By RICK HAYES
---- — MT. VERNON — United Methodist Children's Home is closing its YouthBuild locations in Mt. Vernon and Centralia due to inadequate funding.
In a news release distributed Tuesday, officials of the Children's Home stated the Jefferson and Marion counties YouthBuild sites were not awarded funding through the United States Department of Labor.In late June, UMCH President/CEO Gary Lemmon received word the federal grant for YouthBuild would not be renewed. With the fiscal year ending on June 30, this left one workday to close the program and notify employees."Even though we knew it could be a possibility, the news of losing the YouthBuild grant came as a shock," Lemmon said. "It is never a good day to have to lay off employees and turn away clients."Earlier this year, United Methodist Children's Home submitted paperwork to continue providing GED classes, life skills and work skills programming to young adults 17 to 24 years of age in both Jefferson and Marion counties. The YouthBuild grant would have provided two years of programming with the potential to change the lives of 64 young adults who do not have a high school diploma."We are saddened by the news of this program closing," stated Sarah Usery, Vice President of Community Services. "We plan on resubmitting our grant proposal for next year's funding, and we are looking into alternate funding sources to continue these programs."Approximately 95 percent of the United Methodist Children's Home budget comes from the state and federal contracts and grants, with only 5 percent coming from donations."For us to be able to help over 1,000 young people in Southern Illinois we rely on government funding, but with the state of the economy we would like to rely less on the government," Lemmon said."It is just sad because it is a good program," one anonymous client stated. "It helped me straighten up my life; it also gave me confidence and now I can talk in front of people with getting scared and nervous. These accomplishments are all because of YouthBuild."In the upcoming weeks, YouthBuild will be closing their locations in Mt. Vernon and Centralia, the news release stated. Three employees were laid off, three were placed in other UMCH programs, and one employee is still employed through YouthBuild to conduct followups for the recent YouthBuild participants.Ryan Alton, YouthBuild Program Manager, and Jim Collins, construction trainer, will now solely be working in the Helping Hands program. Helping Hands employs YouthBuild and CiviCorps participants and young people at the start of their career. Crews are led by skilled tradesmen experienced in all aspects of construction. Jobs range from cleaning out gutters to major construction: carpentry, electrical, painting, and plumbing.For more information on United Methodist Children's Home, YouthBuild, or Helping Hands you may call 242-1070 or visit their web site at www.umchome.org.