeting takes place in the John Dimit Conference Room at the RPC

February

Early Childhood Education Program Honored for Innovation, Nominated for Statewide Award

The Illinois Head Start Association’s (IHSA) Innovative Bright Practices project named the RPC’s Early Childhood Education program as its monthly winner in February. The project highlights programs that are using innovative and creative strategies, in this case the RPC’s creation of the Social Skills and Prevention Coach role. Performing this role for the RPC are Andrew Hulten at the Urbana Early Childhood Education Center, Jennifer Spain at the Savoy Early Childhood Education Center, and Camille Bookter at the Rantoul Early Childhood Education Center. Prioritizing prevention, the coaches provide strength-based reflective support for staff, collect behavior-related data, build relationships with families, and help anticipate the need for preventative transition support for students.

 

March

New Program Introduced to Increase Safety in Garden Hills Community—While Making Homes More Energy Efficient

A safety and energy efficiency program designed to benefit homeowners and single-family renters came to Champaign’s Garden Hills community during the Spring. The Safety, Lighting, Energy Efficiency Program—or SLEEP—is a partnership between the RPC, the City of Champaign, and Ameren Illinois. RPC representatives went door-to-door in Garden Hills to distribute energy efficiency kits and provide more information for residents about SLEEP. In addition, residents had an opportunity to attend workshops where they learned about simple tips to reduce their energy consumption. Other services available included home energy efficiency upgrades and the installation of safety measures such as window and door locks and video doorbells—all at no cost to Garden Hills residents.

RPC Hosts Noted Children’s Authors

The RPC’s Early Childhood Education program hosted award-winning children’s authors M.J. Mouton and Julia Durango in March as part of the bi-annual Youth Literature Festival. Mouton presented to two different groups of children at the Urbana Early Childhood Education Center, while Durango made her presentation at the Champaign Early Childhood Education Center. Started by the College of Education at the University of Illinois in 2008, the three-day festival celebrates the value of literature in the lives of youth by bringing together nationally known authors, illustrators, poets, and storytellers to share their stories, their craft, and their enthusiasm for books with children.

 

April

RPC’s Early Childhood Education Program Earns High Marks from National Scoring System for Preschool Classrooms

A national monitoring review that assesses classroom quality delivered positive scores for the RPC’s Early Childhood Education program. The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) scored the RPC’s program above the national average in a number of the domains and dimensions it measures in regards to teacher-child interactions. Trained and certified observers conducted these reviews at each of the RPC’s Early Childhood Education Centers. The RPC scored above the national average in the domains of Emotional Support and Classroom Organization and in the dimensions of Teacher Sensitivity, Regard for Student Perspectives, Productivity, Instructional Learning Formats, and Language Modeling.

Youth Assessment Center Partners with University of Illinois

Identifying factors that contribute to healthy and unhealthy teen relationships can be a major factor in helping teens avoid regular interaction with the justice system. The Youth Assessment Center (YAC) has been doing its part to help identify these factors through a partnership with the University of Illinois Department of Psychology. Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, a project called VIP Screen engages with youth between the ages of 12 and 17. Over the course of one year, each youth participates in three surveys that ask them about situations of adversity they have faced in their lives, as well as individual differences that are related to emotional and behavioral well-being. Individuals chosen for VIP Screen do not have to be YAC clients but do have to be referred to the project by the YAC.

RPC Co-Sponsors “Second Chance Saturday” in Watseka

Iroquois County adults with criminal records had the opportunity for a fresh start and new opportunities in the new year through Second Chance Saturday, an expungement/sealing summit free to qualifying applicants. Held at the Kankakee Community College’s South Extension Center, the goal of the summit was to help local residents take advantage of an opportunity to remove barriers that keep them out of the workforce. Potential employers were also available at Second Chance Saturday to accept job applications from summit participants.

RPC’s No Limits Program Highlighted in Video

The RPC’s No Limits program was featured in a video from Heartland Bank focused on financial literacy. In April, two No Limits participants, along with case Manager Krist Sallee, were interviewed about the program and its benefits. Heartland Bank has been using the completed video in its ongoing marketing efforts.

 

May

Expansion of Early Head Start Program to Bring Valuable Services to Dozens of Children and Pregnant Women in Champaign County

The RPC’s Early Childhood Education program was awarded additional federal and non-federal funding, helping it expand Early Head Start services to 90 more children and families in the Champaign County area. This expansion enables the RPC to serve 80 more children from birth to three-years-old in center-based services, as well as 10 pregnant women and teens as part of home visiting services. “Our teaching approach focuses on each child’s potential and possibilities,” said Brandi Granse, Director of the RPC’s Early Childhood Education Division. “We stress the importance of parents as their child’s first teacher, and this expansion will help our program continue realizing its daily mission and impacting the future of Champaign County in a positive way.”

Urbana Woman Honored for Pursuit of Self-Sufficiency as RPC’s 2019 Families of Distinction Awardee

Urbana’s Mary Blue was one of 19 Illinois individuals or families honored at the Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies (IACAA) Annual Learning Conference in Springfield. The RPC’s No Limits program named Mary as its 2019 Families of Distinction awardee, an honor recognizing a family or individual who has overcome great personal and social obstacles in their pursuit of self-sufficiency with the assistance of a Community Action Agency. During a banquet at the IACAA conference, the IACAA’s 40 member agencies, which include the RPC, celebrated select individuals or families from around the state for embodying many of the characteristics of stability.

 

June

RPC Earns National Award for Human Services Program Focused on Residents with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities

The RPC was recognized with a 2019 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo) for a program focused on helping area residents with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD). In the category of Human Services, the award honored the RPC’s Decision Support/Person-Centered Planning (for I/DD) program, which extends and enhances services available through the Independent Service Coordination Unit (ISC). “The funding we have received through the Champaign County Developmental Disabilities Board has allowed us to develop unique programming and services and better support persons with intellectual/developmental disabilities,” commented RPC Community Services program manager Katie Harmon.

RPC’s Workforce Development Program Helps Longtime Champaign County Business Continue to Thrive

With facilities in Champaign and Fisher, HL Precision Manufacturing has been a leader in the advanced manufacturing industry for nearly 40 years. This past June the company announced a partnership with Hi-Grade Welding from Schaumburg, Illinois, to work together and provide broader manufacturing solutions for each company’s customer base. HL says without continuous support from the RPC’s Workforce Development program to improve the manufacturing and skilled trades industry, this partnership would not have been possible. HL specifically credits the RPC’s Incumbent Worker Training program. Along with providing their employees with opportunities for learning and professional growth that they would not have had available to them otherwise, the funding has given HL the chance to advance and grow their labor force’s skills.

 

July

ISC Expansion Brings 22 New Staff Members to the RPC, While Program Coverage Now Includes 13 Counties in Illinois

On July 1, the Independent Service Coordination Program (ISC) in the RPC’s Community Services Division was pleased to welcome 19 new staff to its team. Funded through the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Developmental Disabilities, the ISC program expanded to cover a total of 13 counties across Illinois, with clients receiving individual service and support advocacy (ISSA) services growing from approximately 400 to over 1,500. The new staff on the ISC team has brought a wealth of expertise and knowledge in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities to the RPC. The RPC also received an expansion in funding through the Champaign County Developmental Disabilities Board to do Person-Centered Planning, with three new staff members being added.

 

August

RPC Opens New Workforce Development Office in Douglas County

The RPC opened a new office for its Workforce Development program in Douglas County in August. Located in Tuscola, it joins the family of other Workforce Development offices the RPC operates in Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Piatt Counties. Some of the services made available to Douglas County residents through this new office were orientations, a job search resource room, job fairs, individualized assistance/career assessment, grants/scholarships, and job club. There are also now a variety of programs available to youth between the ages of 14-24, such as career planning, skill training, on-the-job training, and résumé and interview training.

 

September

Mother Who Worked Full-Time Job While Earning Nursing Degree Named Award Winner by the RPC

A mother of two who worked a full-time job while earning her college degree was one of 2019’s winners of the Illinois Workforce Partnership (IWP) Individual Achievement Award. The RPC’s Workforce Innovation Board recognized Kristy Conner of Chebanse for the award that celebrates the accomplishments of a job seeker customer who sought assistance to achieve his or her goals. “Kristy took pride in her education and was not afraid to ask questions or advocate for herself,” said career planner Teri Tincher, who worked with Conner at the RPC Workforce Development program’s Iroquois County office in Watseka. “Our assistance was necessary and reassuring to her. She now has stability and the confidence to choose a position where she enjoys her work. It was a joy to help her reach her goal.”

RPC’s Early Childhood Education Program Hosts a Family and Community Engagement Resource Fair

The RPC’s Early Childhood Education program hosted a Family and Community Engagement Resource Fair in September at Champaign’s Hessel Park. Free and open to the public, the fair was designed to educate the community and increase awareness of the many services and programs offered by the RPC and our Community Partners. In addition to the RPC, there were over 20 organizations from around the community making information available about what they provide. There was also food and kids’ activities for families and individuals who attended the Saturday event.

Illinois Lottery Instant Ticket Helps Fund RPC’s Homeless Prevention Rent Assistance Program

The Illinois Lottery launched a new specialty instant ticket to help fund homelessness prevention assistance programs across Illinois, including the RPC’s Homeless Prevention Rent Assistance program. One-hundred percent of the profits from the “Easy as 1-2-3” game, which went on sale September 3, is deposited into the Homelessness Prevention Revenue Fund to be used by the Illinois Department of Human Services for homelessness prevention and assistance program grants.

 

October

RPC Makes Online Scheduling Available for LIHEAP Appointments for the First Time Ever

For the first time since the RPC has been managing the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in Champaign County, customers were able to make their appointments online instead of waiting in line at the RPC’s office to do so. Starting in October, people could make their appointments through a special page set up on the RPC’s website, allowing appointments to be confirmed at any time from a mobile phone, a tablet, or a computer. “With children, work commitments, and other obstacles, we realize that having to make an appointment in person can present its own challenges,” said Dawn Rear, the RPC’s program manager for LIHEAP. “We hope this new online scheduling option adds a level of convenience, ease, and peace of mind to the LIHEAP process for our customers.”

Valuable Data about Champaign County Now Accessible to Anyone Thanks to New Data Portal Maintained by the RPC

Researchers, journalists, agencies, and even members of the public discovered an easy way to find important data about Champaign County and the surrounding area. Launched in 2019, the Champaign County Regional Data Portal is a collection of public data from agencies and organizations across Champaign County and East Central Illinois, including the City of Champaign and the City of Urbana. Hosted and maintained by the RPC, the portal is designed to be a comprehensive and searchable listing of open datasets published by the RPC, its member agencies, and its partners. “Good datasets support wise decision-making, and we feel that the Regional Data Portal can serve as a valuable resource in that process,” said Matt Yoder, the RPC’s Data and Technology Manager.

RPC Hosts First-Ever Head Start Awareness Walk

The RPC hosted its first Head Start Awareness Walk on Saturday, October 19, at Urbana’s Meadowbrook Park. The event took place during Head Start Awareness Month, created in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan to build knowledge of and support for Head Start’s whole-child and whole-community approach to supporting families on their path to success. We had dozens of participants, including several staff, their families, and the Executive Director of the Illinois Head Start Association. We plan on hosting the walk again next year and hope to turn it into an annual event.

Local Officials Visit Early Childhood Education Centers as Part of Head Start Awareness Month

The RPC’s Early Childhood Education program was pleased to welcome local officials during Head Start Awareness Month (October) and into November. Guests included Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin at the Urbana center, Rantoul Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer in Rantoul, and Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen at the Champaign site on Neil Street.

 

November

RPC Brings LIHEAP to Rantoul for Special Event

For the first time ever, the RPC took the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to Rantoul for a special event on Saturday, November 16. Held at the Community Service Center of Northern Champaign County, the event was especially beneficial for working Rantoul residents who don’t usually have the chance to come to the Brookens Administrative Center and apply during regular business hours. Dawn Rear, the RPC’s LIHEAP program manager, reported that it was “wildly successful” and that customers were happy and grateful.

RPC Helps Champaign County Secure Grant to Improve Safety and Reduce Crashes on Sidney Road

Sidney/Homer Road (County Highway 15) in the southeastern part of Champaign County will soon be a safer place to drive thanks to collaboration between the RPC and Champaign County. The RPC prepared a grant request for the County as part of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). IDOT awarded the grant to Champaign County for the project in the Fall. The Champaign County Highway Department saw the need to update safety and conditions along the 4.25-mile road and worked with the Champaign Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study (CUUATS) to develop the grant request. CUUATS is the RPC’s transportation entity responsible for administering the transportation planning process for the Champaign-Urbana urbanized area.

RPC Opens New Early Childhood Center in West Champaign

Early November marked the opening of the RPC’s newest Early Childhood Education Center in west Champaign at 103 S. Country Fair Drive. It became the RPC’s fifth center in Champaign County. While a great deal of work remains before the facility is fully functional, seven classrooms and the kitchen were up and ready to go in November, with Tammy Helm serving as site manager.

The RPC Teams with RE/MAX to Give Families in Champaign County More to Be Thankful for at Thanksgiving

For the second year in a row, a donation of more than two dozen gift baskets helped the RPC ease the holiday burden on several families involved with its Early Childhood Education program. Assembled and delivered to the RPC by representatives of RE/MAX Realty Associates in Champaign, the baskets were filled with Thanksgiving staples like stuffing, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, piecrusts, marshmallows, brown sugar, and corn muffin mix. RE/MAX also provided dozens of mittens, gloves, and hats to the children in the Early Childhood Education Program so that they could have appropriate winter wear for outside activities.

 

December

RPC Wins Award from Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations

The Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO) once again recognized the great work being done at the RPC. At their annual conference in late October, AMPO gave the RPC an Honorable Mention Award in the category of Outstanding Achievement for a non-TMA MPO for work that CUUATS staff did on the Champaign-Urbana Region Freight Plan. This comprehensive freight mobility plan was funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation. It effectively identifies the linkages between key freight infrastructure and the region’s economy, projects future freight commodity flows, and includes data-driven performance measures. The RPC received letters of support for the plan from the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, the City of Champaign, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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