The following are examples of current and past community initiatives:
Colp Neighborhood Playground
This small Williamson County community has never had a safe, attractive playground where families can take their children for fun and recreation. Champion Community Investments was approached about assisting with the project by leveraging contributions and donor confidence from its 501c3 status. CCI worked with local project enthusiasts and community leaders Marcella Clark and Mary Ann Duncan to raise over $35,000 of tax-deductible contributions. One CCI director, Dennis White, worked tirelessly for weeks alongside his Illinois Department of Transportation Highway Construction Careers Training Program class to help prepare the site and install new equipment. With a ribbon-cutting in August 2017, this beautiful playground is open and welcoming to the children of Colp and the surrounding communities of Dewmaine and Number 9.
Herrin Downtown Rehabilitation and Memorial Garden
The City of Herrin, Illinois, located in Williamson County, has been rehabilitating and renovating its historic downtown business district. Community leaders were able to leverage tax-deductible contributions through CCI, along with payables support, to help complete this needed improvement. The highlight of the project was the Memorial Garden, built outside the Herrin City Hall. The Memorial Garden features a sculpture of 4 Canada geese surrounding a tree stump, all surrounded by a pool with four fountains. Reminiscent of the scenery at the nearby Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge, the garden offers Herrin visitors an opportunity to pause, reflect, and enjoy all that Southern Illinois has to offer.
Downtown Du Quoin Facade Improvement Program
Champion Community Investments partners with the Du Quoin City Council to fund a facade improvement program that is remaking the exteriors of the town’s historic business district. With a dollar for dollar match, businesses receive up to $5,000 granted from CCI to refresh the exteriors of their buildings. Improvements have included new windows, paint, sandblasting, and colorful new awnings that are popping up throughout the central business district. Funding from the city comes in the form of a loan to CCI that is repaid through Tax Increment Financing proceeds. Results of these “facelifts” are already evident as nearly 25 businesses have sought funding assistance with some projects now completed. Always a great place to dine, shop, and browse, downtown Du Quoin will become even more attractive over the next couple of years to shoppers and visitors. CCI stands ready to replicate this successful model in other communities in its five-county service area.
A proud and enduring legacy of the accomplishments of Champion Community Investments is that it initiated Connect SI, the 20-county economic and community development program that is built upon regional collaboration and affordable, available, high-bandwidth broadband access. Connect SI originally began as a three-county assessment conducted by Frank Knott and the Vital Economy team in 2003. That assessment led to the conclusion that regionalism was crucial to the future of southern Illinois and that broadband internet access would be the backbone of any strategy built upon regionalism. In 2005, the Champion Community hosted the Southern Illinois Public Officials and Leadership Conference, with Mr. Knott as keynote speaker. It was at this conference that a number of leaders were introduced to the concepts of regionalism linked by broadband. In late 2005 the Southern Illinois Broadband Initiative was formed. In early 2006, the President of Southern Illinois University, Dr. Glenn Poshard, offered to kickstart the project under the auspices of his office and Connect SI was born and grown to the 20 counties in which it operates today. For more information about Connect SI, please visit www.ConnectSI.us.
Summerships are the summertime equivalents to scholarships. Funding for summerships derived from tax-deductible private sector and business contributions to CCI that were used to fund summer swimming lessons and pool passes for children whose families would otherwise lack the resources to provide such summer programming. All donations to the Summerships Program are reverted at no cost back to their originating communities so that more children from disadvantaged families are able to swim safely during the summer months.
Business Loan Program
Champion Community Investments is proud to be one of the leading lenders to eligible new and established businesses in a five-county region of southern Illinois. We work closely with our partnering federal agencies, regional Small Business Development Centers, Entrepreneurship Centers, local economic developers, and certainly the commercial lenders in the region to ensure that sufficient capital is available to fuel business growth and job creation. CCI makes low interest loans to qualified borrowers, investing the proceeds of those loans back into more businesses, more growth, and more job creation and retention. To date, CCI has made 36 loans to 34 businesses throughout the region that total just over $2 million. CCI’s lending assets total approximately $3.2 million.