MCCA was formed on October 21st, 1965 as the McLean County Economic Opportunity Corporation (MCEOC) in response to the community’s need for a unified voice to address the economic problems in the Bloomington-Normal area of McLean County, Illinois.
Throughout the 1960’s and into the early ‘70’s, MCEOC continued to advocate for more and improved legal services for low income people, and in 1976, those efforts paid off with the establishment of the McLean County Legal Aid Society, now known as Prairie State Legal Services
In 1976, MCEOC took on the federal and state energy assistance and emergency funds programs, as there was no other qualifying organization willing to provide these services.
The fundamental mission of the agency continued in the 1980’s, when outreach and information and referral services for the elderly in Livingston County were added. In 1981, MCEOC became part of the Community Action network of agencies and the name was changed to Mid Central Community Action, Inc. (MCCA). When the YWCA of McLean County lost funding from the Coalition against Domestic Violence, MCCA took over the program and its $8000 debt when no other agency would. In 1993, a historical Victorian home was purchased, and 100 community volunteers assisted with a complete rehab of the house. Neville House now provides short-term shelter for abused women and their children, and can accommodate up to five families at a time.
In 1988, MCCA purchased a house for use as two emergency housing units for families. In 1992, this house was fully rehabbed for use as a transitional home for homeless families. During 1994 and ’95, three more were purchased for rehab, providing four more transitional units, allowing MCCA to expand the Transitional Housing program.
In 1995, MCCA became the administrator of the McLean County Affordable Housing Coalition; which provides down payment and closing cost assistance to first time home buyers. Another house was purchased and rehabbed in 1996, providing two more transitional housing units, and developed a formal program of Blended Management for all Transitional Housing
In 1997, MCCA helped start the McLean County Continuum of Care for homeless persons with local agencies and government, as a conduit organization for funding for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs to assist the homeless. During the same year, staff were trained and certified as HUD Housing Counselors. In 1998, at recommendation of the Continuum of Care, MCCA purchased a house and two adjoining lots to develop permanent single room supportive housing for homeless and other low-income single persons. This development is a tax credit project. In honor of its history as the former home of two of Bloomington’s Mayors, the building was named Mayors Manor, and provides 26 efficiency apartments for qualifying individuals. This project is operated by the Mayors Manor Limited Partnership with MCCA performing the role of property manager for the partnership, as well as providing the case management and supportive services.
1999 saw further expansion within MCCA’s housing programs. A local contractor volunteered to build affordable homes on lots acquired in 1995, with donated labor and some materials from other corporations in the community. A new home was completed in 2000, which sold for $10,000 under market price. Two duplexes were donated by Town of Normal to be used as transitional houses, bringing the total number of transitional units to ten, one of which was disposed of in 2004.
The Affordable Housing Coalition expanded to become the Central Illinois Coalition for Affordable Housing, including Livingston County, and the Coalition received a $395,000 IHDA loan to assist first home buyers with down payment and closing costs.
State Farm Bank, Bloomington Community Development, the Town of Normal, and MCCA formed the Olde Towne Neighborhood Redevelopment Partnership, and construction commenced on two remaining lots for affordable homes to be sold. Two additional homes on West Front Street were built in 2001 with donated labor, and were sold.
In 2003, an application was submitted for membership in the NeighborWorks® America network, a network of more than 225 community-based nonprofit organizations working to revitalize more than 2,500 communities through resident-led affordable housing and community development activities. After an extensive assessment of the organization, MCCA became a chartered member of NeighborWorks® America in September 2004.
In May 2005, the former Beich candy factory on Bloomington’s west side burned to the ground. MCCA had been gifted the building four years prior by the Beich family, and it had been vacant since 1973. The subsequent demolition of the burned building made way for MCCA to develop a new housing subdivision, the Trailside Subdivision. Infrastructure was completed in 2007, and five homes have been completed, and sold.
Three lots were purchased in Pontiac, Livingston County, for the construction of affordable homes. These homes were completed in 2008, and have been sold to families seeking quality, affordable housing.
In August 2007, with assistance from State Farm Bank, MCCA launched an Individual Development Account (IDA) program. Participants in the program pledge to save $10.00 a week for two years and meet with a case manager weekly to discuss and review their budgeting goals. At the end of the 2-year period, MCCA will match the funds 2:1, with the stipulation that the money be used as a down-payment on a house.
Also in August, MCCA moved to a much-needed larger building. The new location is more convenient for clients and staff alike. The construction of a Home Ownership Center within the new building allows home owners and potential home owners to visit a one-stop homeownership facility, with programs including pre- and post-purchase education, mortgage services and foreclosure intervention. Programs are also provided in Spanish to serve the growing Hispanic population.
In June 2008, MCCA took over two programs from The Baby Fold. A cut in funding meant that the Baby Fold was no longer able offer the Second Chance Renters and Life Skills programs to McLean County residents. With both of those programs falling within the scope of the mission, MCCA was able to step in to keep the programs running. Life Skills classes are currently held each week at three different Bloomington locations – the Compassion Center for the homeless, Bloomington Housing Authority, and the Home Sweet Home mission. Life Skills offers participants instruction in topics such as budgeting, health and nutrition, time management and goal setting. The 3-day long Second Chance Renters program is offered once a month and covers similar topics to Life Skills, with the addition of a session on landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities.
July 2008 saw the inception of a new “Books for Kids!” program. The bookshelves were stocked in both our Bloomington and Pontiac offices, giving the opportunity for children to not ony read while they are waiting for their caregivers to receive services, but also so that they could take a book home for themselves. This program was started right after the Pontiac flood earlier in 2008, when a young child visited the Red Cross emergency center and said that the only book left in his house was the Bible. The Director of Community Services, Cathy Grafton, realized the importance of literacy in the lives of young children and created the program so that each child have a book of their very own to read.
On August 15th, 2008, MCCA lost a good friend and longstanding Board member. Francis Irvin was an original member of the first Board of Directors and remained active on the Board until his death – a total of 43 years. During his tenure on the Board, he could always be counted on to make a pointe comment when discussion strayed from the mission.
The Summer of 2009 brought challenges when the Countering Domestic Violence program at Neville House was faced with massive cuts in State funding. The Neville House shelter and hotline services were facing a 60% cut in funding which would leave victims at risk due to the lack of crisis intervention services through the program. The Board made a decision to provide the full range of CDV services until the grant was depleted, rather than significantly reduce services, and the community rallied to provide much-needed support to help “Keep the Neville House Doors Open.” Fortunately, the budget cuts ended up not being as drastic as first reported, and Neville House continues to provide it’s full range of services today, as the cuts that were made have not affected the level of service. Thanks to the many CDV supporters who came to our assistance!
During the winter of 2009, funding was granted through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to provide services geared towards preventing homelessness; helping individuals with vocational training; case management for unemployed or underemployed individuals and those needing credit repair services; small business loans; financial literacy; and vision and dental care for veterans. Many of these programs were already provided by MCCA, and the government funding helped us to expand our reach in those areas.
In March 2010, a new glimmer of hope shone on the west side of Bloomington, when residents of the Holton Homes and Sunny Side public housing developments gathered to form a Residents Council to address neighborhood concerns. They actively considered how to tackle the gang violence they saw around them, the broken playground equipment their children had to play on, and the trash they saw laying all around their community. MCCA is working closely with the Bloomington Housing Authority on this project, and look forward to working with the resident councils to improve the quality of life for the residents of West Bloomington
Going green in 2010! MCCA partnered with Heartland Community College and Marty & Kris Travis of Spence Farm in Fairbury, IL to create a sustainable agriculture program. ARRA funding provided start up and work study expenses for this program, whihc is operated through the Green Institute at Heartland Community College. The Sustainable Agriculture program provides 3 to 5 month internships for low income students to learn about sustainable farming through hands-on participation. The main focus of study is horticultural products, dairy and cheese, fruits and herbs. Students will prepare to participate in farmer’s markets or to sell locally to businesses and grocers.
Early in 2010, MCCA took homebuyer education online, with the assistance of eHome America. This helps to expand our reach to potential homebuyers who could not make it into the Bloomington office to participate in in-house classes. It also means that, as the only HUD-certified housing counselling agency currently providing this service in Illinois, our reach has expanded so that we can serve customers throughout the State of Illinois. Rick Barrera, Director of Housing Development, is currently working with other agencies in the State so that they may provide the same online service.
Just prior to his retirment in June 2010, MCCA’s Executive Director John Burrill was honored with the prestigious Harry Ring Outstanding Services Award. This State award honored John’s personal integrity, his strong work ethic, his steady leadership and his vision for our agency.
The first Annual Fundraiser for Neville House filled the banquet hall at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in August 2010. Attendees enjoyed a delicious meal and bid on an array of live and silent auction items , all in support of the domestic violence victims we serve. The funds raised at this event are not just for extra needs of the shelter, but are critical to make up the shortfall in State funding that keeps Neville House operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We look forward to hosting this event on an annual basis to help raise awareness of issues surrounding domestic violence in our community.