Rantoul, Ill. (WCIA)
“When I was a teacher and the children came in, you know, the first thing you want to do is grab them and hold them. And to help them feel like this is a good place, like it’s a safe place.”
Multicultural Community Center Assistant Director, Jill Walden has seen first hand how difficult it can be for migrant families to find support in their communities.
And as migrant parents move internationally and often from state to state in search of jobs, families may struggle to feel settled.
“You know I think about myself if I was in that situation traveling all the time… how hard it would be,” says Walden. “So I kind of put myself in their place and I know it’s hard for them so i give them what I think I would have wanted and go from there.”
Rantoul’s Multicultural Community Center is making it easier to meet those needs. MCC looks after migrant children as young as 6 weeks old and older kids are able to attend the center’s elementart school.
It all began in 2008 after Hoopeston’s migrant Head Start program shut down.
Former Head Start employee, Martha Gonzalez, says that surrounding communities were seeing a rising number of migrant farm workers and families needed help.
“At that time there were so many migrants coming. So many. Hundreds. And the children didn’t have a place to be,” says Gonzalez.
So Gonzalez helped create the community center, going as far as holding the first board meetings at her house. She says she’ll never forget acquiring the MCC facility in 2010.
“It was July 8 when we got the liscence for this building and the next day, [there was a] line of migrants at the door enrolling their children. They really needed the services.”
The non-profit organization is focused on education for everyone. Parents included.
“We’re not only helping, educating the children. We also provide help to the families,” says Gonzalez.
Adults can participate in free workshops in GED preparation, resume writing, and english as a second language. MCC also provides transportation, social and disability services, and nutrition services.
The center is open year round.