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MT. VERNON, IL, MAY 8, 1997 -- Gov. Edgar's Secretary of Human Services designate Howard Peters will be the keynote speaker at a luncheon on Thursday, May 8 honoring 15 VISTA volunteers for their service to at-risk families in Southern Illinois.
The luncheon will commemorate the completion of a two-year collaboration between Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to strengthen families at risk of DCFS intervention through support, training and advocacy. The celebration will take place from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Mt. Vernon Ramada Inn. DCFS Director Jess McDonald will preside over the event, which will be attended by the volunteers, their supervisors and representatives from each day care center.

"Volunteerism is gaining national recognition as public officials stress the importance of reaching out to those less fortunate," said Peters, who is a former VISTA volunteer. "The work of these volunteers over the past two years has touched the lives of so many - and for that we can't thank them enough."

The program, which was funded through approximately $200,000 in federal grants, was brought to Southern Illinois through the joint efforts of DCFS Southern Regional Administrator Tony Jenkins and community day care center directors. The volunteers were selected and trained by DCFS and VISTA, and then placed at day care centers in communities throughout the region. The volunteers helped link unstable, at-risk families with resources for parents, trained them in parenting and other life skills and acted as special assistants for their particular day care centers.

"This project represents an excellent partnership between federal and state governments and the private sector," Director McDonald said. "When families become independent and empowered, children are less likely to be abused or neglected. Everyone benefits from a collaboration such as this."

VISTA is a national service program that places volunteers in disadvantaged communities to help residents become more self-sufficient. Volunteers live in the communities they serve, creating programs that can continue after they complete their service. In addition to a monthly stipend and health insurance, volunteers are eligible for an educational award of up to $4,725 per year for two years.

"We in the Southern Region appreciate the work that VISTA has done for our children and famflies," Jenkins said. "The benefit of its services will be felt by the community for years to come."

Following is a listing of the VISTA volunteers and their host day care centers:

Betty Carrier and Trena Walton - Delta Foundation Child Care Center in Cairo and Herrin

Becky Denbo - Effingham Child Development Center

Tondra Strobel - Fayette County Child Care Center in Vandalia

Ingrid Drone - Hamilton County Family Resource Center (Community Unit School District 10) in McLeansboro

Catherine Shaw - City of Carbondale's Eurma Hayes Child Care Center

Heather Smith - Wayne County Volunteers for Youth in Fairfield

Dea Mason - Children's Activity Center in Sandoval

Jennifer Kessler and Nellie Long - Marion County Child Development Center in Salem

Kerri Hubler - A.B.C. Child Development Foundation in DuQuoin

Jennifer Shook - Sunrise Preschool and Child Care Center in Anna

Carrie Redman - Red Caboose Day Care and Learning Center in Carmi

Denise Doggett - Local Area Network #2 in Harrisburg

Jenny Akers, Project Manager - DCFS Marion Area Office


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