Years ago in Kankakee, a young girl dreamed of having access to a youth center, similar to Kankakee City Life that exists now. While moving away from the area just before high school, Rhonda Currie told herself she would one day return home to Kankakee and create more opportunities for youth.
“To have something like that on one of the main streets where students and youth can freely come and be involved in activities and have that adult leadership — that’s awesome,” Currie said.
Currie, who was born at AMITA Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Kankakee, lived in the area for most of her adolescence until her family moved to Danville when she was going into high school.
After graduation, Currie went away to college at Eastern Illinois University and, during that time, her family moved back to the Kankakee area. When her undergraduate studies were complete, she returned home and completed her master’s degree at Olivet Nazarene University.
Today, Currie is living out her dream of serving the youth and families of Kankakee through her role as field representative and community organizer of Illinois Coalition of Community Services (ICCS).
Founded in 1985, ICCS is a 501c3 nonprofit that takes a grassroots approach to providing free social services in rural and metropolitan Illinois.
Over the past three decades, ICCS has helped individuals and families in more than 1,000 Illinois communities across 90 counties.
Since beginning her work with ICCS in 2013, Currie now collaborates on a daily basis with the likes of City Life and other local organizations to provide activities, events and inspirational presentations for residents.
One of her first projects was Blessings in a Backpack, which she worked on with the Rev. Robert Bushey of Central Christian Church. They connected with a group of people to examine insecurity issues with Kankakee School District and other school districts in the county, and then provided nourishment to school children. This is an outreach effort that still exists today.
“I do not take credit. I was just a person to help organize and bring things together,” Currie explained. “But to see it grow — I believe we started with 50 students we were serving and to see that grow to 200 or more students at more schools. That’s something that I’m really, really proud of.”
Over the last few years, Currie has helped local youth connect with work service programs and has provided poverty simulations around the area and the state.
Most recently, she helped organize the “ManUp” series designed for young men in high school who may be in need of advice and teachings from adults in the community who were once in their shoes.
“ManUp is something that I’m ecstatic about because I saw the impact that it had on these young men and they enjoyed building those relationships,” expressed Currie, who speaks with enthusiasm and passion about her work and community.
Currently, she is working on an idea for youth, specifically high school-aged youth, to talk about social justice and the local police and how to build those relationships. She explained that one of the objectives of ICCS is to decrease violence and delinquency and increase meaningful youth involvement.
While it can sometimes be difficult to find the right connections to collaborate with for activities and events, Currie says her passion and work ethic are what keeps her going, along with the culture of ICCS.
“I’m very thankful and honored to work with ICCS,” stated Currie. “The culture of this organization has been phenomenal. I feel like they’re family to me, so I appreciate that.”
Currie enjoys working with new volunteers and gaining new perspectives of individuals throughout the county. She invites anyone who is interested to learn more or volunteer with her to contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.