A new era has dawned for people who rely on PEACE Inc.’s family resource center on the South Side.
Charles Rivers was named site coordinator at the Emma L. Johnston Southside Family Resource Center in June. And the organization held a reopening ceremony in August. The purpose of the event was to show off renovations at the center, located at 136 Dr. Martin Luther King West, and to promote community health and wellness ventures.
But Rivers says he wants to do more, such as renovate the upstairs area of the building to create more space for guests and a food pantry.
After his appointment, Rivers said he wanted to make sure residents knew him personally.
“With our demographic, they’re disenfranchised,” he said. “I am a homeowner about three blocks away. My footprint is in this community.”
Rivers asked clients about the services they would like in the center, which offers computer stations that clients can use to search for jobs and apartments. At the center, clients can also check out postings about jobs, apartments and access to a family advocate.
“We wanted to make them feel a part of the center. This isn’t our center: This is your center,” Rivers said. “We’re not here because we want a paycheck. No, we’re here because we want to serve you. We work for you.”
The center has two full-time, paid staff members: LaDenna Curry, who is a family advocate, and Rivers.
Curry advises clients with housing, jobs and court letters, and also mediates conversations with probation officers. The center has helped people land jobs with Manpower and Byrne Dairy.
The center also has six active volunteers who work at the center daily. In good weather, they are stationed at a table on the lawn outside, which helps to attract foot traffic. They give away donated items such as clothes, books and snacks.
Cheryl Stevens, a veteran volunteer, said, “I want to give back. And when Charles got this one, I wanted to catch up.”
Gloria Rivers, a client of the center and an assistant with senior customers, began working for the center this summer. She explained why: “Me being my age, I work with seniors. It taught me how to deal with people since I hadn’t worked in 20 years, being disabled.”
She added that she was tired of merely sitting at home. “So let me see what it’s like to work around people again. That’s when I came here, and it’s pretty cool.”
— By DeArbea Walker, Urban Affairs reporter