Community groups collaborate and work to reduce violence through programs

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill., (WCIA) – In Champaign County, several groups continue to work together to reduce crime.

Leaders believe that working together through conversations and educational programs will help make the community safer.

James Kilgore, director of advocacy and outreach with First Followers, said the city of Champaign is helping him and his organization fill the gaps. Taren Nance, principal of Urbana High School and founder of the anti-violence collective, said he works directly with his students.

“The real anti-violence work starts when you’re in kindergarten,” Nance said.

He created the AVC after losing one of his students to gun violence in December 2021.

He wants to bridge the gap through education, monthly meetings and positive reinforcement. Nance said he plans to apply for grants to make things easier.

“We want to put them under our umbrella, we want to give them the mentorship, the leadership, we want to give them the change of mindset,” he said.

Nance’s group is one of many in Champaign County. Another is early followers. The group helps people move from prison to everyday life.

“They also need to reconnect with their families, with their loved ones,” Kilgore said.

Kilgore said he didn’t have much support when he returned from prison.

“My parole officer gave me an old, tattered piece of paper with some phone numbers on it,” he said.

First Followers is one of 13 organizations in the H3 Coalition. It was launched only a few weeks ago.

Most of their funding comes from COVID relief funds through the city of Champaign after the city council passed the gun violence reduction plan.

“We are quite happy with that. We believe our intervention made a difference,” Kilgore said.

He added that Champaign-Urbana is also one of the areas expected to gain state money through the Reimagine Public Safety Act (RPSA).

Kilgore said the H3 Coalition is preparing to apply for grants through the law.

“We would like to think that if we get money, we can share it with these organizations and build a stronger network and work with each other,” he said.

But, he added, this is only one step.

“First Followers, we don’t do advice and support, but we welcome all kinds of people who come through our doors who are in serious need of advice and support,” he said.

Kilgore thinks the money could help tackle this problem and connect various organizations.

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