DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — Ed Butler will tell you himself that when he discusses the impact he’s had on Danville and its communities, he has to “search for the different hats he wears.” It’s no secret he’s President of Danville’s NAACP, but some may be unaware of just how much he has devoted to others. Even today, Ed refuses to rest until he witnesses youth “keeping hope alive.”

That last statement, in part, is what fuels Ed’s commitment to serve the Three Kings of Peace, a group formed just a few years ago. Their mission was not only to bridge the gap between kids and their education but also their community leaders. With youth violence on the rise, Ed and Pastor Frank McCollough teamed with Nate “BoBo” Smalls to form Three Kings of Peace which earned its name from a student they earned a lot of respect from during one of their early visits to schools. Since then, their passion became being present and volunteering for six hours a day.

“We’re trying to catch those young people. We get them from grade school all the way up to high school. We’re just trying to redirect their minds. We’re in the school six and a half hours a day volunteering.”

Ed also says “we are excited knowing we can sit down with young folk. You’d be amazed at the effect we make on these kids by being the mentors we are and the passion we have for our young people. We sit down three and four hours talking to them. It’s amazing and we love it.”

Three Kings of Peace, which now includes Fred Cowen who replaced “BoBo,” continues their efforts by championing financial support for a mentor center. As of now, they’re still using an additional space at Mount Olive Baptist Church, where Frank McCollough pastors. But they’re just waiting for funding to solidify plans to move into the old steel grip facility at Garfield Park. That’s where they aim to incorporate mathematics and reading support, computers, and even build a racetrack for R-C cars. Overall, Ed just wants to see a future where the youth prefer the knowledge and experiences their education and leaders bring them, including their ancestors.

“There are ancestors who’ve paved the way for us to have the freedom to do what we’re doing today. The freedom to go to school, to get your education, to get your job and do anything you want but you have to redirect your mind to do it. That’s what we try to instill in our young people. Keep the dream alive, keep hope alive.”

For other community leaders like Pastor LeStan Hoskins, he aims to replicate the positivity and outreach laid before him by individuals like Ed and Frank McCollough. It’s partially why he and his wife, Jennifer, birthed Mosaic City Church. Beyond that, LeStan also leads “It Takes a Village” in partnership with the Danville School District in 2022. Through that, third and fourth graders receive $2,000 in scholarships if they graduate high school. By the end of this year, not only is LeStan hoping to expand to all ages in the district but to show the possibilities education offers.

As of late, he’s hearing many local youth express interest in becoming an athlete or rapper. Now while LeStan doesn’t discourage those paths, he also reminds them that education must be first. That’s why he invited U-of-I football players to visit students on DACC’s campus this past week, just to show them that there’s more to life than playing sports. Beyond that, he wanted them to realize there’s nothing wrong with a change in plans as long as you never change who you are.

“I wanna help change that narrative where you can go to college, get a degree. If not college, you can work at a factory and be a productive citizen I want them to know all things are possible but if you don’t make it doing what you plan on doing there’s a backup plan and it’s okay.”

“Our skill set, our physique however we were made, embrace it. There’s only one you.”