People's Resource Center: History
In 1975, Dorothy McIntyre, Father Tom Peyton and a group of families saw need in their neighborhood and decided to do something about it. This was the beginning of People's Resource Center.
From its beginnings in a rented house in Wheaton, where food boxes were distributed through a basement window, to our current multi-service resource centers, People's Resource Center has had a major impact on our DuPage County community.
People's Resource Center grew out of the tradition of American social movements that proclaim the belief that every life matters to the community, movements like Jane Addams and Hull House in Chicago, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Houses, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement. As Dr. King said, “God never intended for some of his children to live in inordinate superfluous wealth, while others live in abject, deadening poverty”.
People's Resource Center has been both a lifeline to many thousands of residents in temporary emergencies, as well as a pathway of opportunity to those yearning to better their lives. More than 1,300 volunteers, supported by a small staff, dedicate their time, skills and resources to help their neighbors. The impact on the lives of those residents has been both immediate and long term:
- Unemployed people have been able to stay afloat during uncertain times through the transitional help they received from PRC;
- 300 families a year, on the verge of eviction, have avoided homelessness through the emergency help they received from PRC;
- Elderly and disabled people on fixed incomes have been able to pay for needed prescriptions, through relying on the food and clothing they received from PRC;
- Over 9,000 individuals and families who were locked out of the technological advances of our society have received computer training and a refurbished computer for their homes;
- Thousands of newly arriving refugees and immigrants from more than 110 different countries have found a welcoming hand, assisting them into America’s mainstream;
- Adults have gained English language skills and basic literacy skills to make them employable in jobs with a career path;
- Children in low-income families have been able to go to school with fashionable, seasonal clothes from the PRC’s free clothes closet;
- Families have secured fresh produce, frozen meats and help with other nutritional necessities to foster greater wellness;
- People of all ages have been able to celebrate the holidays through Share the Spirit, bringing new toys, books, household items, and blankets as a gift from the community;
- Over 12,000 children each year have been able to access enough food with solid nutritional content to facilitate their social and physical growth
People's Resource Center, because of its flexibility and its credibility as a voluntary organization, has often been the first in the community to respond to emerging needs, addressing the hunger needs of DuPage County, by establishing a countywide food pantry in 1975; addressing large-scale homelessness, by establishing the DuPage P.A.D.S. sheltering program in 1985; addressing the needs of uninsured residents, by establishing the DuPage Community Clinic in 1988; addressing the need for a free dental clinic, by establishing the Dental Clinic in 1996; addressing the Digital Divide, by establishing the People’s Computer Resource Center in 1997; addressing the needs of low-income women for artistic self-expression through establishing PRC’s Art Studio in 1997; addressing the need for job assistance mentors to serve low-income, entry level workers in 2006.
Today, more than 31,000 DuPage residents rely on the PRC for help each year. Individuals and families visit our Wheaton headquarters and our full-service location in Westmont to meet their needs, as well as multiple neighborhood training sites. Our core resources of food, clothing and emergency homeless prevention assistance help people to meet their basic needs. Our education, training and enrichment programs include computer training and access to computer technology for the home, English as a Second Language classes and tutoring, assistance with GED, citizenship, and conversation groups, job search assistance, and People’s Art, including Women’s Wisdom, Kids Art, various mixed classes, and open studio.
From the design of our space, to the type and placement of services, to the various operational procedures, we seek to reveal our belief that everyone matters, and that we are all in this together.
The PRC brings people together to serve each other, care about each other, overcome obstacles together, stand for justice together, and move with hope into the future together.
Suburban poverty is increasing at an alarming rate. In DuPage County in 2010, 62,484 people were living in poverty, while 100,845 people were considered low-income. (Federal Poverty Level is $22,314 annual income for a family of 4.)
For these families, even with the best laid plans, things can fall apart over something as minor as a car repair or emergency room visit. More than ever, the PRC will be an essential resource in their lives. Low wage workers will have to increasingly rely on food pantries, and centers like PRC to make ends meet. Seniors and people living with disabilities, among the community’s most vulnerable citizens, will increasingly need the basic resources of the PRC, as their limited incomes sentence them to a life of poverty.
The PRC’s job going forward is to help people hope for so much more than food on their table. As we move into our future, the PRC will continue to assist people with training and education to help them overcome poverty, and will continue to foster the health and wellness of our community’s families.