Smile Politely

The City of Urbana needs you

Downtown Urbana photographed from the middle of the street looking west at sunset. There are buildings on each side and the sky is lavender and orange.
Sam Logan

The Youth Services Grant Program in Urbana is back this year and is ready for your participation. If there were a path for you to foster impact in Urbana the way you would like to, would you take it? The city of Urbana needs help from you, its residents. We have a quick summary below if you’re wondering what needs explicit help. 

Health In Urbana

Mental health resources are in dire need. In 2019, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) gave Illinois a failing grade for its public mental health systems. While much support is needed from the state government, at a local level community members in Urbana with expertise in these areas need to be supported and given the resources to build their communities. Local experts are in the best position to offer critical trauma and emotional support tools to those in need.

Wellness in Urbana

As the weather starts to warm up and the sun shines, there are some great recreational programs in Urbana with the Urbana Park District. Thanks to a recent $2 million grant, they are moving forward with the Health and Wellness Center. They also have some great summer and teen enrichment programs coming up. Still, there is always room for more programs if a local community leader would love to create one. As schools remain open well into May, it is crucial to ensure local community members and families have access to after-school, educational and mentoring programs for youth. 

Opportunity in Urbana

At the end of 2019, Champaign County’s unemployment rate was 2.7%. In 2020, it was 10.6%. Thankfully, as of 2022, it is as low as 3.2%. This should be excellent news; however, this rate fails to keep up with or include the high turnover rates in some fields, especially those in the hospitality and service industries, and how that drastically affects our community. You may have already felt the truth of this through the visible increase of unhoused people. 

With C-U’s labor shortage in childcare, business and transportation, there is a need for opportunity in Urbana., i.e., workforce development and job training. As we discussed a few weeks ago, Champaign County’s regional Planning Commission has done a great job offering on-the-job and income and worker training. They also have created regular job postings and recruitment initiatives. Still, there are always avenues needed in other areas. Urbana regularly seeks expertise from successful business owners or eager community members who want to grow the community.

Violence Prevention in Urbana

Gun violence continues to be a problem for our twin cities. With over 100 shootings annually, gun-related violence runs rampant in Urbana streets. In 2021 there were “115 confirmed shootings, 10 deaths, another 24 people injured by gunfire and 63 instances of property damaged by gunfire.”

To address this, Chaundra Bishop of Ward 5 said it best: 

Often, the people at the highest risk of engaging in violence are also at great risk for being victimized by violence. Gun violence prevention should work to address economic and social challenges facing people at high risk of committing violence and being victimized by violence, as well as those transitioning back into the community from incarceration.

More than ever, mentoring, educational, and intervention programs are crucial. Initiatives led by community members that tackle conflict resolution skills, violence interrupters and mediation to discourage retaliation can be started by anyone qualified or experienced.

The Youth Services Grant Program

Community members can empower those around them. When it comes to health, wellness, opportunity, and violence prevention, there is a program available and currently open that is a significant funding opportunity for public and private nonprofits that support these topics. 

The City of Urbana is willing to help organizations needing subsidies for staff/volunteer time, program supplies, and facility leases as they continue and start their work. 

Through this grant opportunity, the City of Urbana seeks to fund programs that meet the documented needs of Urbana children and youth from early childhood (Kindergarten, Pre-K) through 22 years of age. Proposals should target those from low-income families with the goal of having a lasting impact on the community. 

This grant opportunity focuses on four key service areas:

– Health (Healthcare, mental health resources, trauma support)

– Wellness (Recreation, after-school programs, educational programming, mentoring)

– Opportunity (Workforce development, job training)

Violence Prevention (mentoring, educational program, intervention programs)

The grant period is July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024.

A total of $300,000 is available for Youth Services grants in FY 2023-2024. The anticipated grant range is $10,000-$50,000.

Will your proposed program meet an unmet community need, gap, or service? Will your agency leverage these funds to support the program? Does your agency have a clearly defined success measure to demonstrate program impact? 

These are just a few of the questions you’ll have to answer as you submit your application, which is due by 4 p.m. on Friday, March 31st. You can apply here. In the meantime, there is one remaining mandatory application assistance workshop for funding on Tuesday, March 14th, from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Urbana City Council Chambers. 

People in your community need you. Mobilize and create your program today.

The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, Trude Namara, and Mara Thacker.

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