Garden Quarter center appeals for funds from McHenry County Mental Health Board

After-school program in danger of losing backing from McHenry County Mental Health Board

McHENRY – An after-school program and mentor center for children in low-income families is in danger of losing funding from the McHenry County Mental Health Board.

Garden Quarter Neighborhood Resource Center, a McHenry-based after-school resource center serving about 50 children, did not secure roughly $50,000 in requested funding from the Mental Health Board after failing to show how they assist the board’s mission, board President Connee Meschini said.

But, Meschini said Garden Quarter will have a chance to show how it works toward the “prevention and treatment of mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance abuse” during an appeal hearing Nov. 18.

“The board believes it is a wonderful program, but it has to tie into our mission,” Meschini said, noting the appeal could show that connection. “[We’ve] been very vigilant in our allocations.”

Licia Sahagun, executive director of the resource center, said the Mental Health Board has funded the program the past four years and the funding accounts for about 50 percent of the total revenue. While she did not want to address the appeal process as it still is ongoing, she said services have continued to grow as nearly 50 students – nearly all of which are in the under-served Latino population – attend the after-school program and a teen mentor program has started for girls.

The resource center has become a community effort with agencies such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Turning Point and anti-bullying organizations assisting on a consistent basis, Sahagun said.

Sahagun’s efforts to secure funding has garnered plenty of community support including from high schools, libraries, social service agencies and the McHenry Police Department.

McHenry Police Chief John Jones said the resource center was born from a police initiative in 2004 after officers responded to roughly 250 calls to Garden Quarter Apartments the year before. Officers took time to survey residents and create a small resource center that reduced calls to roughly 100 in the following year, Jones said.

The resource center has since grown to two units and serves more than the residents of Garden Quarter. Jones said there are less than 40 calls a year to the complex now and the resource center has been vital in reducing substance abuse issues, gang activity and other problems.

“When you can get that prevention, especially through education to young children, it makes a huge difference,” Jones said. “It has been a huge success. Some of the kids who were there when it first started still live there, which is great. It used to be a real transient place where people didn’t take ownership.”

The agency will have its appeal on Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. at the McHenry County Mental Health Board on 620 Dakota Street in Crystal Lake.

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