By Michele Evans, Grants & Communications Director
When Cecily, 27, arrived in Bloomington with her four young children, she was fleeing a bad relationship and seeking a new direction for her life and that of her children. With the help of local social service agencies, she received crisis housing and was referred to The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope program.
Pathway of Hope provides targeted services to families with a desire to take action to break the cycle of crisis and find a path out of intergenerational poverty. Cecily was ready to make some changes. “I wanted to change my situation. I had been living with someone, (I had) no job, no sense of direction,” she said at a recent graduation ceremony for Pathway of Hope participants.
Cecily successfully completed the Pathway of Hope program in 2018 and returned for the 2019 graduation to share her continued progress and cheer on the current cohort of seven graduates. Some of the program graduates were on hand to receive their certificates and a $25 gift card for Wal-Mart; others were working at jobs secured through the program.
The Pathway of Hope program typically takes 12 to 18 months to complete and requires participants to meet with program staff weekly about setting and accomplishing specific goals, said Angie Bubon, Director of Development for The Salvation Army Bloomington Corps.
“I had never been part of a structured group that insists that you meet your goals,” Cecily said. “Pathway of Hope taught me a lot about myself – how to fail and overcome. It feels good. I have a purpose of self and faith. I’m proud of myself.”
With the help of The Salvation Army and other local social service agencies like PATH and Recycling Furniture for Families, Cecily now has a stable home with the Bloomington Housing Authority, her children are all in school or day care, and she has a full-time job. She’s hoping to get into Heartland Community College’s Dental Assistant Program through a program with CareerLink.
“This program is definitely a collaborative effort,” said Bubon. “Our staff work with other social service agencies in the community to help these families break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.”
The Bloomington Corps began offering Pathway of Hope in 2012. In 2018, the program helped 90 people in 27 families with children under the age of 18, said JoAnna Callahan, Social Services Director for The Salvation Army Bloomington Corps. “This is a voluntary program where families choose to break the cycle of crisis and helps adults and children make better choices. We are there for them and say ‘We are walking next to you’ through all their hard work and dedication.”
Cecily recognizes she couldn’t have come so far were it not for the help of The Salvation Army staff and other agencies. “This is a family community that gives back so much,” Cecily said. “You know that saying ‘It takes a village’?” she asked. “We’re all villagers. I have a community behind me I didn’t have before.”
Illinois Prairie Community Foundation awarded a 2019 General Grant to The Salvation Army for its “Pathway of Hope” program.
If you would like to help fund more programs like this in the community, donate online to IPCF’s Annual Campaign which funds General Grants.