Dreams Are Possible is a community project to turn the vacant first floor of an 1880’s neighborhood grocery store into a training center for low-income women to learn basic skills so they can determine whether they wish to pursue a career in the building trades.

The Dreams are Possible Training Center is the brainchild of Mary Campbell, a retired social work faculty from Normal, and Feli Sebastian, a psychologist from Bloomington.

The former A.G. Erickson Groceries and Meats, 1311 W. Olive St., Bloomington, is being renovated inside to become Dreams are Possible, a center to train women in the building trades.

"We work on efforts to give people a better opportunity for job security and housing," Campbell said. "We focus on women who are working hard but can't make ends meet. If you invest in women, you invest in their children and their communities."

Women who are struggling financially in McLean County frequently are single mothers who work jobs that don't pay well. The idea of Dreams are Possible is to provide the women with hands-on experience so they acquire the skills in using various tools as well as exposure to a variety of different fields so the women can determine whether they want to apply for apprenticeship programs to become plumbers, sheet metal workers, laborers, electricians or carpenters. Women can be truck drivers, welders, and brick layers, as well, and all of these fields are actively seeking to recruit women.

"All those fields pay way better and have benefits," Campbell said. "Women traditionally don't think about those fields. It's a culture thing. This would be a place to bridge that cultural gap."

If mothers work jobs that pay better, they would only have to work one job, which means they would have more time to spend with their children, which would be beneficial for their children and community, Campbell and Sebastian said.

"This is a way to help kids in our community by helping their parents," Campbell said.

The building at 1311 W. Olive St., Bloomington, is the former A.G. Erickson Grocery & Meats but the first floor hasn't been occupied in years.

Using private, donated money, volunteers are renovating the first floor into a training lab, computer room, classroom, play area for children and a kitchenette. About $90,000 is needed to renovate and acquire the building, Campbell said.

Once the building is completely renovated there will be ongoing need for financial support so as to staff the program and provide the teachers to instruct the women.

Illinois Prairie Community Foundation serves as fiscal sponsor for Dreams Are Possible. If you would like to support these efforts to improve the lives of women in our community, please donate online by clicking on the Donate button below. If you prefer to make a donation in another manner, click here for information.