CRYSTAL LAKE – More than 80 nonprofits gathered Saturday morning at McHenry County College to network, collaborate and provide resources to each other and the community at large.
It was the 15th annual People in Need Forum, hosted at McHenry County College. What began as a small group of women who wanted to share resources to help people coming into their food pantry has grown to an event with exhibitors, vendors, speakers and breakout sessions, said Bev Thomas, forum coordinator.
“It’s going wonderfully well,” she said of the 2017 event. “It’s grown enormously.”
She added that she hoped people would take away knowledge and resources.
“No one has the time, money or availability to get out to the people to let them know what they can do,” she said. “It’s up to people who want to advocate for themselves, their friends or a neighbor. It’s a chance for professionals to network with each other or forge new agreements.”
One of the biggest challenges McHenry County nonprofits face across the board is funding, Thomas said.
“Being in the state of Illinois, it’s a huge detriment right now,” she said. “Not just with money but with people resources. The professional training that used to take place at the state level is just not there.”
People in McHenry county often struggle with getting to the services they need because of a lack of transportation, she said. Many programs are at capacity as well, which leaves those who aren’t in immediate crisis left to wait for help.
Woodstock-based Family Alliance Inc., which serves McHenry County’s older population, felt the financial struggle in 2016 and continues to feel pressure, CEO Kimberly Larson said.
“It’s been a real challenge,” she said. “We had to eliminate some key positions last year because of the state but we needed to do it. We wanted to continue the service we have and didn’t wanted to jeopardize the integrity of our programs.”
“We made some tough choices last year, so we knew if the state still fell down on their job and didn’t have a budget we would be able to withstand,” she added.
Many nonprofits echoed uncertainty in the financial department, including Shira Greenfield, a clinical manager at outpatient behavioral health services at Centegra Health System.
“We don’t know what is happening with the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “We just built the new hospital and hired 500 people in the last year. We’re merging with Northwestern. We have so much going on. We see the need to grow.”
But when reimbursement goes down, it’s troubling, she added. Another issue Centegra faces is a workforce shortage, she said.
“We are in a skilled trade,” she said. “We need people that have licenses and certifications to run the MRI machines and do the CT scans and take care of the patients, and I think meeting those needs is an issue.”
The forum is a great opportunity to network within the McHenry County nonprofit community, however, Greenfield said.
“As it has grown and grown, we have truly had opportunities to educate people one on one about what the community provides,” she said. “It’s unique, and the speakers are good as well. I think there is a general feeling of it takes a village. We are all here for the same reason – because we care about people in the community.”