On the corner of Bedford Road and Union Street in Morris, IL sits an unassuming one-story brick building with two windows and doors facing the main street. Above the doors hangs a burgundy and white sign whose logo and message of just two words – We Care – attract attention in a way the building itself perhaps does not. This is the front façade of We Care of Grundy County Inc., a United Way Community Partner, Salvation Army Service Extension, and one of four Northern Illinois Food Bank partner agencies that serves Grundy County residents.
Inside, it quickly becomes clear the 18,000-square-foot building that We Care has called home for the past three years is a unique community organization, thanks to the variety of services it offers: food pantry, clothes closet, rent/mortgage and utility assistance, and more. We Care is a one-stop shop for clients to get the help they need, whether that means picking up fresh bread and produce in the afternoon, or coming in to peruse the racks of donated clothing in search of interview-ready apparel.
In addition to its array of client-centered services, a standout feature of We Care is its focus on collaboration within the surrounding community.
Easter Seals, one of We Care’s many partners, has shared office space in the same building for its Jump Start parenting support program since May 2017. Beyond sharing an address, the organizations also mention one another during community presentations and share client referrals during monthly mobile pantries and resource days.
In partnership with the local Salvation Army, We Care assists in running a strengths-based case management program called Pathway of Hope. The goal of this program is to walk alongside participants and help them reach their goals, whether it be to find new housing, employment, mental health, or other goals.
“[Pathway of Hope] is about using the whole community to help people through crisis situations and help them find self-sufficiency,” explains We Care’s Executive Director Eric Fisher.
The program’s “all-hands-on-deck” approach leverages We Care’s internal resources while also utilizing resources from various partner organizations, including Easter Seals, The Salvation Army, PADS, Grundy County Housing Authority, and the health department among others.
“We want to be a robust model and really make a difference,” he says. “We have to ask, ‘What do we need to do to help people?’”