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

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

James Kilgore, the director of advocacy and outreach with First Followers, said the City of Champaign is helping him and his organization fill the gaps. Taren Nance, Urbana High School’s principal and the Anti-Violence Collective founder, said he’s working directly with his students. 

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

He created the AVC after he lost one of his students to gun violence in Dec. 2021.

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

“We want to get them under our umbrella, we want to give them the mentorship, the leadership, we want to give them the mindset shift,” he said. 

Nance’s group is one of many in Champaign County. Another is First Followers. The group helps people transition from prison to everyday life. 

“They also have to re-establish connections with family, with loved ones,” Kilgore said. 

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

“I was given a raggedy old piece of paper from my parole agent with a few phone numbers on it,” he said. 

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

Most of their funding comes through COVID relief money through the City of Champaign after City Council passed the Gun Violence Reduction Blueprint.

“We’re pretty pleased with that. We do feel that our intervention made a difference,” Kilgore said. 

He added that Champaign-Urbana is also one of the regions set to earn money from the state through the Reimagine Public Safety Act (RPSA)

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

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

But, he added that’s only one step. 

“First Followers, we don’t do counseling and support but we get all kinds of people that come through our doors who seriously need counseling and support,” he said. 

Kilgore feels the money could help combat that problem and connect various organizations together.